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School Reform and the Attack on Public Education

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A speech given in 1997 which argues that the PURPOSE of public education is to make children fail and to make them blame themselves (not the system) for their failure.

rippleonstillwater's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm


David G. Stratman makes some facinating points on the politics and sociology of education. Corporate executives and conservative politicians, in order to deflect attention away from their ideology of greed and their modus operandi of corporate downsizing and concentrating wealth at the top, have attemped to blame the educational system for problems such as unemployment. They exaggerate the achievement gap in American education. Stratment points out that we have a glut, not a shortage, of scientists and engineers in this country. He says that the SAT is not a valid measure of the effectiveness of teachers and that SAT scores declined slightly as more people started going to college.

Nevertheless, I believe there are problems with the outcomes of education. The graduation rate in many inner city high schools is rather low. Foreign students from a number of countries have higher scores on standardized math and science tests than do American students. And when it comes to understanding the significance of government, the basic principles of democracy, past abuses and corruption on the part of wealthy industrialiists and legal violations on the part of modern-day corporations, in understanding the Nazi Holocaust, and when it comes to learning how to control one's own emotions, in developing patience and tolerance toward others, knowing how to act apprporiately in business and social situations, in understanding how to recognize propaganda and arguments based purely on emotion, there are problems with schools. I agree that corporations to some extent are attempting to mold education to fit their purposes. But this is not the full story. I am not sure that all teachers at all colleges are adequately prepared to provide an effective counterbalance to corporate influence and public relations rhetoric. I think universities are failing to do the kinds of research that would help to pinpoint where education is failing to teach students to think critically and to be decent citizens. In addition, we live in a business-oriented society. Employment is not the only purpose of education. The public, and not just employers, has been clamoring for training that is geared more to jobs an making money to the exclusion of the humanities, the arts , and the dvelopment of the whole person. Educators have gone along with these demands in too many instances in the name of protecting their own jobs and incomes. It seems to me that part of the job of teachers is to convince students of the advantages of broadening one's knowledge of different areas of human life.

Education has had difficulty getting people to relate to those who are different from one's own cultural and socioeconomic background. I have the theory that the nuclear family in American tends to isolate people into small units of loyality, sort of like employees putting the interests of their company before anything else. The narrow vision of many Americans I believe can be traced to our culture, and education is an important part of that culture. Concerned progressives I think need to start becoming more involved with their children's education and with the administration of the public schools. If success in improving education is reached, that should be discussed with people in other districts and in other states. This is grass roots organizing in a different mode than is often talked about in a political context. Certainly Mr. Stratman does not exclude political influence in his thoughtful analysis of education.

The manner in which corporate executives and conservative politicians try and manipulate the public by attempting to influence, control, and even distort education is something that has been overlooked not only by the public, but by academicians in higher education who write textbooks, help to develop curriculum, train teachers, and conduct research on education.

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Public Education is an 866 billion dollar industry. K-12 Private education historically has been paid for by a families discretionary funds. Corporate America, as well as our representatives have depleated a families discretionary funds, as most Americans can barely pay for the neccessities. We simply cannot buy the crap made in China anymore while we are paying for healthcare, food, and housing. So, the 1% is looking for more money. Attack public services and privatetise them. They want to get thier hands on that 866 billion dollars. Unfortunately, public education is an easy target for many reasons. Everyone holds responsibility for the failures of public education, including many teachers who simply are just mailing in instruction. We don't properly fund education, and the family structure that supported education is now working to keep a roof over thier heads. For more than 40 years we have been living in an artificial economy. First, mothers were conned into the workforce with the notion that if you worked you could provide a better future for your children; money was more important than your time. All of that revenue was eaten up with the rising costs of daily neccessities. Then we got credit cards to buy the daily neccessities we could no longer afford. When we could not pay the credit card bills we were told that we are rich and all of our money is in our houses, so use it to provide a better life for your children. When we could no longer make the payments on our houses they took them away. The bubble crashed and here we are, no better off than 40 years ago, but with the same income and no home. So now that we have generations of parentless children that were socially passed through the system and can only "take your order" we want to blame public education. Be ware, it is just another scam to divert money to corporations. If private schools can do a better job with parentless poor children they should be able to do it with the same funding, but that won't happen, they will simply ask for more after we have desimated public education and we will have no choice but to pay them.

My daughter was the first person in my family to attend a public school. When they were unwilling to meet her needs they shipped her off to a private school, spending more than $100,000.00 per year, far more than we were spending at the local school. The teachers came from the same colleges that the public school teachers came from, and were less successful. Many of them were far worse than any public school teacher I ever saw, but when I complained they simply said if you don't like it leave. We did, after spending more than $600,000.00. They are not bound by laws, nor will they ever be.

We need to put an end to public dollars supporting private schools, divert that money back to public schools and hold administrators and teachers accountable. Oh, and by the way, if you want good teachers, and you want them to stay you need to pay them enough to live. Bad teachers at any school need to be tossed out. Certainly they will be at private schools and they will all make alot less. Teachers need to be professionals and be personally responsible for the success of thier students. Stop blaming the victims; poor children, minority children, and the disabled. Schools need adequate funding, and administrators and school board members need to stop acting like politicians.

Public education affects every person in the United States. Educators and school staff need to remember that, because every person that you affect or interact with votes, iether now or in the future. Voting impacts your funding and I don't know anyone who does not have something negative to say about thier schools, thier teachers, or thier children's teachers. The clerk siiting at the front door of a school that is rude to all of the parents coming in the door who are concerned about thier children's education is probably having a greater impact on a district's funding then the 10 good teachers in the school. Can someone please tell me why we are paying a district superintendent $250,000.00 per year.

Since we took parents out of the home and put them in McDonalds, perhaps we should spend that money ($250,000.00) on after school programs to provide children with a safe and supportive environments to do thier homework and play.

One final note: education is about the children not about the school staff. When every person in the school starts acting like that you won't be such an easy target.

Kim Jachim's picture
Kim Jachim
Oct. 27, 2011 7:11 am

<quote>I have the theory that the nuclear family in American tends to isolate people into small units of loyality, sort of like employees putting the interests of their company before anything else. The narrow vision of many Americans I believe can be traced to our culture, and education is an important part of that culture. Concerned progressives I think need to start becoming more involved with their children's education and with the administration of the public schools.</quote>

I think this is brilliant and I agree.

In addition to becoming more involved with their children's education and with the administration I think parents also need to start putting eggs in different baskets besides just the compulsory education basket. There are so many life lessons/skills that can't and aren't taught in school. These things are the responsibilty of the parents.

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

<quote> Oh, and by the way, if you want good teachers, and you want them to stay you need to pay them enough to live. Bad teachers at any school need to be tossed out. </quote>

I think "good" teachers should post a sign saying something like the following outside of their classroom door: "THIS IS MY CLASSROOM AND I CLAIM TENURE: come back in May and see if my methods don't produce REAL results. If my results are not at or above current standards - I revoke my claim to tenure."

It says, "I take full responsibility for my successes and/or failures and if I fail - I accept I will be held accountable." No Child Left Behind" claims to hold children accountable for their successes and/or failures. It's time teachers are also held accountable.

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Education is one of the most complex areas imaginable. You are dealing with the development of the human brain (and mind). I wonder if teachers, despite the courses they have to take in the field of teacher education, are taught enough about human development. I just don't think parents and teachers have any goals other than to have a kid get good grades on tests and assignments. We have too many people in this country who simply can't function in day-to-day life and who have never completely developed as adults, either intellectually or socially.

You have funding issues that affect the classroom resources that are available. You have the standards for entering teaching programs at universities, and the quality of instruction and supervision given to teachers in training. You have the federal No Child Left Behind law which I think is being modified by Secretary Duncan. Parents may put pressure on local school administrators or of individual teachers in ways that are not always well advised.

One of the big issues I have seen involves references to cutbacks in anything that is considered educationally and pedagogically non-essential. Music education has been cut back, at a time when symphony orchestras and other cultural performing arts groups need financial support and a new generation of audience members who appreciate high culture and genius. Music should not just be for the high-achieving few. My violin-playing from years ago was not that great, but I enjoyed it and now continue to listen to classical music on the radio or at live performances, and I'm glad I can appreciate this art form. The turn to the right seems to be related to a lack of knowledge of social studies, civics and history. Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has said that civics instruction has been dropped in many schools and has helped to develop an educational Web site.

One of the things that I have observed is that government criticism is often centered on inner city, urban schools to the exclusion of the broader cutbacks and failures in the overall educational system, even in suburban and rural districts, where the numbers may look good, but beneath the surface, there are still substantial gaps in exposure to knowledge. Some blame the Internet and texting and hand-held devices and computer games as distracting young people from reading books and studying topics in a more in-depth way.

Despite the political emphasis on vocational training for "jobs of the future," it seems that U.S. students on average don't achieve as high of test scores in math and science as do students in certain other countries. From time-to-time, there may be reports that test scores may be improving, but we still have a long way to go.

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

"You are dealing with the development of the human brain (and mind). I wonder if teachers, despite the courses they have to take in the field of teacher education, are taught enough about human development."

I don't think so. I don't know what a teacher is taught to actually become a "teacher". But - if I would have to guess there's little if anything expected of them to learn about neurocogive science and the effects of environmental stimuli on cognitive/intellegual devevelopement. And if teachers did learn anything about these things - I doubt they would so quickly perscribe to the miriad of "dysfunctions" and "disorders" that do nothing else but compartmentalize personality, temperament, and individualized rearing... ...into advertised Rx'ed panaceas.

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I feel that despite all of the money and time that is put into public education by our Gov, the real problem lies within our innercity public school systems and how far back they are from being productive and well educated school systems. So many students K-12 are being exposed to things that no student should have to go through as a young child. Yes we can't control the enviornment outside of the school yard but developing our students into professionals and showing them there are other options in life than the streets should be out most important concern. I know multiple students who do make it out of these inner city public school systems and once they are put into a college setting, they are completely shocked on what goes on outside of their home towns. By taking classes in communicaiton, relationship behvaiors, ethics, speech classes, Government etc. allows them to learn the skills needed to pursue their professional dreams. Some might want to work for the Government one day but never realize they have the ability to do so. There are multiple jobs available with the government that peopel don't think they are qualified for. They think they have to have a law degree or go into economics which is something they will never pursue. Here is a great site that lists multiple job opportunities with the governement that you can get with a communication degree. http://www.makingthedifference.org/federalcareers/communications.shtml

I don't feel that all teachers and cities are doing a bad job with handleing their students and their educaiton but there is only so much they can do with such little materials and resources. I like to promote college courses that would sound appealing to young adults who are looking at a college future. Communication is a perfect degree to complete with numerous options for any stuent to get a professional job. http://www.degreeincommunications.net is a wonderful tool that has programs for all students and has answers to questions people might have about getting a degree in communication.

Yes I agree with what a lot of you have said and how currupt our public school system is, but if we can show these students that there is more out there than the streets or after your high school career, then I think we will have a much higher graduation rate and more success stories around the country.

Comm4life13's picture
Apr. 24, 2012 9:00 am

K-12 taught us how to be obedient workers.

College taught us to be obedient debtors.

If schools are little more than factories,it's time to form a union.

It's time to STRIKE!


bamboo's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

We need to look at how we fund public education. Right now if there are two neighbors with similar homes but one has 1 child and the other has 4 the first guy is helping to pay for the other 3 kids and his kid gets less funding because of it. I submit that instead of property taxes by square foot alone we factor in how many children a person has as well.

Jul. 2, 2012 9:48 am

There are middle class families where the parents don't have college degrees, but they are fortunate enough to work for an employer, perhaps a unionized employer, and to have a job that pays relatively high wages. The lack of education on the part of the parents might inhibit the children from attending college. I am not sure if researchers have adequately seperated out the income level of the parents from the education level as a predictor of college attendance and graduation. Many people who do not live in inner city including so-called ghetto neighborhoods and who have a decent income often act in hostile or bizarre ways. The mental health professionals are not always able to see that there is a level of dysfunction that is caused by social breakdown that goes way beyond so-called bad parenting. Psychotherapists make for lousy sociologists, quite frankly, and yet Americans often put their faith in these people who one college which had graduate program in counseling described as a very limited kind of service. I think retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has the right idea when she criticizes our educational system for often having cut or eliminated civics instruction. That could be expanded to social attitudes and history knowledge as well. Psychiatrists I have heard on public radio have pointed out that the U.S. does not have much of a mental health system because the services are so grossly underfunded. With a public that often seems mentally abnormal in their belief that they are the only person on planet earth, that they live in a bubble, and that they can do just about anything they want in public situations such as driving, it is not surprising that people would deny that mental illness is a situation in need of professional attention. Success is defined in America in terms of money and greed. That is a very limiting world view. Our educational system I believe turns out people who in a majority of cases end up being moderately successful in terms of the cultural defilnition of success but whose lives are often quite empty. I don't see how constant talk about sports teams and players comprises a fufilling, intelligent social life.

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

When someone criticizes professionals on the basis of personal bias and belief without having real knowledge or extensive experience on the subject, that is detrimental, not helpful, to students and to society. Dogmatic statements don't mean anything because they don't prove anything. To criticize an entire profession such as teaching or neuropsychology when the critic has no credentials to stand on is absurd and stretches credulity beyond the limits of what is reasonable. Education is not perfect, but I don't think it makes any sense to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Robindell's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I'm not sure if this is the answer.


"Michelle Rhee group donates $250,000 to candidates in LAUSD racesFunds from StudentsFirst, led by the former District of Columbia schools chancellor, will benefit races of board President Monica Garcia and two other candidates.

A group led by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee donated $250,000 Wednesday to contests for seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, adding further political fuel to a battle over the direction of reform efforts in the nation's second-largest school system.

The support of StudentsFirst, which is based in Sacramento, will benefit an independent campaign on behalf of school board President Monica Garcia as well as Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez, who are seeking to join the seven-member body.

The L.A. teachers union is mounting an opposing campaign in two of the races.

Rhee has become both a controversial and influential figure in education-reform debates. Her group has lobbied lawmakers and donated to campaigns across the country; it works primarily at the state level to influence policy.

Rhee's donation follows a $1-million contribution to the same candidates made by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg last week. The independent campaign, with resources of more than $3 million for the March 5 election, is being managed by the Coalition for School Reform, which is closely allied with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Rhee's donation matches that of philanthropist Eli Broad and media executive A. Jerrold Perenchio. Another large recent contribution, $100,000, has come from philanthropist Casey Wasserman, who has funded positions on Supt. John Deasy's executive staff.

"This is just another example of outside 'reformers' trying to influence the outcome of the Los Angeles school board races," Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said in a statement. Voters "do not need outsiders deciding who is best to sit on the LAUSD Board of Education.""

Jun. 29, 2012 10:24 am

Here's what the feud and reconciliation between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson can teach us about civility

Thom plus logo Donald Trump did not invent the art of the political insult but he's inflamed the level of vitriolic public discourse and incivility to a new low unmatched by other presidents. In a tainted tradition that has permeated our history, other presidents have not been immune to dishing out acerbic insults against one another.
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