Wednesday, February 4, 2009


California's school chief has issued his annual warning that California public schools are in a 'precarious' situation. It's an annual problem because the edu-pros are grappling with a basic conundrum that never fails to stop them in their tracks: no matter how much $$ we spend per pupil (not that the money actually goes toward education), it's never enough. But, we already spend enough to educate anyone willing to show up everyday and pay attention. It's the kids on the left side of the bell curve who are the ones receiving the benefit of education $$ largesse without any significant change in their intelligence or knowledge. 

Still, dollars and deficits are only part of the story in the education wars. Often, the real problem with the schools - well, on top of everything else - is the approach that many parent's take. Parents often seem to regard school in the same way Madoff investors saw their "accounts;" All they have to do is sit at home while the "steady returns" - their kids grade-inflated report cards - come rolling in every quarter. They think their educational duty is done when they shove the kids on to the bus in the morning. Wrong. School can only do so much under the best conditions. And public schools never operate under the best conditions. So, kids are left to get an education that leaves them ill prepared for adulthood, while their parents look at the billions spent by the education bureaucracy and figure "Hey, I don't need to do anything. Look at all the money they're spending."

School should not have a monopoly on what kids learn, but often it does because parents don't want to be bothered. There is really no excuse for this: any adult should be able to tutor their kids in elementary math, science, and reading. Every adult has some passion - art, poetry, restoring cars, civil war re-enactments, sailing, double entry bookkeeping - that they can expose their kids to. That is as much a part of their education as anything that happens in the six hours a day when their kids are at school.

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