August 21, 2008
Another Cohort of Kids Failed by Government Schools
By Christopher Chantrill
Public schooling in too much of America has run down to mediocrity and worse. It’s almost inevitable, and worse in some places than others.
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It was that over 200 years ago the Enlightenment philosophe Condorcet submitted a plan to the French Legislative Assembly that called for universal state education to educate the people out of their prejudice and superstition. Although a government program the system would, of course, be free of political control.
It was that over 160 years ago Horace Mann, the father of US public education, urged a rationalization and centralization of the disorganized schools in Massachusetts under a State Board of Education. Apart from anything else, he confidently predicted just before the crime wave of the 1840s, his program would cut the crime rate by 90 percent. Then he went off to Prussia to see its universal state education system for himself.
It was that over 80 years ago John Dewey, the father of progressive education, proposed a system to teach children problem solving and critical thinking skills rather than training and drilling in basic skills. Of course, there is nothing quite like entrusting a project of flexible, progressive education to a bureaucracy of state employees privileged with lifetime job tenure.
Today, 215 years after Condorcet, 160 years after Horace Mann, and 80 years after John Dewey the schools have run down. Today about half the students entering college are unprepared, according to the New York Times.
Yet 180 years ago when the economist J.S. Mill, father of John Stuart Mill, traveled around Britain making an anecdotal survey of education — at a time when the government actively discouraged education for its revolutionary potential — he found a rage for education:
“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
You can see why those nineteenth century parents sacrificed so much for their children. It didn’t take a rocket scientist back then to see that a basic education in literacy and numeracy was the best way to avoid sending a child “down the pit” or into the textile mill.
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As our children return to school this fall, most of them will do just fine. But many poor and inner-city children will not. Yet we know how to fix the inner-city schools. We have known for decades.
And now in Sweden, of all places, school choice is transforming the education system.
Some day the American mothers are going to have the right that Swedish mothers enjoy. It is the right to wave farewell to the local government school and say: You just don’t care about kids.
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Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his roadtothemiddleclass.com and usgovernmentspending.com. His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.
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[JR: It is a national disgrace to have the gooferment involved in education. The poor deserve to be left alone. Left to their own devices, and the charity of caring individuals, they will educate their own children. Without the “help” of the gooferment, it’s highly compensated “administrators”, it’s over and underpaid teachers, and the legions of pigs feeding at the gooferment trough, the ‘children’ will be educated unlike what is happening now.]
[JR: Yes, teaches as a group can be both over-paid and under-paid at the same time. Some are over; some are under. When you have unions and one size fits all, you have both types of error in the same population!]
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