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The liberal art of public education

By Trevor Bothwell
web posted October 25, 2004

Well, we're barely two months into the new school year, and our public schools haven't wasted any time demonstrating for taxpayers how much they're already shortchanging our children.

What does a cool ten grand per student get you nowadays in a public school? If you happen to have a kid at Poplar Tree Elementary School in Chantilly, Va., there's a good chance it will help to buy her a lesson in the virtues of communism.

Teachers at Poplar Tree in Fairfax County have been known to collect students' personal school supplies at the beginning of the year and put them into a "community box," from which they dispense the supplies for the remainder of the year to all students as their needs arise. Sound familiar? It should. Poplar Tree is hardly the only school where this absurd practice has taken place.

One of the most exciting times of the year for kids who actually like going to school used to be picking out all those brand new supplies at the end of summer vacation. But what's the point when your teachers don't even let you keep the pencils, crayons, and notebooks you've purchased for yourself? One of the first lessons students are apt to learn in today's public schools is that it's just fine for someone else to pilfer their belongings, so long as it takes place under the guise of "compassion," "equality," and "sharing." So much for your kid learning the value and importance of private property rights.

Of course, this really shouldn't be too surprising. For years now public schools have championed the merits of "cooperative learning," where students are grouped into mini-communes of four or five. The idea here is to encourage cooperation between peers, where the brighter students in the group are expected to facilitate the learning of those less academically adroit.

Aside from the sheer foolishness of expecting any individual student to be responsible for the learning of anyone but himself, "cooperative" methods of learning discourage independent thinking in addition to encouraging misbehavior and cheating. Indeed, these instructional methods are invented by the very same teachers who believe grading papers with red ink is "pretty frightening" for kids, at least according to Sharon Carlson, a health and physical education teacher at JFK Middle School in Northampton, Mass.

Looking for some high school hijinks? The Washington Post has reported that a geometry teacher at Oxon Hill High School in Prince George's County, Md., has been removed from instructional duty for administering a math test containing word problems referencing drugs and weapons. A sample from the "joke" exam: "Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is the street value of the rest of his hold?" The Post also stated that the unnamed teacher even asked students to write their "gang name" on the test.

Thankfully, the school district had the presence of mind to reassign this teacher. But what are we to make of a district that hasn't summoned the moral fiber to fire a teacher who deems it appropriate to inflame racial stereotypes at a school with an 85% black population? Don't be surprised when the "Bloods" and "Crips" start to displace the "Bluebirds" and "Robins" reading groups of yesteryear.

Perhaps most outrageous, Shiba Pillai-Diaz , a middle school teacher at Crossroads South Middle School in Monmouth Junction, N.J., was recently ordered out of her school by her principal for hanging a photo of President and Mrs. Bush on a bulletin board next to other U.S. presidents. According to WABC news, "Pillai-Diaz ultimately removed the entire bulletin board and [said] School Principal Jim Warfel told her she disrupted the school with her ‘inflammatory politics'" before being shown the door.

Each of these illustrations really demonstrates all you need to know about the mentality proliferated in today's public schools. Administrators and teachers are so consumed by left-liberal notions of absolute "equality" that they find nothing wrong with confiscating your kid's property -- unless it means preventing students from disrupting lectures. The New York Times has written that public schools have practically given up on attempting to enforce rules prohibiting students from having cell phones in class. (The jury's still out on whether or not schools will continue to try to prevent kids from having oral sex in stairwells.)

Moreover, government schools are so committed to "non-judgmentalism" that they can barely bring themselves to reprimand unprofessional teachers -- unless, of course, those teachers are guilty of recognizing the one man responsible for dumping billions of dollars into public school coffers. Figure that one out.

In short, whereas a demagogue like Jim Warfel purports to proclaim fairness in the classroom by preventing teachers from displaying a poster of a Republican president unless his Democrat challenger accompanies it, he merely reveals the agenda of the liberal education populace -- the only "inflammatory politics" allowed in public schools these days are those that appeal to the left.

It goes without saying that there are many good public schools in this country. The problem is, there are far too many bad ones. Again, we're only two months into the school year. Stay tuned for more lunacy.

Trevor Bothwell is editor of The Right Report.com and is a Townhall.com book reviewer. He can be contacted at bothwell@therightreport.com.

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