What’s The Goal Of Public Education?

I’ll have to save my “price of gas” rant for another day. And this rant actually ties in well with my previous rant about kids. 🙂

So I’m driving along, listening to NPR’s “Fresh Air” and I hear two discussions about public education. The first from Diane Ravitch whose stance was that standardized testing sucks and charter schools are mostly in it for the money. Here’s a bit from her (link to entire interview):

“I came to the conclusion … that No Child Left Behind has turned into a timetable for the destruction of American public education,” she tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “I had never imagined that the test would someday be turned into a blunt instrument to close schools — or to say whether teachers are good teachers or not — because I always knew children’s test scores are far more complicated than the way they’re being received today.”

“What has happened … is that [charter schools have] become an enormous entrepreneurial activity and the private sector has moved in,” she says. “So there are now charter chains where the heads are paying themselves $300,000, $400,000, $500,000 a year. They compete with regular public schools. They do not see themselves as collaborators with public schools but business competitors and in some cases, they actually want to take away the public school space and take away the public school business.”

The second from Andrew Rotherham whose stance was that the best schools have goals, track data and improve on that and… well here, you can read straight from him (link to entire interview):

The best schools — whether they’re charter schools, public schools or private schools — are intentional about everything they do, says educational analyst Andrew Rotherham.

“They are intentional about who is in the building, who is teaching, how they use data, what’s happening for students, the support for students, the curriculum, how progress is assessed,” he says. “Everything is intentional and nothing is left to chance.”

The public school system worked for him, he says, but only because he grew up in a nice suburb outside Washington, D.C.

“If I had been born just a few miles away, I would have had a very different public education experience,” he tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “So that’s the challenge. It’s not about giving up on public schools but it is about acknowledging that right now, when you step back, [only] 8 percent of low-income kids can expect to get a bachelor’s degree by the time they’re 24. … [And] when you have a system that produces 8 percent of the low-income kids getting out of college by the time they’re 24, something is wrong.”

The Experts Are Fucking Idiots

While I liked what Andrew had to say a lot more than Diane, it’s still off the mark. Why is it off the mark? Because there is no mark! What is everyone trying to accomplish when they’re making schools “better”? Better at what? Better at getting kids into college? Better at getting high grades on tests? Better at doing homework?

I’m going to tell you what the goal should be, but first I’m going to tell you what it shouldn’t be. Fuck math, fuck science, fuck music, fuck art, fuck high test scores, fuck getting into college, fuck social studies, fuck gym, fuck all those things. Those are all AWESOME. I LOVE math and could do it all day long, but the goal of public education shouldn’t be teaching me math (not in this day in age in our country anyway).

We should have one and only one goal with public education:

Give them the knowledge and skills for self cultivation, dealing with real life and being excellent citizens.

Math? Fuck math. Tracking your income and expenses? YES! A thousand times yes! Why wasn’t I taught that in school? Does that take some math? Yes, but you’re teaching a useful skill now. Math by itself isn’t useful.

But kids don’t want to learn how to track their money (I think they would if it was presented properly). SO WHAT?! What do they want to learn how to do? Produce music? Do hair? Make money? Make videos to upload to YouTube? Make websites?


Instill in them a burning desire to accomplish their goals and dreams and any kid (or adult) anywhere will climb the highest mountain, swim the vastest seas, learn the most difficult math, read the most complicated books and do piles of homework to see their dreams come true.

School is a fucking dream killer when it should be a dream builder.

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10 Responses to What’s The Goal Of Public Education?

  1. sandra says:

    Amen Brother. Preach. On. If you’re interested. You learn. Period. The skills are in the student and when the student is ready the teacher will appear…
    Educare-to bring forth from that which within
    If a child finds something they love. They will learn. Did you know that most of our learning takes place from birth to 3 years old?
    yes. yes. yes.
    I’ve seen the homes that destroy minds. Not a book in sight, Not an encyclopedia anywhere, no pictures, no trips to the bookstore or library, no educational toys, no microscopes, no chemistry sets, Nada. Nada. Nada. Just that f—kd boobtube showing booties every time and a blasting daggonit cd video player. It’s pathetic.
    no clay(which you can make yourself) no play doh. Nothing!!!!
    Ok. So I’ll be nice. Let’s say the child loves music. Fine.
    Can we get some stuff about music? can we get some music simulation stuff? can we show the child how to make music on drums? on cans? on pots and pans? can we talk about what rhythym is? can we “improvise”, can we talk about improvisation? can we talk about feelings? can we play “red”? can we play “blue”? ….do you get my drift???/
    Learning exists. It is.
    Look at the success of Montessori.
    Can we do our own Montessori at home? Yes Yes….
    Can we mix flour and water? can we make paste? can we make clay? can we do paper mache?
    Take anything…anything….anything in the enviornment and teach, talk, discuss, demonstrate, show and let that kid loose?
    I had a phenomenal education teacher who taught potential teachers how to teach science. You should have heard the moans and groans because the teachers had to build volcanoes, collect rocks, collect leaves and other stuff. They were too damn lazy to get their hands dirty and their clothes torn. (NOT all, so don’t get twisted.)
    But in general go into a school and you’ll see some teachers styling in their clothes, gucci bag down, in 5 inch heels and this is in Kindergarten. Please.
    (Don’t get twisted. I didn’t say all teachers)
    But darn it, one teacher is too many.
    F — the test. Any professional test takers out there????
    I want to see passion, love for the student, creativity and common sense. A teacher with energy, not afraid to take risks, take the students out to learn about nature, about dirt, about cement.
    Let me stop. My fingers are tired.
    You take it from here.

  2. Brian says:

    Yes. YES!!! So much win. I hear all the time about how Americans are behind the rest of the world in education. Then I always hear how the “solution” is to increase funding to the schools, or make the school day/year longer. But how is throwing more money with no specifics about what the money is for at a broken system going to make it better? it won’t.

    How is increasing the amount of time kids are forced to stay locked up and bored out of their mind going to fix the problem? That sure as heck won’t.

    They’ll talk around everything except questioning the system itself, which is above reproach for some reason.

    I love your idea of what schools -should- be. Unfortunately that mentality is pretty much unique to the past few generations who have grown up in the information/social media age.

    I say schools be reversed, and have the kids teach the adults how to use things like Facebook, YouTube, google, twitter, or heck, just learning to use email would be a start. Because if teachers could fully grasp even a tiny part of what te Internet makes possible, we’d be on the right track.

    • miltownkid says:

      Wouldn’t we! I might have to follow this post up with some information about Sugata Mitra’s work with kids teaching themselves. You watched his stuff right? I was talking to my roommate about it this morning and he said I never told him about that guy.

  3. Penney Morse says:

    I think you have the dream killer right for some kids, like my great nephew, not just inner city kids. If all schools could focus on harnessing the dreams and showing kids how to make them reality, it would definitely be more productive. Unfortunately as a society we are moving to an entrepreneurship model which will make wall street rich and communities even poorer. Look into what the governor of Michigan is proposing.

    • sandra says:

      I hear ya Penney.
      Just because you run a fortune 500 or you’re a politician doesn’t mean you have brains.
      The U.S government and its large businesses are tooooooo slowwwwwwwwww. In everything we are toooooooo slooooow. We are so rigid, inflexible and lacking in creativity.
      An alive community to me is one that is producing solutions for its community through creativity and cost efficient tools.
      Small is beautiful when the tools are right and service the people….
      Don’t get me started on Michigan….My neurons are fighting.

      • miltownkid says:

        Uh Oh… I better not even look at Michigan. My brain will probably explode! lol I think the entrepreneurial model is a good thing… “in theory.” The trouble is how do we combine financial gain with the educating of children without it being corrupt be “system pimps.”

  4. sandra says:

    mmm. Tough. School and Tech merger? voluntary tech education in schools or mandatory? or Tech companies getting more involved? lots of questions about how to bring these together. That said…Omar Wasow, former tech owner of Black Planet dot com, has a charter school in Brooklyn NY where the creed is “school has to be fun”(I know…it’s a charter…but that aside… the idea of school being Fun is key) Why can’t learning be seen as pleasurable?? In lieu of finding the article with Omar’s essay about education being fun I was able to find this video which includes excerpts from Dan Pink(author on importance of creativity and the right brain in education) and Omar chiming in about what is needed in some school libraries. Now the tape is dry but the emphasis on kids navigating their own education and using tech tools is the message

  5. Faust says:

    You’re the second person I heard say this.

    Dude, the problem isn’t education, it’s the fucking teachers. Or rather, the people that are attracted to that profession. Low lives on power trips and want summers off, and a big fat pension. Not saying all teachers are bad, but more than most. Just like how most cops want a gun and a badge. That’s why they do it.

    There is too much emphasis on hero worship of the teacher.

    I went to a performing arts HS. And if I didn’t go, there would have been no fucking way I would have been able to get into college. Most of the kids didn’t go to college at all in my school, they went into performance arts or something similar. College was a rarity and not really expected.

    Attendance was also not stressed, as neither was reading (you could simply watch the movie). And guess what? We all turned out fine!

    “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control. Teacher leave those kids alone.”

    • miltownkid says:

      I don’t think I’d say most teachers/cops are like that BUT there are certainly enough to “spoil the bunch.” Mixed with that I also think a lot of teacher go in PUMPED about changing the world and come out… bitter with the system. Even teachers that want to be cool and do cool things get their hands tied by the system.

      I think I’ll start my next post with that quote… 🙂

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