The warehousing of public school students

The worst part of the government-run “public” school system is that too many of the people working for it are terribly confused about where the majority of learning takes place.

Obvious to most thinking human beings is the notion that life is one big learning process. Public school employees think they hold the monopoly on teaching. They believe that in order to be a teacher you must be trained and certified. You might want to read this:

Teacher certification worthless?
That’s what a new study argues

The bad news for all those certified public school teachers is that most of the best teachers wouldn’t be caught near the public schools. My proof is that what takes place within the confines of these buildings constitutes at best only a very small part of the learning that happens in life.

In fact, what goes on inside the classroom can often be an unnecessarily negative part of the learning process and detrimental to it. The more effective teaching takes place outside of the bloated and failed American public school system.

In the thirty years since my state sentenced mandatory schooling ended, I’ve had very few conversations with people who spoke of their K-12 experience favorably. With few exceptions, liberation from high school was the primary highlight.

Sure, many of us had one or two — maybe three good teachers in twelve years. Need I say more?

I would guess that many of those who look back on their K-12 school years with excessive fondness wind up staying there — teaching or “administering.” That would explain why few of the adults working there feel the need to be a reformer.

Like others, during my K-12 years I had good friends, participated in sports and got good grades when I was in the mood. But there was always something foreign about the entire experience for me. It certainly wasn’t a place to learn much. It was a place to endure, punch the clock, and yes, serve out your prison sentence.

In fact, I didn’t discover a love of learning until I was in a college American history class where the nutrition and flavor wasn’t boiled out of what was being taught. It was then that I learned that the story of the American Revolution was better than any fiction. My elementary school teachers were evidently trained to remove the drama out of history and thus the life out of learning.

Until yesterday I had never read anyone else referring to the monstrous public school buildings — high schools especially — as “warehouses.” Bill Kauffman in the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece titled “In One Room, Many Advantages,” about the ‘little red schoolhouses of legend.’

Nothing is ever perfect, but I’d bet money the “Lord of the Flies” atmosphere of many public school buildings today was less prevalent back when learning was seen more as a natural process and less as the purview of a degreed class of insulated professionals who lack self esteem.

Was what I just wrote there too mean?

I’m sorry if it was. I have to tell you, however, that I’m not a defender or fan of teachers who continue to tolerate a broken system. So much mental pollution fills American public school buildings that you would think right-minded – supposedly educated adults would stand up and revolt.

If it’s supposed to be about learning — about the kids — wouldn’t you think they’d start with creating a learning environment? Duh! And yes, the word “duh” is in the dictionary.

Kauffman’s article is worth a read. In it, he quotes another author Jonathan Zimmerman on the topic of the proverbial little red schoolhouses:

“Even after Mr. Zimmerman’s unsentimental accounting of its defects, the one-room school shines in comparison with the over-large and remotely controlled warehouses in which too many children are educated today. Reading [Zimmerman’s book] ‘Small Wonder,’ one wonders if Americans will ever tire of chasing after the gods of Progress and Bigness and rediscover the little things, red schoolhouses among them, that once gave us our soul.”

It seems to me, getting an education degree at an American university today not only wrecks the soul of learning, it removes a person’s courage to revolt against a failed public school system.

To learn about the solution to the American public school problem – follow the many links here. Note, by the way the links to the list of state and national school reform organizations. The answers to most of the questions are found by visiting those websites. The only thing stopping them from being applied is the raw political power of teacher unions and the rest of the public school establishment — otherwise known as the “blob.”

As an aside, one of my all time favorite “The Onion” articles on the subject of the public schools can be linked to here: “6-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling.”

©2009 John Francis Biver