Change won’t happen until the whole village is scared. Our failing system of education is a hot topic of discussion at all levels of society, business and government. Unfortunately, much of that discussion is counter-productive. The inner complexities of funding, personnel, remuneration, number of classroom seats, classroom seat time and how the bureaucracy is organized are looping in print and internet media.
What students are actually learning, or not, is left unaddressed.
Student learning outcomes and academic results are not driving education policy decisions. The systemic neglect of basic skills is off the radar and seldom mentioned. When pressed, student learning outcomes are often misconstrued as a political football or ideology.
In previous articles, I have cited specific examples of teachers’ union influence and control over the political process, legislation and the weeding out of educators who achieve academic results. In addition, the union accused Michelle Rhee, former Washington DC Schools Superintendent, of “…making children victims and guinea pigs.” (Rhee and Fenty, Wall Street Journal 10/30/2010) I also cited the court decision regarding the kindergartner attacked by an intruder in the school bathroom during the school day. The judge in that case determined Lincoln Public Schools met its duty to protect students. (Lori Pilger, Lincoln Journal Star 2/27/2009)
There are no whistleblower laws to protect students or parents. You won’t see many at board meetings or public hearings. Some districts use the threat of court to deter complaints about curriculum and instruction. Imagine being the parent who received a two-page certified letter from an attorney threatening legal action on behalf of an Omaha suburban district, (district) “demands that you cease and desist from making any such defamatory statements in the future.”
Public education in the United States is worse than a monopoly. It is a public cartel. The government-backed, public education cartel establishes and enforces the rules. Cartels that produce homogeneous products are more stable than those which differentiate. Folks in the system speak the same language and teach from the same page, or else. A maverick educator, parent or district which operates independently to increase student achievement (or safety) undermines the cartel.
The evolution of, and collusion among, the education bureaucracy, court system, politicians, and teachers’ union ensure students are required to occupy classroom seats for ever-increasing hours. Despite persistently low student learning outcomes on national tests, the ultimate power of Nebraska state government works to deny education consumers school choice options.
The relationship between the education status quo and students is accurately described as parasitism symbiosis. The parasite (education bureaucracy) lives on the host (students). Failure grows the bureaucracy. Absent school choice, compulsory school attendance laws sustain the meal ticket.
The Cartel education + politics = $, an award-winning film by Bob Bowdon, is now available on DVD.