In an earlier post, today, I get called to task in the comments by my most excellent friends, Billy Beck and Kyle Bennett, for stating that the indoctrination students receive in public schools (enviro-silliness, fear-mongering, politicized "science", submission to self-appointed "authorities", etc.) is "small potatoes".
All of this happens--of course, and unsurprisingly--but is such problem any more serious than any of the other rot we as individualists must endure on a daily basis?
You're right about the inefficiency and low quality of education being driven largely form above, but what I see as destructive is the content of that education - the stuff you call small potatoes. That also is driven from above, but after decades of NEA influence, it has trickled down to the teaching level as well.
Either way, it's an argument for privatization: allow parents to choose what will be taught to their children, allow parents to choose schools that will provide quality as cost-effectively as they can, and allow the good teachers to earn what they're worth and have the resources to do the job right.
The cultural destruction and mutilation wrought at the hands of public schools is so enormous that, on about three days out of any given five, I'll tell you that it is the single most important and pressing problem that must be solved before anything else. For an example: consider that the arguments over evolution could never have risen to the pitch that they have if parents -- from Christian to atheist -- were free to choose among market alternatives for their own children, according to their own values. And that's only one example, before we even get started on the positive indoctrination of good little statebots.
I'm with Kyle. Nothing about public education is "small potatoes", Rich, and the good intentions of teachers amount to nothing, in the end. The destruction of American culture begins with untold numbers of budding minds, daily, in forced attendance of government interests. Without that, it's nearly impossible for me to imagine how the rest of this could go on.
I'll grant that the content being taught in school may differ from place to place, but I've been with my grade-school-teacher wife for 10 years, and what I see is very, very predominately the basics. Her kids read tons of books, do math, American history, some science, lots of writing (she's up most every night of the school year 'til 10 or 11 grading their essays). She's rarely home before seven, even though school's out at three. Many of her colleagues are still there when she leaves.
I'm sure that neither of you would disagree that there are thousands upon thousands of great teachers. I've met dozens. I've actually been quite surprised that whenever I attend some school-teacher event with my wife, they talk nothing but shop. No, they don't talk about the union, their benefits, how the district is in their shit all the time, or their commie politics. They talk about the kids--by name. They are, in fact, among the very most dedicated people to a task that I have ever encountered in my life. I was and continue to be surprised and impressed. Facts, getting in the way of what I'd believed for years. It's just a fact, guys. It may be different elsewhere, but that's my personal experience without the slightest exception over ten years.
So I've pondered this a lot, spoken and argued with Bea a million times, and tried to instigate arguments with her colleagues. Here's what I know: the buck-stops-here responsibility for educating children lies squarely and non-transferably with parents or guardians. End of story. Now, I agree that the state should not be funding schools, or a million other things they do with the money they steal from you and I under threat of imprisonment. However, that doesn't mean that I need to consider the schools any worse or ominous than any other government program. And, if the schools do a generally good job, then that's independent of the fact that they do it with stolen money, which is a given.
Most of the criticism I hear of the public schools is generated by the political right. Why? There's only one reason: because the schools generally refuse to teach their children the collection of fairy tales that they would like them to be taught. Moreover, they don't want such fairy tales contradicted with things like facts and reason and science. So, though I oppose public schools on principal, I'm not about to have anything to do about it with the nutbars on the religious right and am going to generally discount everything they say until provided with solid evidence.
But Johnny can't read, they say. Yes, it's true in many cases, but the blame is often placed where it doesn't belong. Every teacher I've ever spoken with about this issue will tell you that their abilities are severely limited. They are not miracle workers, and if the parents don't support and back them up, then results may vary substantially. I don't know how many 5th graders my wife has received in her class that were new immigrants from Mexico or Viet Nam who not only don't speak a word of English, but are illiterate in their own languages. In many cases, parents too. Not to be daunted, Bea jumps right in and the progress she achieves in nine months with these kids is a near miracle. I've seen it. From zero to reading and speaking on a 3rd to 5th grade level in 9 months.
Teachers will tell you that their biggest problem is almost never the kids. "The kids are great," I hear over and over. It's the parents. In addition to the foregoing paragraph, you also have parents who consider the school nothing more than a baby-sitting service, and worse, those who undermine the legitimate authority of the teacher and the school, i.e., issuing scholastic assignments and grading the results. Give a kid a deserved bad grade and you're likely to have mom or dad right down your throat. Happens over and over, and what's the real lesson being taught to Johnny?
I could go on...and on.
But basically, the root problem is not with the public schools, and eliminating them, though desirable, would solve nothing for individualists. Statist indoctrination? Well, the state is just another form of authoritarian institution. The only valid authoritarian institution is the family, when kids are too ignorant to know better and must be forced to comply with certain norms (rational) of behavior. But parents don't teach their kids to be independent individualists, do they? No, they teach them to believe in a fairy tale, teach them to obey ancient idiocies written in an ancient book, teach them to unquestioningly obey men in "authority" who wear robes in the pulpit and on the bench, and it just goes on and on. In short, they teach them not to think, by which I mean: think only so far. No further, ever!
The indoctrination of people into humanoid bots began back when the first person looked to the heavens, created a fairy tale out of of whole cloth, and asserted himself to be the source of true knowledge. Understandable as that is, we don't seem to have progressed one bit in all these millennia. Our parents were taught, and then they taught us to be unquestioning idiots, to take things on faith alone, and to respect and obey those who assert authority over us.
The public schools reinforce all of this, of course, but so does everyone and every institution.
We give the public schools too much credit. Parents have far more influence. What's worse, a lesson in public school about how you should be a "good citizen" and recycle, or a dad who routinely disrespects other's property by various forms of trespass and littering? What's worse, a lesson in public school about "sensitivity," or a dad who smacks mom around and cheats on her? What's worse, a civics or "social studies" lesson in school, or a mom and dad who malign and denigrate daily the companies they work for and those who created those companies? What's worse, a lesson in school about some "great" politician (who steals and lies such as all), or a mom & dad who talk endlessly about the next government program that's coming around the corner that's supposed to make all of their lives better?
If public schools were at the root of all of this mess, then we should expect to see differences in the many thousands of products of private school and private universities. We don't. They're just as ignorant as the products of the public schools, many of them holding offices in the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the federal government, and in our statehouses. The only thing private institutions seem to do is perhaps create more effective and lethal statist elites.
The problem with the state is the problem with all of it. People are supposed to become independent and think for themselves. But to date, that's only done up to a certain level by most people, and the church and the state take advantage from there.
OK, have at me.