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Is there any hope for our public schools?
May 18, 2001 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Is there any hope for our public schools? Despite the HUGE influx of spending students in this district do worse every year. teachers have been saying it all along. Without parental support there is only so much a school can do. Very depressing.
posted by keithl (11 comments total)

 
That is a discouraging story.

Even more so, to me, is the notion of abandoning "antiquated" teaching methods in favor of beanbag chairs, etc. Students did better in the antiquated days.

I believe that an evil version of the Pareto Principle is at work here. The Pareto Principle--that 20% of the whole contains 80% of the value--can be seen in committees, where two of the ten people do 80% of the productive work.

In schools, 20%, of the students are destroying the educational opportunities of the rest. You know who they are: the discipline problems, the hopelessly stupid ones, the ones who can't or won't hold still or shut up in class, and the strong-willed anti-social natural leaders, who exert powerful peer pressure in exactly the wrong directions. It doesn't take very many.

I think that in a classroom of 23 children, four soak up 80% of the teacher's energy and time. In a school of 400, the proportion is even more dramatic--perhaps 15 students terrorize the other 385 and monopolize the assistant principal's day.

I'd like to see them in jail, thrown away, discarded. Our sentimental belief that 100% of the students can be salvaged produces schools where 95% are failing.
posted by steve_high at 2:03 PM on May 18, 2001


I'd like to see them in jail, thrown away, discarded.

Why not go all the way and eat them? After all, no good ever comes from those who are hard to teach or cut class or drop out of school.
posted by snarkout at 2:28 PM on May 18, 2001


Oh, so Steve, the solution is throwing 20% of the students in prison? Gosh, what a great idea! Instead of trying to turn them around with interesting new ideas and thought processes, you're willing to throw out the ones that actually could be acively involved in the classes and the student government, and teach just to the sheep!

Well, baaaa-aaa-aaa!

Cripes. I think this describes a lot better what the problems with these kids are. Couple the social problems with the fact that educators are teaching to dry, boring standardized tests instead of discovering what is interesting about history and learning, then add in disinterested parents... and no wonder you get students who have no will, want, or need to learn!

But it's a whole lot easier to throw someone in prison than to solve our social problems... this keeps getting proved over and over again.
posted by SpecialK at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2001


Wait, did they discard kids in the "antiquated days"?
posted by Doug at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2001


A friend of mine is a teacher an elementary school teacher in South east San Diego (much crime). 30 students, six native languages, none of which is english. Many are fresh out of Somali. A fifth grade girl has a scar from ear to ear where her throat was slit. Other kids share an apartment with another family. Mom is on the couch either pulling tricks or smoking crack.
I wish there was some kind of program where it was ten kids to a class so maybe a teacher might be able to instill a sense of self discipline and maybe break the cycle.
I don't know, but it seems like school is the only shot for many of these kids.
Steve, it costs around 30 thousand a year to keep someone in jail. Where would we get the money for your idea?
posted by keithl at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2001


If you read the original post, you'll see we are effectively throwing away close to 100 of the kids in KC right now--and $2 billion along with them.

I am talking about getting rid of a handful of rotten little bastards who are terrorizing their classmates and teachers so the overwhelming majority can start learning and growing.

I would like to save everybody on this planet. I would turn the prisons into country clubs if I could. I hate the misery and cruelty that we visit upon each other.

But we have to first of all make our schools safe to walk around in. Teachers need time to prepare, time to think, to time teach. They can't do that if they are dealing with misfits who take up hugely disproportionate amounts of their time.
posted by steve_high at 3:09 PM on May 18, 2001


Steve, I did read the post. In fact I posted it. I'm glad you revised your numbers. Or does a handful= 20%?
posted by keithl at 3:37 PM on May 18, 2001


Yeah, but it takes time and effort to turn those misfits around. Unless you put them in prison for life, they'll come out just to breed more misfits.

Let's solve the problems... Prisons are like sweeping dust under a carpet.
posted by SpecialK at 3:44 PM on May 18, 2001


20% of 24 students is a handful. All I know is you're getting NOWHERE. If you can do something for the majority of the kids, then I'll worry more about the exceptions. Right now, I think they are causing mucho grief.

My point is, I don't care what happens to the unteachable ones. Just get them the hell out of the schools. Let them be somebody else's problem--the justice system, the welfare department, the sanitation company, whatever.

The schools have their hand's full just with education. Kids who can't be, or don't want to be, educated should be kicked for the good of the ones who remain.

It's like the library. While you want it to be open to everyone, there is a limit to how many homeless people can be allowed to piss and shit on the carpets, yell and scream at the other patrons, tear color pictures out of the encyclopedia sets and so on.

EVERY single child is not worth saving if it means a KC school where an entire high school Econ class has to sit through a children's movie made for drool cases.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh and unsympathetic, but we've got to stomp mousing around with this. I am as softhearted mushyminded a liberal as ever drew breath and I am here to tell you that we are going to WRECK our country if don't stop playing grab-ass on this issue.
posted by steve_high at 5:07 PM on May 18, 2001


Steve, if you look at a certain way, our country's already wrecked. And for the record, I think your posts have been impassioned and well-articulated, if a little over-the-top. Toning down the rhetoric might actually help your argument, though I must say I personally did a little *cheer* when I read your initial post.

~~~

Doug - no, they weren't discarded - they failed or dropped out "back in the day."

I'm certainly no expert on our public school system, but it seems like our expectations have changed over the years. I think we've gone from having the attitude that if a student works hard, s/he'll do well, to an attitude of "leave no child behind" - when sometimes, some students kinda should be left behind. Steve hit the nail on the head with that one.
posted by acridrabbit at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2001



I am too emotional on this subject to make much sense.

Let me start over.

I think the fallacy is this: Because education is the root of social reform--and to a large extent lack of education is the root of social ill--schools have tended to accept too large a share of responsibility for everything that happens in the world.

Thus, we say that kids need to be in school so they won't get in trouble during the day. Why is that? I say they need to be in school to learn, not to keep them out of society's hair.

If they don't want to be there, then let society deal with them. Teachers have enough trouble teaching the ones who DO want to be there.

It's true that it costs more money to put people in jail than in school. So what? If I were a teacher, I would not necessarily want jailbirds transferred into my class, regardless of the bargain to the taxpayers. Like the song says, if he's got a social disease, send him to a social woiker.

The girl in your story has a RIGHT to learn economics, not Dr. Doolittle. She has a right to a teacher with an MA in Econ, not an MA in Kung Fu.

Schools with high academic standards are an escape valve for neighborhoods like the one you describe in San Diego. The drug- and prostitution-ridden slums of New York City (hometown to guys like Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano) also produced some of Columbia's finest by way of the New York public schools hundred years ago.

We can do the same thing again. But not by trying to do EVERYTHING.
posted by steve_high at 5:30 PM on May 18, 2001


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