Public Schools.

Now, I often hear about how absolutely horrid our public school system is. I was listening to Hannity today while waiting to pick my brother up from our public high school (ew…) and he and a liberal caller were agreeing on how terrible public schools are. Granted, I have never been to an inner-city school or a charter school or what have you, but there are plenty of people in our school that are failing one or more courses. Now that I have established my background, I may move on to my main point (or at least that’s what my silly teachers at public schools have told me).

I disagree with the premise that public schooling is bad. In fact, I have a rather fond spot in my heart for good old public schools. I have been in public schools for 9 years (I was homeschooled for three years) and have acquired an exemplary education. However, there are some people who have not. Some people are failing easy courses like Health or Speech. Is this the result of bad teachers or subpar schools? No.

It is a result of inadequate effort on the part of the student. There are students at that school who could be National Merit Scholars if they would just put some effort into learning. My freshman and sophomore years of high school did not really receive the kind of attention academically that they should have. In short, my grades were terrible in some classes. I usually did well in AP World History and my English classes because I was willing to put forth the time that it took to learn the material. I got a four on my AP World History exam because I loved the class and loved the teacher. I even took AP European History this year because I love history (and the teacher is the same one as the AP World class). However, as a junior, I realized that I had to get my academic act together and apply myself to all of my classes. After that, I made good grades, and this year I’ve been making straight As almost every marking period.

Which brings me to my point. Accountability is not to be applied to the schools alone. It is really not even the school’s fault, in many cases, that students are failing. It is those students’ faults. They are to be held accountable for their actions, not the schools. Mid-City High School cannot should not be upbraided for the fact that they have a majority of students that are willing to serve countless hours of detention for missed assignments, to bring home contemptible report cards marking period after marking period or to disappoint teachers day after day.

I understand that this is not really the popular conservative viewpoint. But that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I simply think that we ought to give credit where credit is due. So here’s to you, public school teachers, administrators, custodians, lunch ladies, curricula approvers, taxpayers, engaged students and the general educational community. Oh, you thought I meant the government? Ha.

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One Response to “Public Schools.”

  1. Novanglus Says:

    You’re exactly right in saying that the ultimate responsibility for failing in school is on the students themselves. I don’t think your standard conservative would argue with that really.

    The issues with public schools (in my mind anyway) are with a few key issues. For one, it’s a government run institution; meaning that instead of being given the freedom of choice citizens are forced to pay into the system whether they agree with the teachings or not. There is no freedom and no choice per se. Sure parents can double-pay for private schooling of their choice by paying the necessary taxes along with the tuition at the private school – but what kind of choice is that really? How much of a choice is that for most families? Even homeschooling can be very expensive.

    For two, there is often (not always mind you) a liberal bent either from the teacher, the material being taught, or both. To some parents this is like a one-two punch. They teach one set of values at home only to have some of this undone by the public schools their children attend. Not only are their values being undermined, they’re being forced to pay for this service. Issues like homosexuality, abstinence, or creationism may be taught in one light at home and in the opposite light at school. This kind of undermining of parental values is justified as being “truth” or “tolerance” in public schools who seem to have a “we know better than you do how to raise your kids” attitude. There is real damage done in effectively teaching children that their parents are wrong – and possibly even a not-so-subtle message that they are bad people for believing the way that they do.

    What difference does it make to the schools? They have nothing to do with the kids after they graduate. They carry no responsibility at all once they’ve delivered that piece of paper and sent them off into society.

    Lastly, in the free market we see how effective competition is and how monopolies often lead to stagnation. What incentive do public schools have to make substantial changes? They have a lock on student attendance and more importantly – taxpayer funding. There is no option for inadequate institutions to be allowed to fail as would happen in the free market. How much better would schools be if they had to deliver customer service to maintain customers (students/parents) like FedEx does? Or had to fight for customers by delivering a superior product? Granted, this would likely never be educational nirvana or anything. It would still be wrought with problems and probably bring new problems to the table (like transportation and other things). The point is that offering freedom of choice would at least offer the hope of providing education that is better that could ever be provided under the current system.

    The forces of supply, demand, success and failure that go hand-in-hand with free markets have proven to be more powerful and more effective than anything else man has been able to muster. It makes sense (to me at least) that would explore tapping into those forces with our children’s education in whatever ways we can.

    I also appreciate my public education and was able to both succeed and fail according to my own efforts just as you described. I would certainly like to see better options for parents. I’m sure that’s something you’ll grow to appreciate down the road as I did.

    Part of the problems with public schools are not with the schools at all but are with the larger issue of entitlements. Inner city schools have a real problem with student apathy. The kids just don’t care. It’s hard to teach anything to a child who really doesn’t care. And that’s another issue altogether…

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