Let’s for a moment assess the current state of Public Education. The majority of schools work on an annual calendar that was driven by the needs of an agrarian society. The curriculum still largely reflects the needs of the industrial age. The dependence on buildings and multiple layers of management make it hugely expensive per pupil and remarkably inflexible to accommodate the rapid pace of change in the Information Age. As with most things whose quality directly reflects the budget, there is vast inequality across the US and around the world.
But perhaps the most important drawback is the perception such a system perpetrates—that education starts around age 5 (2 years and 9 months for those ‘fortunate enough’ to have parents—or live in communities—able to afford preschool) and ends for some at age 18, others in their early 20’s. The impact of this goes far beyond the propensity of most adults to not read for education, much less recreation. Even more troubling is that parents perceive the responsibility of educating their children to belong to someone else. The affects of this are far-reaching and may be the source of many of societal ills that seem totally unrelated.
Let us start with a few of the more deleterious impacts and add more in discussion:
1) Parent Guilt. Teachers and administrators often see parent involvement in the classroom as an interruption, giving strong hints—if not clear direction—to drop off their child and be there to pick them up on time, but leave the task of making them citizens of the world to the professionals. To some of the more selfish or self-centered, this is fine, leaving more time for their important careers or pastimes. But for those who willingly took on the obligation of child rearing with the birth of their children, they are forced to accumulate daily installments of guilt that they were not able to be there as their child learned to read their first words, became aware of a second language, overcame fear and stood before their class to recite a poem, etc. The result after years of this is parenting behavior often meant in love, but instead resulting in weakening their children. They shower them with gifts, or don’t hold them responsible for chores, often have a hard time disciplining their children, even write their college essays for them.
2) Blame Game. Another unintended consequence of such a system is the budget battles that put the welfare of students and the fate of teachers early in their careers, school nurses, arts instructors, and many others in great uncertainty every year as dwindling tax revenues meet rising costs in meeting rooms and city council chambers everywhere. The extent and quality of public education in small towns and large cities has become dependent on the negotiating skill of superintendents and school boards. This pits the immediacy of next year’s infrastructure against the future of the town, the nation, the world. No one group truly wins in such a scenario.
What other issues are caused by the current public education model?