Nov 17 2009

School Days

I don’t make much of a secret of the fact that I think our schools are worse than worthless.  I don’t go around telling people what they should do with their kids, but if someone asks me what I think about education, I’ll give them an honest answer.  I think kids would be better educated and we’d be better off as a society if we burned down all the schools and started over.  I’ll go into all the reasons for that sometime when I have all day to type, but I’m always on the lookout for examples that back me up.

Here’s a study from the UK that found that kids who start school early end up dropping out early too.  So the parents who get their kids into a “tough” preschool at age 3 in hopes of giving them a head start on college are more likely to end up with a 20-year-old living in the basement and starting a rock band.  The study’s author suggests it has something to do with anxiety and self-esteem, but I think it’s simpler than that, because (and this seems to be rare) I still remember what school was like: they get bored.  After all, how many adults stay at the same job for 13, 15, 20 years without getting bored and wanting to go elsewhere?  Kids are far more curious and energetic than adults, so it’s no surprise that after several years of sitting and standing in lines and listening to lectures and doing homework, they drop out of the process, mentally if not officially.

Apparently in most European countries, kids don’t start official “education” until age 6 or 7, which many Americans would consider tantamount to child neglect.  Before that, kids just play with blocks and throw mud pies at each other or whatever.  I think they’re onto something.

And here’s a good article by Tom Naughton, who is as perceptive as he is funny, about the tight restrictions on the lunch he sends with his daughter to school.  (Note that this is a church-run preschool, by the way, in case you’re thinking private schools are the answer.  It’s also in Tennessee, not Berkeley, CA.)  I don’t think adults realize just how much more federal meddling there is in schools today than there was a generation ago (and there was plenty then).  No one graded our bag lunches back then, even in public school.  But now, funding gets attached to these things, so the schools have to peer-pressure the parents into playing along, even with things they don’t agree with, because we’re all convinced that dollars=learning.

There are scads of these programs now, all with the carrot of funding attached to the strings of regulations, so that every school—public or private—is forced to be pretty much the same as all the others, or make do with less money.  Schoolboards are left a few things they can tinker with, like whom they hire to run all these programs, or whether they have seven or eight periods in a day, but they can’t change anything important except the local property tax rate.

Burn them all down and start over.  No, I’m not kidding.

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