Oh the complexity of it all and the problematic nature of a conversation that is in bad need of a viable focal point, that point of necessity being the valid goals of education for some sort of society, the nature of that society another necessary point for discussion. I do not like the idea of privatizing schools. I do not like corporate influence in the regular public schools and I do not like schools that train students to serve a society that has been shaped to serve corporate goals. I have seen the public schools be made to serve goals that are said to be in the best interests of students because they help students “succeed” in the real world. I have watched as public schools help students fit in to the reality that exists even if that reality is a highly problematic one that needs to be fixed by citizens well informed enough and thoughtful enough to understand the problem and figure out what needs to be done to solve it.
I have seen public school programs that are little about critical thought and almost all about acceptance of what one is told by those in authority. I have watched as those in charge have eradicated creative activity and individual expression. I have seen the textbooks and the teacher manuals with their correct answers and I have seen teachers rewarded for sticking with the program even if they do not understand or approve of the real goals of the program. I have watched thoughtful teachers leave the schools because they have been hamstrung by the curriculum and methods dictated by the authorities, many of they leaving teaching because they are penalized for thinking for themselves and restrained from being responsive and creative mentors of those they so badly want to educate well. I have heard those I know to be the best say that the “well” as defined by their schools is not the “well” they know to be in the best interests of their students. I have watched as many a teacher has capitulated to demands they find odious, counter to their understanding of intellectual development and the development in students of the kinds of understandings that will allow them to make good decisions for themselves and for others as participants in the societal decision making processes of a functionally sensible democracy.
There should be no private schools. There should be a public school system that is good enough for all because it is effective in teaching students what they need to live decent lives, possessing the ability to do for themselves and their society what is necessary and right in the context of basic principles such as the equality of all and the right of all to equal opportunity to succeed.
I can name a hundred or more features of the public schools I know of and the systems in which they exist that are fowl–the competitiveness, the emphasis on blind loyalty to school, the emphasis on conformity and obedience, the lack of respect for individuality, the pervasiveness of boredom brought on by curriculum and methods keyed to goals that are more about controlling thought than provoking it. I have sat in many a classroom and watched what looked more like indoctrination than inspiration. I have seen students punished for speaking out and acting out when such would be the appropriate response of a thoughtful persons to the condition he or she is being forced to endure.
Maybe I am not seeing things well but many students and some parents have told me that they do not like what is going on in the schools they or their children attend. And I sat in too many classroom where I was bored and where students weren’t being asked to think and where their thinking was ignored because of time constraints and the large numbers in the class, all of who could not possibly be heard because if all were heard the teacher could not get through the curriculum and prepare students for the assessments that would eventually come.
So, if we want schools that are good enough so that there is no desire among those who have a legitimate desire for their children to get the education they deserve, if we want schools that are legitimized by the righteousness of their goals and by the methods that are so good as to insure that most if not all will achieve those good goals, WE NEED TO BE HONEST ABOUT WHERE WE NOW STAND IN TERMS OF HAVING RIGHTEOUS GOALS and then we can think about how we achieve them and do the proper kind of evaluation to determine whether or not they have been achieved.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHOULD BE EMINENTLY DEFENSIBLE BECAUSE THEY DO WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO GET WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE DONE. No sensible person should want to send their kids anywhere else and no student should want to leave the schools they are in because they are just that good.