Thursday, June 04, 2009
Writing at City Journal, teacher Marc Epstein blows out of the water all illusions of reform of the New York City public school system since Chancellor Joel Klein's adoption of a "business model" of "accountability and results."
There are so many gory details -- like universal promotion -- within his piece that I'd just about have to reproduce its entirety here to do it justice, but the most important one just about says all that needs saying:
For years now, schools have been switching to "annualization" of their course offerings. Under this structure, students who fail the first semester of a sequential course (say, English 5 and 6) can get credit for both terms if they pass the second semester. The practical effect of this change is to destroy the work ethic of those students who've figured out how to game the system. By their junior and senior years, they know that they can blow off the first term and, with some effort in the second, get credit for the full course. For the schools' part, annualization obviates the need to create costly, inefficient "off-track" spring sections of sequential courses for students who failed the fall section. This helps cut down drastically on night school and summer school, and also sends graduation rates skyward. Under this flawed model, teachers face inexorable pressure to get their numbers up in the second term, however they can. [bold added]One of the metrics Klein's "business model" employs happens to be graduation rates.
Too bad that in the real business world, customers who have not been pickpocketed before entering the free market would not be confronted with a single huge, heavily-subsidized, inept (but apparently cheap) competitor and an army of small, expensive ones. And too bad that in a free market, it is the customer who sets his own standards for what constitutes an acceptable return on his investment.
In a free market, parents would have to spend actual, hard-earned money on their children's education, and might not be placated by simply having a piece of paper with "diploma" stamped on it in Gothic lettering shoved at them after their child has been coddled for several years. They might look at things like how successful a school's graduates were at such things as winning gainful employment or entering college. The inflationary, statistical expedients of publicity-hungry career politicians would no longer be able serve as a pretty facade for the mass disfigurement and extermination of young souls (See item 4.) that is happening at their parents' expense.
"But how would the poor go to school?" the whining will go. Hustling in the streets would be preferable to the above in many respects. The whole idea behind public education is that everyone needs and ought to have education, because education helps prepare children to survive as adults. Everyone ought to have two arms, too, but if the state started sending children to "public gymnasiums" to have one or both of them crippled or removed, there would be a massive public outrage and a loud call for the immediate abolition of the practice.
I see no essential difference between this and what is going on in many public schools today. Again, I call for a freeing of the educational sector from government control. New York should stop toying with cheap, toxic models from communist countries and use the real thing to educate its children.