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If the primary purpose of education is to impart knowledge so that each generation of youth are able, first, to govern themselves and, second, to get a decent job, then how are today’s public schools doing?

Our schools fail miserably. A high school education was once a crowning achievement which enabled the high school graduate to work most jobs and even run a business. Today, the common perception is that a high school graduate is only little better than that socially despised failure, the dropout. Everybody needs to go to college to have any chance at all to succeed. Or so they say.

Our schools fail miserably. Academic performance is falling despite the concurrent lowering of academic standards. The number of delinquent youth is massive and growing. Children are not expected to grow up until, perhaps, their thirties—and too many of them barely meet this paltry expectation. In almost every way of measuring, society is more dysfunctional today than it was 50, 100, and 200 years ago.

Meanwhile schools are increasingly fantastically expensive.


Because the wrong people with the wrong ideas are running the show.

Educrats get excited by spending more on education; but for all their spending, student performance continues to slide. Making school days longer, requiring more days in class each year, starting mandatory schooling a year younger and compelling attendance for 16 and 17 year olds, funding more college tries—none of these things seem to make any significant improvement, nor will they ever. New philosophies of education, unified core curricula mandated by state education departments, federal testing to ensure that “no child is left behind”; repeal of NCLB and replacing it with something that does a better unconstitutional job of guiding states in reaching national goals for education policies—none of it will help.


Because we have forgotten what education is for.

Consider our system.

In a kindergarten, one school routinely has each child give his name and tell some particular fact about himself. At this school, one student, let’s call him Billy, is so profoundly handicapped, that he cannot walk, speak, or even sit up on his own. He eats from a bottle that is held for him. But he is in school and has his Individual Education Plan and those are good things, right? One day the students introduce themselves and tell what they are having for lunch. When it is his turn to introduce himself, Billy’s educational assistant takes his limp hand and depresses a button on the tape recorder. The assistant’s voice says, “Hi, I’m Billy and today I’m having hot lunch.” The other students snicker. Who can blame them? First, the voice is not Billy’s voice; he cannot speak. Second, he is not having a hot lunch; he is having a bottle—like he does every day. Perhaps school gives him a sense of belonging; but granting children a sense of belonging is manifestly not the purpose of education; imparting knowledge is.

Consider the high school-aged gang member who hates school and wants nothing to do with it. The state mandates that he go to school because that’s a good thing, right? Take a moment and consider the devastation this lawless thug wreaks upon what might otherwise be a learning environment. Perhaps it keeps him off the streets and helps the grown-ups feel safer; but schools are obviously not supposed to be day prisons for sociopaths; schools are to instruct students.

What about a different kind of high-school student? This student’s family would benefit from a different income stream so the single mom can be home more and keep the family from disintegrating. This student has an opportunity to work in construction and make decent money. With his ambition, strength, and aptitude, he would likely become a foreman in a few years and could eventually strike out with a construction company of his own. His success, however, is hindered by the recruitment efforts of a high school gang member like the one in the previous scenario combined with the temptation of easy money selling drugs, the privations of a grinding poverty, his mother’s absence from the family while she works a second-shift job, and a compulsory school attendance law. School should be helping him prepare for gainful employment but instead, it unwittingly prepares him for gang membership.

In each case, vast amounts of money are wasted, or worse, spent interfering with the very purpose of school.

There is a better way.

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  1. Our schools are failing in part because we include children with disabilities in the classroom?  I think you need to study the issue a bit more.  And the tone you use to describe the hypoethical child is beyond cruel.

    1. I used words reminiscent of a real situation as it was described to me. Some children are born with heart-wrenchingly profound disabilities. I said nothing cruel; I described him. I feel numb when I consider what must be his loneliness and frustration. But my true sympathy for him–and for his parents–is beside my point, so I did not mention it.

      As for the children laughing. I do not suppose they were laughing at the disabled child, they were laughing at the absurd tableau that well-intended but misguided grown-ups created.

      If you can make a case against my thesis, I will read it. If not, then please reconsider mine. Our schools are often distracted by false goals. I gave three illustrations.

Comments are closed.

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