From a macro perspective, the most distressing aspect of America’s education system is that taxpayers spend a lot of money (more than any other people in the world, on a per-student basis) and we get very mediocre results.
And it’s getting worse over time. This famous chart, prepared by my colleague Andrew Coulson, shows how spending and bureaucracy have skyrocketed since 1970 while test scores have been stagnant.
Blacks and other minorities are the biggest victims. They are trapped in the worst-performing schools, largely because leftist politicians would rather curry favor with union bosses then help the poor.
But I don’t want to focus on these depressing macro issues.
Instead, we’re going to look at a depressing micro issue. To be more specific, let’s share a story about brain-dead political correctness (another one to add to a depressing collection).
Here are some details from a local news report.
First-grader Darin Simak is a little shy, a little upset and a little confused about why he can’t go back to Martin Elementary in New Kensington.
So what happened? Did he stab a classmate? Set fire to the classroom? Steal from the school’s petty cash fund?
No, none of those options. Instead, he did something far worse.
At least in the minds of brainless school bureaucrats.
Jennifer Mathabel said her son left his usual backpack in a friend’s car the night before, so he packed another one but missed the toy gun inside. “So I send my child to school. My child discovers a fake toy gun at about 1:30 p.m. He turns it in to the teacher and he’s sent to the office and suspended,” said Mathabel.
Yup, you read correctly. Darin found a toy gun in his backpack, and apparently he’s been successfully brainwashed that toy guns somehow are bad, so he gave it to the teacher.
The teacher then acted like a functionary from the Cuban KGB and turned Darin over to her superiors.
Not surprisingly, Darin’s mom is not happy that she’s paying taxes to subsidize such stupidity.
…she felt her son shouldn’t be suspended, and still sent him to school Thursday morning. “I got a phone call from the principal at 9 a.m., and she said, ‘Darin is not to be in school,’ and I said, ‘I’m sending him to school because he is entitled to be in school and be educated,'” said Mathabel. …The New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent said that bringing a toy gun to school violates the district’s policy at the highest level and requires a child to be suspended immediately until a meeting can be held to discuss what happened and whether punishment is warranted.
You’ll be happy to know that our story has a happy ending.
Actually, allow me to modify that sentence. It’s a happy ending only in the sense that the school bureaucrats graciously and mercifully decided not to expel Darin.
Instead, he was suspended for two days.
Darin will not be expelled. The school district held a meeting and decided to suspend the first-grader for two days.
Astounding, in a horrible way. Makes you wonder whether government-run schools should be considered a form of child abuse.
Since we’re on the topic of government-run education (or mis-education, to use a clunky but more accurate phrase), let’s divert to the topic of common core.
Robby Soave of Reason explores an additional reason to dislike this new form of bureaucratized centralization.
Opponents of Common Core have plenty of ammunition by now: The standards erode local autonomy, are costly to implement, and some experts dispute their rigor. But an underexplored aspect of this problematic national education reform is the massive financial incentive that certain textbook and standardized test companies have to keep the U.S. on board with it. …the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—recently invited curriculum companies to compete for the contract to design the tests. Textbook giant Pearson won the contract, surprising no one.
Soave explains why this should make parents (and taxpayers) worried.
A PARCC press release described the selection of Pearson as the result of a “competitive bidding process.” But it’s hard to tell whether the process was truly competitive, given that Pearson was the only company to even submit a bid. …Keep in mind that the contract is worth so much money that officials haven’t even attached a formal price tag. Instead, they have used the phrase “unprecedented in scale.” …it certainly undermines the notion that this is a “bottom up” education reform when state and federal lawmakers are colluding with mega corporations to dictate the tests to local school districts.
If you want to know more about the shortcomings of common core, I cite both George Will and one of Cato’s education experts in a post back in January.
But all you really need to know is that we’ll get a far better system of education if the federal government has less involvement, not more involvement.
Indeed, we should get rid of the entire Department of Education. Canada is doing better on education than the United States, and there’s no role for the national government in Ottawa.
Not that I’m a big fan of what state and local governments are doing.
The ideal system would be based on markets and competition. Which means we should copy nations with widespread school choice, such as Chile, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
We have some school choice in America, and the evidence is very strong that we get better results.
P.S. The virus of political correctness is so bad in America’s education system that some schools have even cancelled award ceremonies because they might make some students feel excluded.
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