Is it even possible to fix our education system?
While contemplating how we might go about solving our nation's education problems, it was tempting to begin by getting rid of the union. But employees should have the right to organize and use their collective power as leverage to negotiate with employers. Perhaps even more so when the employer is as powerful as the state. And the problem isn't really with the union, anyway. If it weren't so politicized, it likely would be a great asset to American education.

So I'd like to say that the problem is with the politicization of education. Get rid of the money. Get rid of the education lobby. Get rid of the federal government's involvement all together. Return to local control and the idea that the people best qualified to make decisions about a child's education are the parents and his teachers. But that isn't really the problem with education, either.

Unfortunately, most of the "problems" we see in education are really only symptoms. The first real problem with American education is its efficacy, or "production to the effect intended." I went into this a little more some time ago, but essentially the goals of the education system and the goals of most parents do not match. The system is designed for socialization, to make all children the same, to decrease competition, to create "global citizens." Most parents want their children prepared for the workforce. Since the purposes do not match, the outcomes are not going to be appreciated. Before we go anywhere with the discussion on improving our education system, we have to decide what its purpose is.

The other part of the problem runs a little deeper. And the more I think about it, the more I think the only viable solution is to realize that there is none. We cannot fix American education because we want that education system to do what it cannot do. We want it to give all Americans an equal chance at the "American dream." We want it to provide a basic education for all our children. We want it to solve our social ills. We want it to create better citizens. We want it to be the great equalizer.

We want our education system to take the responsibility for the failure of individuals.

If Johnny cannot read, we want it to be because the school district is using the wrong methodology. Because his teacher isn't paid enough. Because he doesn't have access to a computer. Because the text books are out of date. Because the school's nutrition program isn't extensive enough. Because the state's welfare program isn't large enough. We don't want to accept the fact that, despite our best efforts, some will fail. Some of those failures may go on to do great things. Many more likely will not.

Unfortunately, no matter what we as a society do, it is unlikely that little Johnny will learn to read until his parents value his education highly enough to get involved. But that is a little difficult to mandate.

No matter how we look at it, we are stuck with treating symptoms. Parents ceased taking responsibility for the education of their children a long time ago. Instead of educating them, they turned them over to the factory or allowed them to run the streets. Organizations developed for the health and safety of these children, creating the beginnings of free and compulsory education. The responsibility for the children was thus handed over to the local school district. It wasn't up for the task so the state took an increased role. As the states fail, we see increasing federal involvement.

No Child Left Behind is not so much a problem as it is a symptom of a deeper problem. Imagine for a moment, if we really did just remove all federal funding from education. If we did return the control of our education system to the local level. I fear it would completely disintegrate. Sure, my local school would be fine. I live in an affluent area. But what about downtown L.A.? Local control assumes that the local community cares enough to get involved. It assumes that parents will oversee homework and attendance. It assumes that parents will not stand for corruption in the school board and incompetent teachers. It assumes that someone close to the child is fighting for his interests. But that isn't always the case.

Something has to fill in the gap. Right now, it is the state because no one else has asked for the job.

If I were able to do such a thing, I would say it is the responsibility of the church to step in. Not to take over the public school system. Leave it more or less as it is. But in my little utopia, the church would create its own free education "system," with schools in every community under the direction of the local church. I find it ironic that one of the first things the church does in missionary efforts is set up a local school, yet the schools set up by the church here at home carry a hefty price tag.

But that isn't going to happen any time soon. So I guess it is the state and Bill Gates who get to care for the fatherless.

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