TO THE EDITOR
The debate continues to rage across America on how to solve our educational problems. Most of the proposals seem to be coming from the business community. They’re suggesting that market forces can best determine the preeminent means of educating students. By allowing charter schools to compete for public money, we’ll eventually weed out the least effective and end up with only strong, vital learning institutions, whose methods can be perfected, duplicated and franchised, leaving the taxpaying public with an educational system determined, essentially, by itself.
Most of the obstacles to this solution can easily be overcome. A major opponent, for example, has been the unions and the teachers they represent, who stubbornly see this as a labor issue. They have an unfounded fear that a business model for schools would reduce their place within them to that of low paid production line workers. This elitist outlook is currently being exposed and unions are coming into alignment with more progressive views.
By careful planning and clever business marketing, charter schools will, no doubt, take their place in this great land of ours, as the accepted Best Means for Public Education. However, one group may still cause unforeseen problems to this otherwise rosy new paradigm: children.
Children have, notoriously, been unpredictable. There’s an old saying that “Children should be seen and not heard” and although the sentiment is ideal, its enforcement, as a rule, is unlikely. The modern concept of entitlement has become so prevalent, that even pre-adolescents feel at liberty to voice opinions. Add to this, mounting scientific evidence that human beings continue to develop until age 20, and what you end up with is an unquantifiable population of rogue nonconformists!
In order for our school system to become a well-oiled, college-ready-student producing machine, we need to eliminate the components that keep it from running smoothly. The Japanese address this problem with the adage, “The nail that sticks up must be hammered down.” If we adopt this strategy, we’ll go a long way towards perfecting our school system, but it won’t be enough. Some nails can’t be hammered down and these will simply have to be removed.
Now, which nails in our system need to be pulled? Let’s start with the easy ones: the developmentally disabled. Wouldn’t they be happier outside the hustle and bustle of the mainstream classroom? Doesn’t it make more sense to group them together in huge holding-pens where they could drool on their favorite toys? Think of how much more self-esteem they would have if they weren’t continuously being compared to other, more whole, children. Everyone would benefit! And think of the test scores! Why, it could be like they were never there at all.
Another hurdle to a precision teaching machine is the presence of non-English speaking students. The current system refers to this population as E.L.L, English Language Learners. Let’s ignore the debate on whether or not we should coddle illegal immigrant families and focus on the most elegant approach to eliminating this problem. Deportation! Come back when you speak the language Jose’. Believe me, they’ll thank us later.
The next group that needs to be dealt with have been, and will continue to be, a burden on whatever educational apparatus we implement. We used to call these individuals “hyperactive”. They are now said to suffer from ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder. Now, while it’s true we possess an effective hammer to adjust these kids, in the form of medication, not all of them respond predictably to these wonder drugs.
What we need is a way to harness the positive aspects of their boundless energy, while removing these disruptive power sources from the general student population. Perhaps it’s time to take a practical approach to this dilemma. While it may seem old-fashioned to some, the benefits of a school treadmill could be far reaching indeed. And really, what could be a greener solution? Instead of causing problems in the classroom, these children could be proud of their contribution. We could give them uniforms and establish teams. Schools could compete regionally and even statewide. Ladies and gentlemen, “This year’s State champs, the North Central High Fighting Gerbils!!!
Now, I admit these innovative ideas may be difficult for some to embrace. But new ways of doing things are always met with resistance. Let’s do the right thing; hammer down the nails we can and pull out the ones we can’t. Come on, it’s for the kids! Who are, after all, the problem.