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Bashing the public schools

Published February 20. 2010 09:00AM

Recently I read a book titled "High Schools in Crisis" by Ellen Hall and Richard Handley. Ellen Hall is the director of an alternative K-12 school in California named 'Mountain View', and Richard Handley is a features reporter for a California newspaper. Their book gave me some interesting insights into a liberal viewpoint of why America's public schools may not be working as well as they should.

One quote in particular caught my eye - "Perhaps the biggest difference in the way we approached education at Mountain View compared to the public school system was our belief in the inherent intelligence of children." At that point, I put the book down, went to my bedroom and punched a pillow. A nice, safe way for me to release the frustration and aggravation I was feeling.

Come on, Ms. Hall and Mr. Handley. That elitist comment insinuates that those who are in charge of public schools don't think kids are smart. That's just plain wrong. Perhaps you were beginning an argument that would culminate with some statement about "not challenging" kids or "short-changing" them or some such thing. To be honest, I didn't read much more of the book because my eyesight is too valuable to me to waste it on something that annoys me.

I did, however, skim through the book to see if there were any redeeming qualities. Actually, it became a "how to" book for parents (who are disenchanted with their child's school) to start their own school. And, for someone who once wanted to create a private school herself (in my naïve youth), some of the suggestions brought back memories of those times.

If you read some of the current literature and news reporting, you would get the idea that our public schools are on life-support and circling the drain. Nothing could be further from the truth. All around us there are examples of excellent schools that provide tremendous educational opportunities for their students.

Are all public schools good ones? No. Why? Because the parents of the children, the administrators, and teachers in that school are not concerned enough to make it into a better one. A school is like water - it will seek the lowest level if allowed. If all of the adults connected to a school want it to be better, it will be. That's all it takes.

Alternative schools and private schools certainly have their place. Without them, the public schools would be overcrowded more than they already are. Without them, there would be little or no competition in education. Without them, companies that make school uniforms would go out of business. Without them, privileged parents wouldn't have bragging rights. Without them, some special education students might get lost in the shuffle. Without them, certain religious groups might not thrive.

But, for a minute let's imagine our nation without public schools. We can't, right? America was built on the democratic idea of free, public schools. Notice that I didn't add "good" to that list of adjectives. No one guarantees citizens of our fair land a "good" school. That's up to us.

There is a movement afoot that recommends Parental Control or, in other terms, vouchers and school choice. Apparently, advocates believe that if parents are allowed to choose their child's school, the child's education will improve. I'm not so sure about that. If all of the parents choose to use their vouchers to send their student to the best school in the area, won't that school become less wonderful?

Instead, how about ALL of the money for education being pooled and divided evenly so that every school has the same income? How about paying all teachers the same salary? How about - I'd better stop now before I get into worse trouble. I might just start recommending that all Christians become one body. There's deviltry afoot!


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