Public education for the eventual common good?

is public education for the common good

A recent manifesto by Alison Benedikt was published on Slate, entitled, "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person". A friend had linked to it on Facebook, and I assumed it was a joke. So I went to the website and read it, and I commented that either this was badly written satire, or a badly written opinion piece illustrating the continuing downhill trajectory of modern journalism. I thought about writing a blog post 'reply' of sorts, as I sometimes do, but I knew if I waited, someone else would write one that did a better job than I could do, and I could just link to theirs.

So a big Thank You to J. D. Bentley of Digital Asceticism, for his post "If You Sacrifice Your Child to Prove a Point about Public Education, You are a Bad Person".

 "public education" is being defended as an ultimate good without it being explained why I should consider it an ultimate good, especially one beneficial enough that I would sacrifice a kid to defend the idea of it.

Education is a common good in the sense that we as a society have decided to invest in the education of our nation's children using a federal/state taxpayer funded system we call 'public education'. But the idea that the methods and standards used are based on research into how children learn is a false assumption. No child should be sacrificed on the altar of bad pedagogy in a 'politically correct' effort to sound cool and hip and progressive.

Peter Gray does an excellent job of pointing the flaws in our assumptions about public education in his article on Salon, "School is a prison- and damaging our kids".

Compulsory schooling has been a fixture of our culture now for several generations. It’s hard today for most people to even imagine how children would learn what they must for success in our culture without it. . . Most people assume that the basic design of schools, as we know them today, emerged from scientific evidence about how children learn best. But, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mr. Gray goes on to summarize the history of public education, and the take-away is that the "top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else."

If folks want to trumpet about improving public schools, then they need to get at the root problem, which is the foundation and design of the system itself. Our children's futures depend on us doing something meaningful.

What we really need to hear are educrats to admit, "We were wrong", and start making the real and necessary changes to improve education for our nation's children, instead of protecting their positions of power and influence on the backs of parents and children. Which isn't likely to happen, and in my opinion, this makes them a very odd sort of federally approved, taxpayer supported predator. Their kids aren't in under-performing public schools, and most are in private schools. What does that tell you when the chef won't eat his own cooking?

Current methods are so ingrained in our society that even when private, charter, and homeschoolers leave the system in order to improve education for their children, they still begin with the basic tools of the traditional classroom - desks, teacher, chalkboard, textbooks, lectures, memorization, and testing. Teachers do most of the talking, while kids passively wait for their assignments and try not to get into trouble for daydreaming or pencil chewing. Schools and parents may experience some success because they have more freedom to respond to student needs, but it is still like trying to hammer a nail with a hair brush instead of picking up an actual hammer.

If people want to continue to declare public education as a common good, then quite frankly, public education needs to provide some evidence that it is, in fact, good for all children.