WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE PUBLIC OR GOVERNMENT SCHOOL SYSTEM?

by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

©  August 2020, LD Wilson Consultants, Inc.

 

All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.

 

Table Of Contents

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

II. DEEPER CAUSES OF SCHOOL PROBLEMS

1. Economic – a unionized, government monopoly

2. Moral – anti-Biblical

3. Technical – outdated teaching methods

4. Safety

5. The growth of centralized control

 

III. SOLUTIONS

 

IV. QUESTIONS ABOUT SCHOOL CHOICE

 

______________________

 

I. INTRODUCTION   

 

            This is a very brief overview of one of the most serious problems in modern society.  Many authors have written large books about the subject. 

            Two prominent economists were recently asked what is the greatest challenge facing America.  Both agreed it is not terrorism, energy or health care, but the decline of the American system of education.  In summary, the problems are:

              1. Declining test scores and knowledge learned.  Test scores and knowledge is worse than most industrialized nations.  This is especially a problem if America wishes to stay competitive in science and technology, an area she has done well in.

            2. Skyrocketing costs.  This is well-known.  Most is due to high pensions and administrative costs.

            3. High dropout rates in some areas, up to 20-30% or more.  In other words, too many children are very unhappy in school and just decide to leave, regardless of the laws.

            4. Serious safety problems, especially for girls.

 

II. DEEPER CAUSES OF SCHOOL PROBLEMS

 

1. ECONOMIC/STRUCTURAL - A UNIONIZED, GOVERNMENT MONOPOLY

 

            A critical problem in education is its structure.  The government school system is an economic monopoly.  This is the least flexible and most difficult type of system to change!  

            A monopoly in business terms means there is no meaningful competition.  This means there is little real incentive to change or modernize.

            Voucher programs and charter schools in some American states are helping to change this, but government schools still receive many perks, tax breaks and other advantages that are not given to charter schools, voucher programs and similar attempts to break the government school monopoly.

            A government monopoly is the worst kind of monopoly imaginable.  Unlike private monopolies such as the former telephone industry monopoly and others, the school monopoly is paid for by everyone without a choice.  Money for it comes from your taxes.  If you donŐt pay, you are jailed or can lose your home.  This makes this monopoly even harder to break.

            A unionized monopoly is even worse.  Unions support:

              A. Tenure. Once a teacher has taught for a few years without being fired, the teacher cannot be fired except for horrible crimes, even if they are not good teachers.  The ones who are hurt by this rule are the children, and they are the ones that are supposed to be the beneficiaries, not the ones hurt.

              B. Generous pensions and other benefits.  Teachers, we often hear, make little money.  It is true they do not make as much as some jobs.  However, they work only 9-10 months a year and have excellent health care, and retirement benefits.  Some earn every penny them make, and deserve more.  However, many do not deserve to earn more, yet the unions are always pressing for more benefits, whether or not the teacherŐs performance is up to any standards.

              C. Blocking change and innovation.  The teacherŐs unions do a lot to maintain the status quo and tend to oppose any changes that would affect their members.  In other words, they work for themselves, not for the children, no matter what they say.

              D. Liberal political slant.  The teacherŐs unions support almost exclusively Democratic Party candidates in America who do their best to stop education choice and change in education, since that is anti-union.  The unions tend to support many liberal causes.  This harms the students and the education.

            E. The teacherŐs union in America is known to be corrupt. This means they pay their leaders large salaries for doing nothing, for example.

            F. Public sector unions – a very bad idea that was formerly illegal.  Unions are not needed in the public sector because it is not Ňthe workersÓ versus a Ňstingy corporate managementÓ.  No one is forcing teachers to work in sweat shops, for example.  Even as liberal an American president as Franklin Roosevelt spoke out against the evil of public sector unions.

 

2. MORAL – ANTI-BIBLICAL

 

            Government education has been divorced from the Biblical concepts that founded the nation of America, and that are responsible for much of the success of Western civilization.  This is nothing short of ridiculous.

            It is due to sustained efforts of some groups to destroy the religious and moral fabric of the nation.  ÔCommon coreŐ, a horrible national government program, is the latest insult to our moral values.  For more on this topic, please read Common Core Must Be Stopped on this website.

 

3. TECHNICAL - OUTDATED TEACHING METHODS AND PHILOSOPHY

 

            Teaching methods and educational philosophy in schools have changed little hundred years.  Among the outdated methods are:

 

              A. A highly authoritarian system that forces all the children to learn at the same pace, and at a place, a time, and in an order determined by a teacher's convenience or by administrative decree.

              This may have been necessary at one time in history.  However, modern technology and communication have changed the situation. 

            Even without the most modern technology, over 100 years ago educators such as Maria Montessori found that children could have a different type of relationship with a properly trained teacher - not an adversarial relationship.

            She devised a method that allows children to learn at their own pace, in their own order, within a properly designed environment.  However, her innovations have not filtered into the government schools much at all.  For a few more details, read Maria Montessori.

            Another great educator who influenced this author was Booker T. Washington, who founded the Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, USA.  His book, Up From Slavery, is must reading for anyone interested in education and a wonderful human interest story.  Mr. WashingtonŐs school was way ahead of its time.

 

            B. Classrooms versus home schooling.  Classrooms are good for some children, but not for others.  They tend to be distracting, dangerous for girls, and very inefficient because usually the students all must go at the same pace and all must use a similar method of learning, neither of which are best.  Perhaps at one time they were the only way to do things.  But this is certainly not true today. 

            The home schooling movement is growing fast, especially in America, because it works.  Even without using advanced technology, it is far more efficient than classrooms.  Students tend to learn the same amount in about half the time, it is more flexible, can be tailored to each child, and is more comfortable and safer.

            A few misinformed parents believe their children needs the Ňsocialization skillsÓ learned in classrooms.  This is totally untrue, if you ever been around home-schooled children.  They are as socially advanced or more so than government-schooled children, or better.

            Many other educational arrangements are possible as well.  Some small schools group children of all ages together with excellent results.  The point is, we are stuck with a one-size-fits-all approach that is no better than expecting everyone to wear the same size shoes.  It is terrible for a majority of the children and contributes to ADHD and hundreds of other learning problems.   For more, read Home Schooling on this site.

             

              C. Rewarding uncreative behavior.  The child who gets the best grade is generally the one who can repeat like a parrot what the teacher says.  Those who think independently and creatively are often punished for their independence.  Yet creative, independent thinking is critical to modern society.

 

              D. School Grading – An often stupid system.  Present grading systems label children as "C" students, or even ŇfailuresÓ when they just learn a little slower than others.  This is pure insanity.  They are not failures.  Some children learn faster than others for physical, nutritional or other reasons.

            It also sets up a reward system for learning that does not help students to be self-motivated.  In fact, quite the opposite.  The children become motivated by grades and pleasing teachers, so when they are not ŇforcedÓ to learn they donŐt want to bother.  This is a terrible situation that is a direct result of the present government school system.

            The author once taught a health class to high-school dropouts, using a positive reinforcement grading system.  At the first, class meeting, the students were told they would all receive an A in the course.  There would be daily quizzes on the course material, and if they did not obtain a perfect score on each daily quiz, they would repeat each test until they did obtain a perfect score. 

            Students were skeptical.  But the following year, ten of the twelve students decided to go back to school.  Their self-esteem improved by receiving good grades and not because my standards were lower.   This might be called "success-oriented education".

 

              E. Different learning styles.  Some children are auditory learners, while others are visual learners.  Still other are kinesthetic learners.  Other learning styles include more abstract versus more concrete approaches to course material.  A simple test can assess which method is best for each child.

            An excellent book about newer educational technologies is The Learning Revolution by Dryden and Vos.  Negative reinforcement through grading works for some children, but is harmful for many. 

 

4. SAFETY

 

            Schools are dangerous places for girls, especially since there has been a decline in Judeo-Christian values in many nations!  Safety from problems such as bullying has always been a problem, but now students are introduced to drugs in school bathrooms, and girls are threatened and sometimes molested and raped in school or on their way to and from school.

            We speak with many students and this is the truth!  Many young people, especially girls, hate the place and hate their parents for sending them there for this reason alone.  Please wise up, parents, and do not send girls to schools.  Colleges are also very dangerous for women today.

            The problem has become much worse as most schools and colleges have abandoned Biblical values and instead embraced liberal values.   

 

5. MORE CENTRALIZED CONTROL

 

            Government schools in America used to be locally controlled.  This is always better to reduce corruption and maintain better control over the entire system. 

            However, it is less and less true.  Now, the national government controls more education funding and dictates to the states more and more how the schools will be run, and what will be taught.

 

III. SOLUTIONS

 

            We believe there are only two solutions:

 

              1. Reform the government system.  Reforms would need to include:

 

            A. No unions.  They do not serve the children, and they are not needed.

            B. Restore Biblical values to the government schools.  This would be a great improvement, but is unlikely at this time.

              C. Bring in much more innovation.  The trouble is that there is little incentive to do this, no matter how much anyone believes in it and desires it.

            D. Allow students to learn at home.  This is much safer, much less expensive, and much more convenient than having to get up at an early hour and rush off to school.

 

              2.  End the current system. We believe that current government school systems around the world are outdated, very costly, and not serving the children.

            In their place, one parent should be paid to stay at home and be in charge of their childŐs education.  You may say parents are not competent to do this. 

            However, we answer that today there are a multitude of home schooling curricula and programs available that do a much better job than a crowded classroom because the education is individualized for each student and goes at each childŐs pace.

            Home schooling is already a thriving and growing movement that works well, and is much safer for the children.  The private sector and home schooling are also already much better in terms of performance than the public schools in America and elsewhere.

 

IV. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT CHOICE IN EDUCATION

 

              1. Does school choice violate the US Constitution?  Absolutely not.  In fact, choice in education is a founding principle of America.  Imposing one school system is not in alignment with the principles of the American founders or the American Constitution at all.

            Some say that school choice means the government is 'establishing' or favoring a particular church or religion, in some cases.  This is not true.  The only intent of the Constitution is to avoid a state religion and preserve choice.

 

              2. Are the poor really able to choose the best school for their children?  Elitists believe that only a select few can make good choices for childrenŐs education.  Selecting a school involves a similar process as picking a car mechanic or a doctor.  It is the height of arrogance to believe that only a few are able to choose a school for their children.  As Thomas Jefferson wrote, the best principle is to give power to the people, not to central authorities.

             

              3. Won't educational choice ruin the government schools and cause chaos?  The answer is no.  First, the government schools are already a terrible mess.  We are sad to have to say this, but it is true, especially in terms of safety for girls, but also academically.

            Secondly, the effect of offering school choice has been the opposite.   Giving people choices forces the government schools to improve by offering people competing options.  However, the unions and some others who desire total control do not want to change.

           

              4. What if school choice doesn't work?  It does work.  In fact, statistics show that most home-schooled children easily outperform those that attend government schools at a far lower cost and requiring far less time to learn as well.

             

5. If Japan, Germany and other nations have workable government schools, why can't we?  The fast answer is these nations are not in better shape than we are.  In fact, many are in worse shape.  Japan is so competitive the suicide rate among students is enormous.

Other nations spend almost as much as we do.  Many are more corrupt than ours.  So we cannot look to Europe for answers, just as in health care options.  Better to look to our heritage as a nation that believes in the power of individuals to solve problems without government interference.

 

6. What is the proper role of government in education? It is to establish and maintain laws that protect parentsŐ rights to educate their children as they see fit.  Systems that are successful will be copied.  Those that are not will die a natural death.  Those who cannot pay for an education will be helped by private charities.  

 

References

 

1.Dryden, G. and Vos, J., The Learning Revolution, 1999, 2005. (A superb book)

2. Fader, Daniel, N., The Naked Children, 1971.  This is an excellent book.

3. Fuller, B., Education Automation.  Also excellent!

4. Illich, I., Deschooling Society. Another excellent book.
5. Krishnamurti, Education and the Significance of Life.  A more philosophical book and also excellent.

6. Books by and about Maria Montessori such as The Montessori Method and Spontaneous Activity In Education, and others.

7. Washington, B.T., Up From Slavery and other books about Tuskeegee Institute.

 

            Many other books also discuss the problems of the school system.

 

 

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