How To Fix Public Education in the United States

21 May

Seth: “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic revolutionary changes. Schools should be palaces. Competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be getting six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for government and absolutely free of charge for its citizens, just like national defense. That is my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”

I could not have said it better myself. This is a line from my favorite television show, The West Wing. A character was engaged in a fake debate about the merits of public education in order to spend time with a girl (see Infatuated). When he came clean with her and admitted that he agreed with her thoughts, he followed the narrative that is quoted above.

I agree fully. Today, public education in America is, on a good day, a shadow of what it should be. Depending on where you live, it is either world-class, third-world-class, or somewhere in between. Raysean will say this is the reason that the government should get out of the business of education. I disagree. Federal intervention should serve to reconcile these disparities. But I will agree with Raysean that the Federal government should not be the oversight authority is has come to be.

Public education is one of the greatest examples of American morality. I say that because even before the Revolution, it was recognized that education is the key to prosperity, and the colonies wanted dearly to prosper. Public education has gone through many developments, and is now financed primarily through taxes and monies from state and the federal governments. This has proven inadequate, and change in the system is long-overdue. And I agree with Raysean on this. We have to incentivize private investment in public education, be it through charter schools, which are accountable to the public school districts in which they operate, or private schools, which also should be held accountable by an accrediting agency just like universities and professional schools. Education must remain free and public, but it is the private sector, through innovation that will bring about the radical changes that are needed.

**********************************************************

Ray: It has become old news that developing nations have education systems that either match or surpass the quality of our own. Most notable are the nations of India and China. If this doesn’t scare you as a problem, consider the reasons why countless jobs are being out sourced every year to these nations. China and India provide a wealth of young people who are educated and demand far less salary and wages than their US counterparts.

Passing legislation that limits the ability for US companies to out source won’t fully address the underlying cause of these trends. Instead, a much more responsible response would be to improve the method by which we educate our children. I would like to suggest that a mix of public and private resources should be used to educated all children in this country.

Private schools give teachers and administrators the ability to change and adapt to changes at a much faster pace than public schools. Private schools can introduce new methods of teaching or can focus on specific areas of interest (i.e. charter schools) more so than public schools. In general, they are designed to provide more freedom to parents and students when it comes to what they want to learn and how they want to learn it.

Public schools, on the other hand, are forced to teach students enough to pass a standardized test which will determine how that school gets funded for the next fiscal year. Particularly in inner-cities, public schools have become day care centers and juvenile holding facilities instead of places of learning and personal development. The few students who do manage to remain above average often struggle to achieve in an environment where the average and below average students serve as major distractions to the learning process.

I believe that private schools should replace a large majority of public schools in existence today. The result will be a consolidation of schools in various communities which will lead to much better efficiencies. In fact, grade-schools should probably be organized in a similar fashion to most colleges and universities which depend on effective administration and strong course offerings in order to survive.

In a hybrid system, taxes related to funding education will be concentrated and spent on subsidizing a fewer number of schools. This alone will reduce the tax burden on everyone in a given community.

School districts will have advisory and audit boards to ensure that the private schools are meeting education standards that are desirable by the people of those communities. But the private schools will still maintain a level of freedom to operate as their Board of Directors so desire.

Unlike public schools, if a private school doesn’t reach a necessary level of success, it must either change it’s methods or it will become extinct. Parents will demand the educational services of some other school that hires better teachers (which would relate to higher salaries for teachers), has better graduation results, and provides more opportunities to their students. Indeed this is the nature of business.

As with insurance policies, every child must be guaranteed enrollment at a private school in their community that will be free of charge if their parents can not afford it. But for those who do invest in their child’s education, they should receive significant tax savings on property and income. In addition to this, I have always believed that qualified teachers should enjoy significant tax-savings and retirement benefits sponsored by the federal government.

In summary, I believe that private schools will provide a more meaningful education to more students than what public schools are capable of doing. Although the details can be debated, citizens must be encouraged to invest in their children’s education. The government has proven that it only knows how to solve problems by throwing money at them at the expense of tax payers. I think there’s a better way of solving our education deficiencies by using old fashion American ingenuity to provide great services. I think it starts with the privation and consolidation of most public schools.

**********************************************************

Seth: Radical changes are needed. That is why private investment is so important. Congress and the Bush administration realized this with No
Child Left Behind
, but they missed the mark when they required schools to meet too many stringent standards in order to receive Federal dollars.

I agree with Raysean in that a hybrid system would be incredible. It will
take much time, effort, money, and expertise to implement, but every
dollar will be worth it.


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2 Responses to “How To Fix Public Education in the United States”

  1. poliology May 22, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Saw an interesting comment of yours posted on the Root’s story on “conscious” rap, glad to see more thought provoking stuff here. Great post

  2. DeepAndMeaningful June 25, 2008 at 9:49 am #

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