I'm not bashing the teachers. Teachers are some of the most decent people I know. They go in to make a difference, and they very often do. They work for small pay and less respect.
I'm bashing the rigid and top down control we as a country attempt to assert on educating our kids. In many other segments of our society we lionize innovation. In the world of public education we hamstring the workers who are directly responsible for the outcome of an educated populace. We shame them for kids who are uneducated. We say we are going to hold them to standards.
I can only speak to the situation in California, but I was shocked to learn that the funding for schools is not done on a statewide basis. If property taxes are higher in a district, then they have more money to spend on their students' education. The dirty truth is that class economics has a lot more to do with the outcome of our children's education than teacher responsibility.
Yesterday in a comment I wrote (about the class war not being a conspiracy):
I think it is individuals who have learned the lessons we teach here in America:
1. competition is good
2. winners are better
3. to win you have to crush your competition
I don't know about you, but I went through school listening to the teachers tell us we were losers if we ended up working in a factory. But all the skills they taught us were following skills. Watch the clock, comply with requirements, work for the goal someone else holds out for you.
The way to succeed and escape and working class life was to jump through all their hoops. Not really a good way to train a leader. But as long as there were plenty of jobs it worked out ok.
Now there aren't plenty of jobs, and nobody knows how to be self determinate any longer. It's been socialized out of us for a few generations now.
I believe that giving our kids a chance means we have to let go of the control we force on the teachers. So many of them passionately care about the kids. Will there be children who fall through the cracks? Yep. And how many kids currently fall through the cracks? Teachers largely care about the individual. That is a huge factor motivating them into teaching. Who better to allow the freedom and power to excite our kids about learning?
I have developed my ideas about education as a homeschooling parent. I deliberately have let my kids grow at their own speed. It's been scary as hell, because it has meant being more committed to their development than to the beliefs I was brainwashed with at school. My son is a late reader who at the age of 12 finally became comfortable with reading. I argue that allowing kids to develop their own relationship with learning and to allow them to learn at their own pace gives them a connection to self authority that helps them become more engaged citizens.
There will be those who passionately tell me that a public education system can't meet the needs of each child's unique development schedule. And I agree that the system we currently have in place can't do that. But according to this article we are failing to graduate a quarter of our citizens from high school. By denying our teachers the intellectual freedom to make the best learning environment for their students, we are denying our students the very real possibility of a better relationship to learning. Our relationship to learning goes a long way towards our ability to lead an engaged and self determinate life.