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Failing Educations

Rachel Lucas recently, err, opined on the topic if public school graduates and their preparedness for community college. While I certainly agree that there are problems to be addressed with most public school systems, I would like to take an uncharacteristically optimistic turn and offer some hope.

Part of this willingness to defend public schools, something I’ve argued against in the past, comes from my rather positive experience in the segment of my particular high school that I spent four years in. This included, for example, a unique Linux class and two semesters of AP Calculus.

On the reverse, however, I’ve heard horror stories from regular old non-honors (“academic”) English classes. This evidence is secondhand and anecdotal, but seems to be telling. From what I was able to gather, the level of class you take correlates strongly with your willingness to work. The ranges worked out something like the following, for English:

  • AP: Willing to write multiple literary and analytical essays and read a ton of books.
  • Honors: Willing to write one or two major papers and do the minimum amount of work to do well.
  • Academic: Who cares about old dead white guys’ writings I mean really who needs to put together correct sentences?

This seems, to me, a result of mandatory schooling. The students that, for whatever reason, do not want to be in school and are unwilling to work, but cannot or do not stop coming for whatever reason, are generally unwilling to be taught. But, per mandate of the school system, they must be. A further wrinkle is that if the school begins giving these erstwhile students the grades that their work likely deserves, then the school may begin to appear in a poor light because it has so many students failing. This failure, of course, being the fault of the school for not reaching out, or trying hard enough, or whatever.

Essentially, the entire system seems to be predicated on the fallacy that a mind that wholly devalues education can be given, forcefully, a meaningful education.

This is all a rather roundabout way of saying that the segment of the population under survey in Rachel’s post may simply be majorly constituted by students who do not prize learning.

Conversely, the case may be made that the schools in question may just be rubbish. The anecdote from one commenter on Rachel’s post that characterizes the school system in question as a pit of corruption seems telling. This is also corroborated by some quotes in the article itself (numbers inserted for reference later):

“I get so frustrated,” Hollis said. “Don’t know why I wasn’t taught those skills before coming here and having to be at this point in my life and start all over. It’s been very challenging.”

”It’s very frustrating … for the students who come in here who say: ‘Wait a minute, you’re asking me to do all this? [1] I don’t know how to do this. [2] I don’t have enough time to do this. [3] I’m not used to doing this. [4] I don’t want to do it,'” Dr. Rodriguez said.

The fact that the student talks about not being taught those skills certainly seems somewhat bulletproof: the school hasn’t gotten the students where they need to be. But as for the quote from the teacher on sample responses from students, his actions should vary a bit more widely.

  1. A legitimate grievance against the school. Probably not the student’s fault.
  2. The result of a school system that has to grapple with all kinds of learning disabilities, real or imagined, and make sure kids have no pressure to work quickly.
  3. “Tough shit.”
  4. “Get out of my class.”
Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Hazel
    May 14, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I try not to comment too much, so as to not seem like a stalker or anything, but you just had to mention schooling. Although I left the public schools during my sophomore year to pursue homeschool (actually before I was eligible for AP classes, IIRC. Perhaps my experience would have been different had I waited), I do still defend against the snobs who automatically assume that every student from the school system is a complete dunce. There are many things wrong with the way public schools work, though you probably hit the nail on the head with it being mandatory as a primary one. Not only are there many students unwilling to learn or incapable of understanding the material, but those students also sometimes drag down the ones who can succeed in academics (for various possible reasons). However, the schools push the “YUO CAN DO IT!” attitude when, in fact, not everyone can. They then create useless laws, such as taking away someone’s license if they drop out as a minor, that only keep the person from going ahead and getting a job they can actually do and becoming a useful member of society.

    There’s also the problem of teachers, which all somewhat ties into the free market’s effect on willingness to do a job well, but this is probably already too long for a mere comment. I’ll just write my own post on the topic, which I’d been planning to do anyways. Sorry for the rant!

  2. Hazel
    May 14, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Wow, that is really long. Sorry again.

  3. Hober Short
    May 14, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    I don’t mind. I promise.

    My actual first reaction was that if you had so much to say, you should see about developing it into a blog. Yeeeeeah.

    I’m smart. Really. I promise.

    But now you’re over in the blog-o-roll so I won’t forget.

  4. patberry
    May 14, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Hazel, I enjoy reading your comments. They don’t strike me as excessively long.

  5. Hazel
    May 14, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Wow, I feel really special now, being in a blogroll. Thanks. I’m glad y’all don’t mind my excessive comments.

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