|Robbing parents to pay teachers
By Alan Caruba
It is an act of thievery to take money to provide goods or services and then fail to do so. Our nation's schools have become a great criminal conspiracy, promising to educate our children, but more often producing "graduates" without even the most basic skills, let alone a useful, wider body of knowledge.
"My daughter is now 20 years old," one mother wrote to me recently. "After graduating from high school in June 2005, she enrolled at the local community college. It was necessary for her to take a placement test and it was determined she needed to take Basic Skills Math and English before she could take [college level courses.] After failing both classes twice, she will not be returning. It breaks my heart to see that she can't pass basic math or English class. How did she graduate high school?"
The answer is that her parents were heavily levied with property taxes, the vast portion of which was then given to the local school system to pay teachers and administrators salaries, along with all the other costs of operation. They, in turn, passed her daughter along, unmindful and indifferent to whether she learned anything. "She has been robbed of a basic education and we have been robbed of our tax dollars for 19 years."
Early in his first term, President Bush embraced the "No Child Left Behind" legislation that has since been found wanting for its one-size-fits-all approach to education, its over-emphasis on testing, and its punishment of "under-performing" schools. The result has been to expose most schools as inadequate and to encourage every form of administrative cheating necessary for a school to meet the standards set by the law.
The idea was to force some improvement on a system everyone already knew was failing students. Laws, however, do not educate students. Teachers are expected to do that and it is no surprise that the National Education Association—a union—hated the idea of improvement. Indeed, from the 1960s to the present day, the NEA has done its best to undermine, if not destroy, a system of education that served previous generations of Americans quite well.
In the July/August edition of The American Enterprise, Jay Greene, wrote "Education Myths: Debunking the fictions that obstruct school reform." The article was based on Greene's book of the same name. Here are just a few examples of how schools rob parents to pay teachers who are producing students deliberately rendered ignorant.
The standard answer to any question about the quality of our schools is the demand for more funding. The truth, however, is that "spending per student has been growing steadily for 50 years." It has doubled and then doubled again. What did not occur, however, was any significant improvement in test scores, particularly since the introduction in the 1970s of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Okay, we may be spending more on schools, but isn't it true that teachers still aren't paid enough? No, if the poorly educated students they produce are the standard, they are vastly over-paid. "The average teacher's salary does seem modest at first glace", wrote Greene, "about $44,600 in 2002 for all teachers." However, teachers only work nine months a year. A nurse making the same salary works twelve months with two week's vacation and perhaps ten paid holidays. The statistics are damning evidence they are paid well for far less actual work than comparable jobs.
Another favorite myth is "that schools are helpless in the face of social problems is not supported by hard evidence," wrote Greene. "The truth is that certain schools do a strikingly better job than others at overcoming challenges in the culture." There is a reason why parents clamor for school choice, vouchers, when they know that some schools do a better job. Competition and incentives for the better schools would raise the standards for all schools.
Class size is yet another myth. Greene notes, "Research suggests there may be some advantages to smaller classes—though, if so, the benefits are modest and come at a very high price tag." There is ample evidence that reducing class sizes is costly to the point of taking money from the purchase of books, equipment, and other reforms that would benefit students.
In most professions and trade, certification is regarded as a reliable sign that practitioners have demonstrated a reasonable level of expertise. "One of the strongest and most consistent findings in the entire body of research on teacher quality is that teaching certificates and master's degrees in education are irrelevant to classroom performance."
When the teacher corps is drawn from those college graduates who enter the profession for a lack of aptitude that would give them access to other, presumably better paying jobs, you end up with classrooms filled with people who may know barely more than their students. Or worse, are teaching classes on subjects for which they have no real skill, nor knowledge.
"According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average private school charged $4,689 per student in tuition for the 1999-2000 school years. That same year, the average public school spent $8,032 per pupil." Somehow, private schools are able to out-perform public schools when it comes to imparting knowledge and skills despite the fact their students have less than half as much funding as public school students and the success of home-schooled students over their contemporaries is already legendary.
The entire education establishment, frequently advocating the teaching of values at odds with those held by parents, has ruined our nation's schools and are defrauding taxpayers by failing to truly educate the children placed in their care.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. His new book, "Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy" has been published by Merril Press. © Alan Caruba, 2006
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