Since our own Aviator suggested it, and since technically his post is part 1 of this topic, so this piece shall be part 2. First, you should go back to read Aviator's "Priorities" post and read through Chief's enumerated list and the other comments. There is not much more that I can add to them. However, there does exist quite a lot of the "lumpen" outside the school buildings. There is quite a bit of it outside hawking their own stupidity, agenda, personal likes and dislikes, and just outright ignorance about how a public school district operates.
Just as an example of what I just wrote, check out this clip from TDS last Monday, June 7. The Chinese government has been offering money to school districts in the US to teach Chinese. According to some, this is indoctrination of our young to become communists.
( One disadvantage in working around inside the Comedy Central site is it's clunkiness. One cannot just get to a specific clip; look for Aasif Mandvi's bit. )
So much of the discussion about education in this country is tied up in politics, religion, et alia that it is difficult to formulate a standard, sane and rational system of educating our people. Tell me why the schools around the Gulf Coast have always been so abysmal, or tell me why the Texas State School Board committed their recent atrocity with regard to curriculum, or tell me why the funding of public education vacillates from one extreme to the other, and then I'll be able to tell you that you have all the answers.
Because I do not. A large part of the answer is due to the fact that education in this country is localized. Much of the friction comes from federal mandates to the states that enjoin them to have certain standards of education, but without adequate support in funding. A good example is special ed., which is expensive and which for the most part is funded by the states. I do believe that SPED is a good thing to do, but politics at the federal level being what they are, the states often get the short end of the shaft. The states then pass as much of the shaft as they can down to the local level, which, depending upon the wealth of each local level, determines the level of funding of individual public school districts and also to a great extent what will be and what will not be taught in each curriculum. I would hope that the denizens and casual readers of this site know this much.
My home state Kansas has been notorious for funding difficulties for a long time, not to mention our recent foray into the controversy over the teaching of evolution and creationism. Aviator's "Priorities" post is at once a brilliant example of the basic reason for the establishment of a state, but also a glaring shame for this country. John Edwards, for all his personal faults and betrayal, had it right about 2 separate Americas. It is an egregious disgrace that there is such a wide gulf between the public schools of the poor and those of the wealthy; it is an obscenity to spend so much of our resource upon weapons and pointless foreign wars and leave public schools scraping by.
Much of the financing for public schools comes from property taxes, which goes a far way to explain the differences between school districts. The state courts have tried to remedy this, but sometimes that backfires. Glance through this story for a narrative of how education in this country can go haywire:
With boards and administrations always in upheaval, little attention was paid to a sustained plan for teaching and learning. Because of poor academic performance and other issues, the state of Missouri revoked the district's accreditation in 1999. It has never regained full accreditation.
Families of all races sought other options. They moved to the suburbs, or turned to charter schools, or sought refuge in private and parochial schools.
Despite repeated warnings that the district was tearing through its financial reserves, the board and administration continued to run half-empty schools, just because one faction or another demanded it.
That's how the Kansas City School District arrived at its current lowly state. It wasn't for lack of money -- $2 billion should be plenty. It wasn't for civic ill will; numerous good people have tried to help the students over the years.
But people with good intentions retreat quickly when confronted with race-based animosity, which has been an undercurrent in school district affairs for decades. That leaves opportunists and meddlers to have their way.
"Opportunists and meddlers". Yes indeed, and anyone feels up to that, another post at MilPub!
I've been a public school teacher ever since I started in Philadelphia in 1974. I've seen so many different forces banging away at the structure of public education, each trying to force its will upon our young. Some were good, IMO, some were retreads of earlier theories, some were crap. But what outstrips everything in stupidity and foolishness is that idea that we must balance state and national budgets by cutting our public education funding. I am a victim of that, my career in education is most likely at an end. RIF'ed. We're not moving and we'll take whatever comes our way. ( One possible exception, a way to escape to a more civilized, sunny and carefree area where the development of the mind is valued above all else! ) My efforts over the years have always been to give my students something of value for their use and enlightenment, something both useful and encouraging.
Is there anything more I could have done?