Monday, July 24, 2006

Public Ed. Needs to Face Reality

In case you missed it, there have been a couple of great discussions going on about public vs. private schools over at Education Wonks and Shrewdness of the Apes.

Miller Smith began the discussion at Education Wonks with the following comment:
Most of the parents I know who have transferred their children to private schools have done so due to school culture issues. These parents want a school that controls the students and does not allow the behaviors that seem to be the right of students in the public schools.
NYC Educator responded to this by saying that no kids have the right to bad behavior in his room, but then Smith countered with this: Prince George's County, Maryland, a child has the right to return to class after physically assaulting the teacher. As in grabbing the teacher's hair and banging her head on the desk. Retuened to class two days later. No action taken. Teacher forbidden from having the kids removed to another teacher even.

At Bladensburg High in PG county there was two weeks in a row one of more teachers were assaulted every day. Reaction by admin? Kids returned to class. Would you like to know why? The limit on those kid's demographics had been reached and the school was not allowed to suspend or expell any more of that demographic. The federal judge who has controlled PG county since bussing is still in control via lawsuits from a certain advocacy group.

Oh, and a kid calling you a m*therf*cker in class? They are responding to your demographic and you just need to understand.
Miller Smith has a valid point, and those of us who care about public education need to understand that it is killing us. It frustrates me to no end that no one in the educational elite--liberal (including our unions) or conservative--has ever made a move to truly enable public school teachers to deal with this. All the liberals ever talk about is money, money money, which turns off most of the public; and all the conservatives ever talk about are vouchers, vouchers, vouchers. And those of us who care about public education had better realize that that movement is gaining steam. There are an increasing number of people who are share the view that SLM stated in one of his comments:
You know what I like about private schools, charters, and homeschooling? I'm not endlessly flogged and admonished to provide ever more funds to help offset the perpetual penury of public schools due mostly to poor administration, little oversite, and no motivation to change, or to be constantly reminded that teachers are professionals despite not gaining or maintaining jobs based on results and reputation, or told that my uppity opinions are draining precious energy from my child's education. And lastly, I'm not told that my child, or any child, can't get a good education at a public school until all of our various social ills are cured. I'm 100% for public education. It's the public schools I have a problem with. Just like a library is not actually knowledge itself, public schools are not actually education itself. Public education does not necessarily have to take place as it is now.
I have said it before, and I'll say it again: Any student who comes to Warroad High School (my school) will get a good education if that student has a desire to get one and is willing to do some work. I know that there are thousands of public schools that are as good as mine, but you would never know it when you listen to the critics of public education. They have no qualms about lumping every public school into the same boat as the ones with the most problems. The problem is that unless we address the legitimate concerns of people like Mr. Smith, our critics' portrait of public education will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I will close this post with my all-time favorite educational quote. It comes from Albert Shanker, who was a union leader that even many conservatives admired. He made it in a speech he gave in the mid 1990s:
"We are about to create a system of choice and vouchers, so that ninety-eight percent of the kids who behave can go someplace and be safe. And we're going to leave the two percent who are violent and disruptive to take over the schools. Now, isn't it ridiculous to move ninety-eight percent of the kids, when all you have to do is move two or three percent of them and the other ninety-eight percent would be absolutely fine?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis! Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. There's more discussion on public vs. private schools at University Diaries (Margaret Soltan) and Critical Mass (Erin O'Connor)--post one and post two

I want to emphasize that there are great public schools, and great private schools--and they tend to be alike. There are lousy public schools and lousy private schools -- and they tend to be different, each lousy in its own way.

7/24/2006 8:19 AM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

Liz, thank you for these links. (You showed me up! I must confess that I haven't figured out how to do links on my comments.) I checked them out and found them quite interesting. Boarding school had been a world that I was completely unfamiliar with.

By the way, I hope no one takes my defense and promotion of public schools as an attempt to trash private ones. In fact, I have plenty of respect for them. It is interesting to find people who are familiar with them saying that they have their problems, too.

7/25/2006 3:40 AM  
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