My mother was a dedicated school teacher who went out of her way to help the children in her classroom. I had some wonderful experiences in school and received a reasonable education. However, I had a few bad teachers, many bad experiences, and came out ignorant of how things work in the "real" world.
Many of my friends send their children to public school. They are involved parents who are trying to do what they can to meet the needs of their children and make their schools better. Most are not entirely pleased by their experience, but don't believe the problems are bad enough to take action or that it would be futile to try. Many have never considered any other option.
When discussing education, the argument is frequently made that the support of public education (government schools) is a moral obligation and the duty to the poor. Many who opt out of government schools for their own family still have no objection to paying educational taxes to support the government schools.
While I believe we are our brother's keeper, I annoyed that every time the topic of public school is discussed, it is assumed that all students are destitute orphans or have parents who are idiots. Yes, some children do fall into that category, but it is wrong to structure educational programs that treat all children and families as if the parents are incompetents.
I find myself less and less happy with the current government educational system for a variety of reasons as I've explained here, here, here, here, here, and here, just to name a few. I'm disgusted by the waste and dependency on government aid that is fostered by the current system.
The way our current system works is analogous to flower shop where the person paying for the flowers has no choice on cost, style, size, the recipient or delivery time of the floral arrangement.
Through this system, some receive beautiful flower arrangements promptly delivered, others are forced to accept flowers they didn't order and don't want, and still others get a wilted mess. The florist is accountable to no one and the only remedy to correct the problem is to request yet more money from the one stuck paying the bill.
Since I have no faith that my tax dollars don't do long term good that couldn't have been done more efficiently some other way (and actually perpetuate a great deal of ill), I would like to have more options. For those who wish to work with in the current system, they are more than welcome to try, but I'm tired of being dragged along for the ride.
So back to my original question, if we made it easier to opt out of the current educational boondoggle, what would we do in its place? What would be a better way to raise the level of literacy among the disadvantaged while not getting in the way of those who can and should take care of themselves? Homeschooling is a great option for functioning families, but what about those who are failing in the current system and are not candidates for homeschooling?
So, even if you love your neighborhood school and think that the government school system is doing a great job, what would you change to make things better? Here are a few of my ideas.
In my ideal world, education programs would meet these criteria.
1) The responsibility to educate children falls first on the parents, second on the extended family, next upon the community, and lastly the government.
2) Educational opportunities (provided by parents, extended family, community, and/or government ) come with an obligation to repay (much like a student loan or work study program). No entitlement thinking. Whether wealthy or poor, students and their families are aware of the real "cost" of their education and feel a duty to repay the debt in some form or another.
3) Education is measured by skills and knowledge acquired, not time served. Students would not be tied to age segregated classes and could move along or spend extra time as needed on subject material. Gifted children would not be held back to accommodate slower learners.
4) The age to begin and end each stage of education (grade school, high school, trade school, college) would be flexible. Students could attend school as little or as much as their circumstances warrant.
5) Disadvantaged students could do volunteer work to earn points that could be exchanged for educational services greater than their family could provide. These services could include tutors, homeschool curriculum, private lessons, government school, private school, co-op school, etc. This system could also apply to children that require additional services because of a physical handicap or disability.
6) Families who provide for the education of their children or anyone else's through a homeschool, co-op, or private school could be exempted from all but minimal educational taxes. Educational taxes would be significantly lower for everyone because those receiving educational services would carry more of the responsibility for those services.
7) The primary function of schools would be to teach literacy, history, science, and math in a manner that would encourage independent learning. Schools would not act as parental substitutes or day care centers.
8) Students would be kicked out of school for any and all inappropriate, vulgar or illegal behavior. Students who are disruptive in class would find themselves picking up trash beside the highway and have to earn their way back to receiving community funded educational services.
9) Students who attend government schools would take care of the day to day cleaning of the school building. Things like sweeping, washing floors, windows, cleaning bathrooms, and so forth would be done on a daily basis the last 10-20 minutes of the school day. Lawn care would be handled by parents on the weekend. Parents and their children would need to work one clean up day at the beginning and ending of each school year. This would lower costs and deter vandalism.
10) Government school administrators could hire and fire teachers at will. Good teachers would get the respect and money they deserve and bad teachers would need to find themselves another job. Teaching credentials would be awarded by the candidate demonstrating subject mastery and classroom management (teaching) skill and NOT by the current academically weak, content-free teaching programs. School administrators could be hired and fired by a vote of the parents and school board.
11) All parents who send their children to school (any school) would need to support the school both financial and through volunteering. Families in extreme hardship situations would still need to make some good faith effort. There is no such thing as a "free" ride.
12) Scholarships, mentoring, and work study programs could be set up for the children of struggling parents.
I'm sure that there would be ideas that sound good but that don't work well and others that would need to be tweaked, but I don't think this plan would cost the 600 billion tax dollars that are currently spent.
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