Controlling Education

By Lloyd Graff

For a century public education was the channel for students to access knowledge that would enhance their lives in many ways. It was the path to middle class lives for tens of millions, the Americanizer for immigrants, the building block of successful democracy.

But today the conventional model of top down primary and high school education is rightfully doubted by many in America. The doubt cuts across race, educational background and economic status. Public education with calcified Boards of Education, unionized teachers, politicized curriculums are doubted. With the doubt comes a determined counterattack from those who currently control most of the education money pool.

The rebellion against the status quo starts in daycare, graduates to nursery school, and gains momentum in grade school. Parents want more for their children than old school schools can give them. It may be as basic as more hours, or better lunches, or freedom to experiment with bugs, or snails, but for many parents yesterday’s education does not suffice for Little Johnny today.

The Charter School movement, which has blossomed, then withered, and mutated into home schooling and Co-op efforts is one aspect of shifting ideas about the public schools. Big educational institutions like city public school and large Catholic educational systems are struggling to compete for students and dollars. Charter Schools have been an end run around the stagnation. They are usually hated by unions and barely tolerated by entrenched educational hierarchies. Around the country there is ferocious competition for students and tax money. Charter schools are usually the enemy of the status quo. Wars are always being waged in Court and legislatures over them.

Home schooling, with the support of Internet initiatives like the Khan academy, are enabling parents to educate competitively at home, but the huge number of single parents and the need for two incomes makes home schooling a tough option for most people.

Education is generally controlled locally, and individually, but it strikes me that it could be an opportunity for a Republican presidential candidate to separate him or herself from the field by supporting “freedom of choice” in education vouchers to subsidize the opportunity to choose the education a parent desires for their kid. I would have no objection to these funds being used for parochial education, though purists and atheists will mount a gigantic fuss. Even if the funds were just for “secular” education, they could radically change the current stranglehold of calcified Boards and protective unions over American education.

I see businesses all over inject themselves into the vocational educational arena, because public schooling usually doesn’t “get it.” I see firms start training programs for machine operators and programmers because they want to develop talent to fit their businesses and understand what the best ways to bring along that talent.

Businesses will find a way to regenerate themselves or they will die. We have a client who is buying Hydromat rotary transfer machines to put into local technical schools where their factories are located to build their skills pool.

I do not see public education as a lost cause in the United States. It is just caught up in an enduring war between those who want control of the money and those want control of how their children gain knowledge of the world. It is a tug of war with each side winning a few inches and then losing it back. I wish the 2016 election would give voters a national forum to take sides on paying for education.

Question: Were you well-educated? Your kids?

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5 thoughts on “Controlling Education

  1. Eric

    My three kids are now homeschooled. HUGE difference. They have rediscovered the joy of learning! Public schools and good teachers are being strangled by so many of the things you pointed out Lloyd! It’s sad!
    The last year my kids were in school they had a month long unit on WALKING in gym!! My 8 year old daughter said “Dad, I don’t know why we are having a walking unit in gym. I already know how, that’s how I got to the class.”
    Never forget that this country was built into the most successful and most powerful force on the face of the earth thanks in large part to one room school houses teaching kids the 3 R’s…

  2. mike

    yes – i benefited from a decent k – 12 public school education, followed by four years at an engineering school, topped off with an MBA at a mid western university, followed by four years int he USAF as a junior officer – with additional ongoing training . . . going to college was never an option – it was an expectation . . . but then my parents stayed married and were both college graduates themselves. Ones education and environment hone who they become . . . “Plato”.

    i see a divide of those parents helping their children with post high school education, and those that do not. it is a frustrating divide – for those with no particular skill – the future is questionable from an earnings position. it is hard to walk into Ford Motor and make a “middle class” starting wage with no education or vocational skills training.

    charter schools create a rift in the education system – still leaving many behind that are unable to “choose” . . . the single parent family and what it has created cannot be saved by anything including the schools or church . . . unless we abandon divorce “at will” and abortion “at will” and gay marriage “at will” . . . what next – let Jerry Sandusky out of prison?

    anyway – like Dan Quayle said while the Murphy Brown contingency crucified him – illegitimacy will ruin this country . . . the moral decay is reminiscent of Rome.

    Let’s try to be honest – without the “leave it to beaver” family model – the modern day formula of a tribe raising children is a failure . . . with no father figure present too often the odds do not look so good – and so goes the divide.

    it is in the Bible . . . all of it.

  3. allen

    The charter school movement’s withered? You might want to let the charter school movement know. It’s under rather a different impression and is, in fact, helping to advance other parental choice policies like vouchers and education savings accounts.

    There are a few city public school districts that are having a tough slog against vouchers Detroit being the one I’m most familiar with although Washington D.C. is having a tough go of it. I’m leaving out New Orleans because you just can’t depend on hurricanes.

    While the Detroit Public Schools district is in tough shape due to charter schools now enrolling only 45% of the public education kids who live within the district it’s the Archdiocesan system that’s really taken a beating.

    For a long time the Archdiocesan system was the only outlet for the “anything but DPS” sentiment but the rise of charters has given Detroit parents a publicly-funded alternative to the DPS and they’ve taken to it in droves. At the cost of not just the DPS but of religiously-affiliated private schools. The Archdiocesan system’s probably the biggest loser but it’s not the only one. Oh well, eggs, omelets.

    You are right that the Republicans are missing a huge opportunity but then what else is new?

    The Repubs could go a long way towards splitting the black vote by becoming the party of parental choice but establishment Republicans are to mired in a past in which the public education establishment was all-powerful, and the black vote was under the thumb of the Democrats, to see that times have changed. To bad. Without a virtual lock on the black vote the Democrats, and the extreme left that holds so much sway over the party, would be relegated to purely local politics.

    I do agree that public education, in the larger sense, isn’t a lost cause but that primary conduit for public education, the school district, is.

    The inherent inefficiency, waste, aversion to accountability and lack of responsiveness of the school district will drive parental choice until it becomes impossible to ignore the shortcomings of the school district. Detroit’s teetering on the edge of that realization and when the Detroit Public Schools district goes it’ll show that public education and school districts are not interchangeable terms. With that realization the end of the district system is ensured.

  4. Skip Westmaas

    Our daughter was enrolled in a charter Montessori school for K-6. They encouraged parents to let their children fail. The first time my daughter forgot her lunch, I went back home and got it for her, the 1/2 dozen or so times after that, she had to figure it out for herself and go without or borrow from her friends. She was packing her own lunch by herself by 4th grade.
    I was always a little leery as they spent a lot of time on other things than the “3R’s”. The lessons of personal responsibility, the pursuit of excellence, self control, respect, peaceful conflict resolution (without a teacher involved whenever possible), self paced lessons and freedom of expression were what I saw as the pluses. Fast forward to the transfer to a very good local public school in 7th grade. Straight A’s so far, and that is with parents that refuse to run out to the store on Sunday afternoon for poster board for a project due Monday.
    Teach personal responsibility, the pursuit of excellence, it’s ok to fail (and for parents to let them fail) in a safe environment and our educational system and the children that go thru it would be a lot better off.


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