Wednesday, March 3, 2010

more on education & public schools

First off, The Well-Armed Lamb weighs in.

I don't agree with his analysis, but he makes some valid points.
[Eliminating private schools seems simply impractical: how ya gonna do it? Better to accept 'em, and figure out how to make public schools work anyway.]

Me? I am the product of a public school education, in a city that offered private-school alternatives which my parents could have afforded - but saw no need for.
I attended the only integrated high school in town - in a system with 9 high schools: 7 lily-white, 1 black, 1 integrated. Tulsa Central could probably be fairly described as an "inner city" school. The building was ancient, and would within a few years of my graduation be abandoned.
Not all of the teachers were great - or even good - but most were competent.

In some support of Well-Armed Lamb, I DO agree that the 'charter school' movement hurts public education, sucking funds and delivering less-than-stellar results.
It seems to me yet one more product of the Reagan-esque GOP mantra: "the private sector is always and in all ways superior to the public!"

A digression: the Reagan-esque GOP, in touting the miracle of the market, refer repeatedly to its inherent 'efficiency'. Two problems can be noted with this. First, the 'efficiency' they cite is - in academic economic publications - a fairly well-defined technical, specialist concept - bearing only faint resemblence to the common-language meaning of the word. Second, 'efficiency' per se is not the end-all be-all of economics. The United States Postal Service is not efficient. It is not designed to be. Its mandate is 'equity': every letter with a stamp gets delivered in a timely manner to every legitimate postal address in the country. Note: FedEx, UPS, DHL - these private companies don't promise this service. They're in business to make money. If they tried to compete with USPS on USPS's terms, they'd lose.

Back to main article.
As a student reporter for the district-wide student newspaper ("School Life"), I had the opportunity to interview the principal of the Vo-Tech high school (not previously counted - this would make 10 in the district).
His first words: "People want to talk to me about vocational education. I want to talk about education."
It was a very easy interview: he was more than happy to express his views about education - which for him meant turning out graduates who would be productive, more-or-less knowledgeable members of society. (I suppose he'd count as one of the bad guys for educational theorists who maintain that public education exists to keep us peons in place - contributing to, but not competing with, the powers-that-be.)

Anyway, his general attitude today helps inform my own opinions regarding public education. Specifically: tho' I'm a fan of math, science, and basic English, I recognize that there's more to life than factoring polynomials, knowing how to read the periodic table, and writing complete sentences.
My former employer contributed lavishly to K-12 education - but only for math/science programs! - I found this distressing.
I've close to zero understanding of or appreciation for the visual arts - but I readily admit that there are lots of folks with artistic talent and artistic temperaments.
I've close to zero mechanical ability - but I'm grateful that lots of folks DO have mechanical ability - and training - to keep my life running smoothly.
Music? I enjoy it, but I'm not a musician. I'm delighted that musicians exist.
Dramatic arts? - Watching well-acted plays, movies & TV shows is a pleasure.

I note that the fonts Google's 'blogger' app uses were DESIGNED by visual artists.
The logo on my HP printer was DESIGNED by a visual artist.
The menu at Village Inn was DESIGNED by a visual artist.

The craftsmen assembling my kitchen would likely be hard-pressed to solve a quadratic equation - but they are skilled laborers whose abilities I value!
(I can even attach a $ number to my valuation of their skills!)

There's more to life - and citizenship - than math, science, and English. - a LOT more!

My biggest fear about testing and "teaching to the test" isn't that math/science/English will be slighted.
It's that we'll forget that our public schools are the vehicles which produce our artists, musicians, actors, and statesmen.

I far prefer spending $$$ and developing policies that will improve public education to spending $$$ and developing policies that supplant public education with some 'out-sourced' version.
For much the same reasons I'm unhappy about out-sourcing military functions to private contractors, I am also unhappy about out-sourcing PUBLIC education to private contractors (i.e., charter schools).

As the product of a public school education, I continue to believe that public schools are our best bet for the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment