We have a troubled education system for more reason then the rent seeking behaviors of the political class. We have a troubled education system for more reason then violating one of the oldest principles “throwing good money after bad” and spending more money to solve the problem when that’s never worked before. But lets talk about solutions. Solutions that must come from both the government and from Parents in this country.
The First Solution is we must talk honestly about the purpose of our schools, and seek to make a school system that meets that purpose. What is the purpose of our School System? To produce the next generation of Americans and give them the tools they need to succeed in the world. Can anyone say that our school system does that? If we do not start from here there is no purpose in a public school system. And the public school system holds no value. And as valuable as giving them the tools they need to succeed in the world, is making them the Next Generation of Americans. It stands as a foundational institution of our Citizenship and if it does anything other then serve as that foundation it should not get one thin public dime. Nor should we regulate a private school that isn’t dedicated to making Americans.
The Second Solution is we must talk Honestly about the problems of our Schools. We hear a lot about standardized tests. But we do not hear the whole story. Schools Dominated by Blacks and Hispanics do worse then schools dominated by Asians and whites. Even when Income is taken into account. Schools in urban zip codes do worse then schools in Suburban zipcodes. Schools in wealthy zip codes do better then schools in poor zip codes. Schools in rural zip codes do worse then schools in suburban zipcodes. The problems we see are not ones in how we teach our kids but are geographical problems. The problems we see are not in the way we teach our kids, but god help us, they are racial problems. The problems we see are not in how we teach our kids but in the income of their families. How much you spend on schools makes no real difference. The problems in our schools, while some may be in the school house door, some lay beyond the school house door.
Problems that we do not see in those nations we are compared against. Nations that have less Economic, Racial, and Geographic disparities. We cannot solve our legitimate problems in education by trying to make an apple into an orange.
The Third Solution is we must talk honestly about how we spend money on schools in this country. The Public Schools that spend the most money per pupil are among some of the most consistently poorly performing schools. Schools that pay less per pupil in the private setting, have better outcomes per pupil. Other countries have teachers with less income relatively speaking and they have better economic outcomes. We have schools spending money on the latest trends instead of on what is shown to have the best return on investment in achieving educational outcomes.
The Fourth Solution is we must talk about how we organize schools. Since the age of school reforms in the 60s and 70s schools have become more and more hierarchy driven and less accountable to local actors. And we have seen in the same time poorer results. I would like to provide you with a very rudimentary business lesson to prove why this is a source of our poor outcomes. A Ball bearing is a ball bearing. Only the composition of the metal in it changes. But to make food for a gas station requires knowledge of local economics, customs, weather, tastes, and trends. The less accountable the base is the worse that food will do. The more accountable the base is the worse a ball bearing you will produce. Education is like making a deli sandwich for 7-11, not like making ball bearings. But our strategy has been trying to make our children into a nation of Ball Bearings.
The Fifth and Final Solution, the kind that the founders called on us to have, is once we have had these 4 discussions is we develop policies to implement it. This is the only way to give our children the education they deserve