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Empty The School: The Implosion Of Public Education

I wrote this article over a year ago, partly over my frustration with the debate over whether our schools were irrelevant or outright damaging to our children and their future.  Since that time I’ve been encouraged by the pushback of parents and their demands that their schools stop indoctrinating children with nonsensical and totally inappropriate content, unworthy of drunk college students.  I am though, still very concerned that the push for reform is focused on the symptoms of a disease, and not its root causes. 

If all our children were back in their classrooms (unmasked and three feet apart), being taught the three R’s, very little would have been accomplished.  The rock bottom problem with our schools is not the curriculum, it is the persistence of a dysfunctional, dystopian subculture that fails to teach children life skills. If the reform movement is successful, as currently embodied, our children would emerge from their schools with some hard skills (the three R’s) and the soft skills (decision-making, relationship building, conflict management) of a Neanderthal.  What we need to be doing, is breaking the system down to its foundation, and start focusing on learning, not education.  The article below details a number of specific changes that would serve to invigorate the lives of our children, and help them become life-long learners.

The current educational eco-system is irretrievably broken and has been imploding on itself, with one alienating step after another. And ironically, the pressures emanating from the COVID hysteria, have shone a light on the governance of the schools and the content of the curriculum, that has been illuminating in all the wrong ways.  Parents have been appalled by the propaganda-like subject matter, and the rigidity of the pedagogy.

A few months before the pandemic was officially announced, I wrote a piece about the time having arrived to retire the public school system.  Frankly, I thought the process would take some time; but I was wrong.  Between clueless school boards, puzzled teachers, and a tyrannical union, a perfect storm of incompetence has been created.

Let’s look at the components that have led to this juncture – 

  • The model that shapes our children’s experience is, to be charitable, outmoded, outdated, and boring.  It is mired in content transference in the midst of a post-information culture.  Finding answers to problems is easy.  Figuring out what the next problem will be, is the challenge.
  • Confusing education with learning, has turned off many of our best and brightest young minds.  Education is about transferring content. Learning is about expanding one’s self-information.  It’s the difference between knowing everything about how your car works, and deciding where you need to go.  A colleague who consults widely in Mexico, frames the difference pointedly:  “ The simple transfer of information no longer constitutes knowledge, nor is it a competence.  Anyone can transfer information, including junk information.”  (Juan Carlos Erdozian Rivera)
  • Our schools are controlled by the lowest risk people in our culture, and they teach our children to be compliant, unoriginal, unchallenging and conflict avoidant.  The teachers (and their union) frantlcally protect job security and the administrators, in abject cowardice, allow crazy helicopter parents to run the schools. When I’m delivering a presentation to large groups, I often ask people in the audience, to raise their hand if they have their current job guaranteed for the rest of their lives.  No hands go up.  I then tell them that their taxes support people who do.  It’s called tenure.  And it protects educators from accountability, assessment, and termination.

So what’s the alternative?  The best I’m aware of is called “learning pods.”  They are groups of families  (involving 6 – 10 children) who hire free lancing teachers to teach both hard and soft skills, and reflect the core values of the families.  They are not bound by a classroom, but instead, meet and learn in real life environments – government offices, law enforcement milieux and businesses, for example.  They hire teachers from among those leaving the profession in droves; totally fed up with narcissistic colleagues and wimpy leaders. 

This is not a derivative of home schooling.  This is mobile learning, using the human environment to give children an experience of the real world, which, unfortunately, neither their schools nor their families give them.  And the learning is facilitated by the best and most creative teachers who have been hamstrung by the mind-numbing educational bureaucracy.  I was talking, recently, with an extraordinarily creative teacher and I was struck by how she described her current dilemma:  “I feel like I’m caught between two tyrants – the school board and the union.” We have the opportunity to create true learning experiences, but it will take all of our resolve to wrestle control of our children away from low-risk, fear-driven adults who have little faith and trust in our children.

Morrie Shechtman

August 26, 2021

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