Lacey Smith

My case against formal education Pt 3

In Education on December 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I was going to post about solutions today, but a couple of recent comments on my blog have me thinking more about this problem.

Perhaps today’s title is wrong, since my issues today are less about formal education and more about the current system, but I still think they should be addressed.

Even if we could fix the inherent problems in the current system (cost, status and a failure to teach critical thinking and independence), we are still left with a few really big problems. It’s also really important to remember that the system itself has these problems almost built-in, and somewhat by design.

These additional problems make our current system one of the worst systems possible.

First is the government involvement. It’s not secret that I lean libertarian, and so of course I would have issue with the government, but consider this: the system is based on government involvement. Most states have in their constitution a mandate to provide basic education to their children citizens.

The real concern with that is how much we trust our state legislatures – and from year to year that may change significantly.

I’m not saying that the states are not the proper place for government to provide education (in fact it’s probably the most realistic place for that to be required) and I recognize that local education boards are one check on the power of state government.

However, a people wise enough to be wary of it’s government at all levels should also be wary of the schools. We rarely think of that.

It should be of utmost concern to us that for 6-9 hours a day we send our children to a government-sponsored, funded and regulated institution where they are given (fed) information about topics ranging from science to civics. Our children are the future of our republic and we should know what their textbooks say and what their teachers are teaching.

More than the involvement of the state, the federal Department of Education (ED) is a major issue. There is zero Constitutional authority for the feds to be involved in our education system. Yet the budget and influence of the ED continues to grow. Since 2002, the ED budget has increased over 23 Billion dollars to $69.9 Billion. That may be pocket change in Washington, but that’s big money to me, especially for something that has no Constitutional backing.

Setting that aside, there are still other issues.

Our current education system is a factory that creates workers and followers. Innovation and leadership are not major elements of our school system.

Besides just failing to teach critical thinking, many schools don’t teach students how to succeed. You don’t have to pass third grade to move on to fourth, so there are no consequences for doing poorly or well.

Schools teach to the lowest common denominator and that harms many of the brightest students. And how can you when your 1st grade classroom has 30 students or your freshman courses have 200?

The quality of teaching has declined significantly. Have you seen an 8th grade test from the late 1800s? (There’s one available here) They expected a lot more.

I could go on an on, but at some point you have to wonder when it’s not worth fixing. Eventually it costs more to fix that old car than it does to buy a new one and that’s sort of where we are with our school system.

We need real solutions (stay tuned for Monday’s episode), but we need to consider whether or not those solutions are viable in the current set up or whether the best solutions involve a complete remodel or dismantling what we’ve got and starting over.

Until those option are on the table, I’m afraid we won’t be willing to make the hard changes that need to happen.


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