January 19, 2006
School Days

Awhile back someone challenged me to explain how, if given the opportunity, I'd fix what I percieve as a failling public school system. This ABC News report from John Stossel, based on his "Stupid in America" TV special, does a much better job detailing the problem, and possible solutions.

To this day I have yet to hear a convincing argument against some sort of voucher-type program. They seem to work in Europe. Why not here?

Posted by scott at January 19, 2006 10:41 AM

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I can't read the article, since ABC doesn't like my javascript interpreter. Can't install spyware, sadly.

The most convincing argument I have is that it would put the private schools on the public dole, resulting in more public schools with public school quality, and fewer private schools with private school quality.

It works in Europe because social strictures there are so strong that students can be expelled for cutting their hair in a way the dean doesn't like. If student discipline in Europe were anything like in America, their schools would be in the same condition as American public schools.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on January 19, 2006 01:23 PM

nothing would please me more than to be able to tell an irate parent that if he/she can't control their child then take him and his voucher and go elsewhere.

Posted by: james on January 19, 2006 06:49 PM

Sadly, unless you happen to run a private school, that's not an option.

One of the Catholic schools here in my town shut its doors permenantly, fifteen years after it started waiving tuition for poverty-stricken families. It had once been one of the best schools in town, but each the three years before it shut down, over 80% of its senior students failed the state graduation exam. I used to work there, and the consensus of the teachers I spoke with was rhat the waiver program resulted in the most disruptive and manipulative students and parents they had ever seen literally flooding the school and ruining it for everyone.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on January 19, 2006 10:55 PM

I think there's several components to this problem:

-parent involvement - if your parents don't push education and stay actively involved, it's going to be very difficult to succeed.
-higher standards - Personally, I disagree with "no child left behind". If a student isn't up to a common level of education for a specific time in their life, they need to be left behind until they master it. Pushing them through just compounds the problem.
-Teaching to the LCD - If a teacher is forced to work at the lowest and slowest level of the class, then the students may suffer. It may not be PC, but if a student has an issue learning within a certain time, then maybe they don't need to be in that class. Also, if the child learns much more quickly, why not push them into classes that go more in depth?
-Vouchers - might not be a bad idea if implemented correctly. However, we have to be aware that just because something works elsewhere doesn't necessarily work here.
-Raise the standards - make school harder. I don't see why we shouldn't be making math and science more difficult and hitting it at an earlier level. Yes, it will involve failing more students initially, however, I think it'll help improve things. Human nature tends to push towards doing the minimum to get by, so if you lower the standard, that's what a good chunk of folks will achieve.

One thought on this "international test". I do believe Snopes did a piece on using tests given elsewhere and comparing our results to those. Something to do with getting better results if you've spent an entire year studying that material vs taking it cold. Not sure that this is the issue here, but I just want to make sure it's considered.

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 20, 2006 06:35 AM

James: Now *that's* an angle I wish would get explored more often. I can only imagine the legal can of worms that might get opened up if a voucher system got set up incorrectly.

Posted by: Scott on January 20, 2006 08:51 AM

James - agree, it'd be great. But I can see where it might become some sort of an ACLU issue (sometimes legit, sometimes not) and then the whole thing falling apart because of it. Dunno - I'm not convinced that's the best system, but I sure as hell would like to see some competition in the system.

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 21, 2006 02:28 PM

All of you have made good points. I don't have much to say politically. What I can tell you is how we home school.
I got sick of Brent being told to "just learn to fit in”. Tired of him being taught his ABC's when he could multiply and read novels off my shelf. Tired of the weekly notes or phone calls from teachers and principals of his "misbehavior". Behavior being bored, talking, asking questions and having a sense of humor. We finally had enough and brought him home.

He is learning 3 grade levels above his Public school age peer group. Which translates into he is testing 4 to 6 grade levels ahead on the state mandated standards of learning test. One solution might be to allow a child to learn at his level. Not with the slowest kid in the class. I understand some people learn at slower pace. I'm one of them. Some people learn faster. OR have a different learning style. I believe we, our children should be taught by their learning style. Do they need the subject drilled and drilled in? Copious amounts of writing involved to "get it". Or does as different child learn better by visual and audio? I understand that the current public school system is only capable of doing so much. In their favor they tried several things. Special classes, Increased paper work load, rewards etc. But where the proverbial straw that broke the camels back was when Brent was beat up 3 times in one week. When no one at the school deemed it serious enough to tell me about it. When he asked for help and was punished. That is when I finally decided to bring him home and he is better for it. Maybe most kids can flourish and excel in public school as it stands. We don't. Btw, PTA meetings drive me nuts. Oh and so do Candy sells. Etc.

We have always been actively involved in our children’s learning. We use anything and everything to make a point or use it as a tool to teach. Brent and I volunteer for HART. I figure it's a good time to start community service. Teaches good values too. We use the Library, Internet and Museums. There is so much free stuff out there it is amazing. One of the most infuriating things we still deal with is the stigma that the educational authorities have established against home schooling, so much so that most people think that your either a religious nut or you're kid is physically or mentally disabled if they are home schoolers. But all we want is the best education for "our" child and the continued freedom to do so.

Posted by: Wendi on January 22, 2006 10:06 PM

Wendi - I'm certainly not against home-schooling at all. Personally, as long as the parents are capable and hit appropriate standards, I think it can be a good thing.

However, how about the socialization aspect? Doesn't being in a class and a structured environment help to teach a child to cope with what faces them in the modern world, how to interact with people, deal with non-parental authority, etc.?

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 23, 2006 07:49 AM

Not when your ass gets beaten on a daily basis. Some home schooled kids are 10x's smarter than your average schooled kid and are by far better socially. BEACAUSE THEY ARE ALREADY GROWN UP.

Posted by: ellen on January 23, 2006 12:31 PM

"Not when your ass gets beaten on a daily basis."

Learning to deal with people who want to beat you up or kick you around is, sadly, an important part of socialization. No matter what job you have, there are going to be people who will dump on you just because they think they're entitled to do so, and you have to learn to dump back on them without driving them to kill you, if you expect to survive in the real world.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on January 23, 2006 03:25 PM

Or realize that they'll be calling you boss soon enough.


Posted by: ronaprhys on January 23, 2006 06:06 PM

/sarcasm on/ I think you're on to something there, Tatterdemalian. But by that logic, we should also accept and be understanding when those same beaten kids show up at school with handguns and bust a few caps in their abusive classmates. I mean, bullies need to understand that they are ultimately responsible for a 9mm round to their own brainpan. /sarcasm off/

Are you smoking crack? I mean, how many times have you been beaten up by your co-workers? On company property? Being dumped on is one thing. Being physically beaten on is another.

Military service or law enforcement, fire fighters, those are harsh and possible deadly work environments....but those are also professions people choose. Most people I know wouldn't tolerate physical abuses by peers and co-workers. And as litigious as our society is, woe is the abuser if they think they can get away with it for long.

Posted by: Larry on January 23, 2006 10:43 PM

Laugh my ass off! Yeah Brent is one of those smart kids. Fairly logical, and thinks things thru... most of the time. :) He is going to be somebody’s boss.

Socialization? Are we not raising our kids to be adults? I get your point though. We volunteer. We have game night and guests come over weekly. Don't forget family interaction. He's done chess club and things like that. He tends to hang out with the older kids. Cause there into what he's into. He even walks a neighbor’s dog at Noon. I’m so proud of my self. I stepped back and let him negotiate the fee for his service. (yay mom for letting go!).

The major personal problem I have with socialization in Public school is this. IF my son is so mature, intelligent.. Why does he HAVE to stay in his age group? Shouldn't he be challenged? We explore History in depth. Really learn Fractions and Geometry. So we don’t have to spend half of next year. Relearning it again. Instead of bored to tears everyday? Why? For the sake of Socialization? hehe, Hell no my friend. :D (smiley addict)

As he grows and matures into the fine young man I see in my minds eye. I think I will look back knowing with out a doubt, that as parents we made the right decision. The right decision to let go of the 2nd car, dinner and a movie every weekend, the house I will never have. The Career and pay.

Thanks for the replies. (waves)


Posted by: Wendi on January 23, 2006 10:49 PM

" I mean, how many times have you been beaten up by your co-workers? On company property?"

Several times. One co-worker at my last job at Colonial Bank tried to kill me by throwing me bodily out of a fifth-story window. I was fired for "failing to de-escalate conflict."

Until I gained so much weight people could barely stand to look at me, let alone make enough physical contact to harm me, conflicts like that were a fairly regular occurence. Now I get along fairly well, though I'll never be popular or even have a social life beyond blog posting,

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on January 24, 2006 12:37 AM

Larry - to be fair, I think the tendency is more one of physical domination/intimidation than actual violence. When we're younger, it tends to manifest itself in fights (for boys - since I was never a girl, I won't speculate there). Learning to deal with that in a constructive manner is definitely a skill one needs to have - especially in the business world. Here you'll see people try to bully their ideas through via personal presence, arguing louder, personal attacks, etc. If you are going to be useful to your company, you need to recognize them for what they are, not be intimidated, and find ways to get past them (typically, I've found that using clear and easy to understand logic, lots of powerpoint presentations and excel workbooks are the easiest way), and then move on. You also have to learn, somehow someway, that you are a person of intrinsic value and that it doesn't really matter if no one wants to do what you're doing.

Another key situation is the "lateral delegation" - someone who tries to get you to do their work, even though they're not your boss. It's a normal power-struggle in a corporate/business environment and unless you learn to deal with it, you'll end up over-worked, which can lead to lack of promotions (you just do busy work and never learn the next level of stuff), problems with your own work (you don't spend enough time on it), and other problems. Learning to say no is a big part of that.

Wendi - Good to see that you've a plan and are addressing this. I asked the question because I've seen it go horridly wrong before, so I have an internal prejudice - but I'm trying to see the different views so I'm less biased.

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 24, 2006 08:05 AM

I hear ya. Socialization was a concern when we started homeschooling. He would try to play with the neighborhood kids. They were into Sports,Pokemon cards. Brent is into table top games, X-box, Reading, computergames.( and no, he is not overweight).He does like to ride his bike.He is also fairly regular about doing pushups on his own. They didn't want to hangout with him. He used words they didn't understand. He also caught them trying to light a near by field on fire. Smart boy came home. I took care of it from there. OR should he hang out with them? Get beat up a few times, be bullied. And grow up to be a bully or fear people?

He has had some socialization with kids in Church.
Plus some other activities. I honestly don't see it as an issue. He is busy, well mannered, Disciplined boy.

As far as being biased. We all have our issues. Thanks for the kind responses. Hope I have opened the door on new thoughts.

Live in moderation. Listen first then speak. Honesty, Passion, Moderation.


Posted by: Wendi on January 24, 2006 02:21 PM

Wendi - I'm all for it as long as the education is complete (IMHO). Seems like you're covering the bases well, so it should go well for you - and that also makes it radically different than what I've seen so far.

But then again, I've always figured that I'd be augmenting my children's education anyway (assuming my wife and I have kids) as I consider the modern system to be antiquated and lacking. But then again, as Scott can attest, I have "issues"...

meh - as long as they follow the Cowboys, they'll be okay.

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 24, 2006 02:50 PM


FYI that is O's buddy's Mom! :) Amber and I took them all to the reptile show :)

Posted by: ellen on January 24, 2006 08:02 PM


FYI that is O's buddy's Mom! :) Amber and I took them all to the reptile show :)

Posted by: ellen on January 24, 2006 08:03 PM

aha - now it's coming back to me. Wasn't there drinking and Halo that day?

Posted by: ronaprhys on January 25, 2006 04:57 PM
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