Back to School Time

The neighborhoods are full of cheese boxes again. It must be back to school time.

In honor of American Education, here’s a comment I found this morning in the comment section at The Atlantic*:

If you asked scientists to design the worst possible system to educate masses of young people, they would come up with the system that much of the US has arrived at.

Drag them out of bed at 6am and send them home at 2:30, completely conflicting with their parents’ schedules and flying in the face of research that shows how much sleep kids need. Bonus points if some kids have their “lunch” at 10am.

Plop them in desks and force them to listen to adults of highly varying skill level who might have no idea how to hold the attention of 8 or 10 or 15 year olds. (In this case, blame it on the kids for being layabouts.) Even better, make these adults live in constant fear of unwanted reassignments, give-backs, or layoffs, especially the newest ones who may already be least equipped for success.

Convince the populace that teaching is a profession for losers who don’t deserve the middling salaries they already get. Extra points if you can build resentment toward teachers for having health benefits.

Resist efforts to identify the best performing and worst performing teachers. When such efforts are undertaken, use the most simplistic criteria possible, such as student performance on a small handful of arbitrary tests.

Focus all student effort on the material contained on those tests. At least 50% of this material should be a poorly-constructed, relentlessly sequential math curriculum with little to no articulated connection to the real world, and which ought to doom large swaths of kids to failure from the beginning.

Strip away physical activity, including gym class and recess, despite the fact that we know physically active kids do better. (Oh, plus that whole obesity epidemic, which might be effectively countered with a concerted effort to get schoolkids to be more active and learn basic fitness techniques).

Also, eliminate anything creative, such as art and music, despite the fact that we know these things are highly effective at keeping kids engaged with the whole school experience and getting them to do better in other subjects.

Cut budgets at every stage, from building construction to basic supplies, to the point that many schools are decrepit prisons with little natural light and not enough markers for the whiteboards. Very inspiring, very conducive to learning.

Divert a little bit of money to inflated salaries for underqualified administrators, just enough to get citizens to convince themselves that schools are awash in money and budgets need to be cut more. Make school budgets dependent on what citizens think of their local government’s performance on unrelated issues.

Then, when all of this has been accomplished, let the kids all go home for three months with virtually no attempt to encourage off-site learning or retention of previous material.

If your school is in a particularly low-income or high-minority area, this entire process should ideally be infused with an atmosphere of hopelessness so complete that people who haven’t witnessed it can not imagine the degree of despair that rules every day.

* Yes, I read The Atlantic, because I’m an effete liberal pansy.

6 Responses to “Back to School Time”

  1. Pitt says:

    Don’t feel bad, Matt. The radio in my Volvo seems to only pick up the local NPR station until I’m like 10 miles from work. And by then I’m too lazy to change it.

    Its actually kindof amazing that a number of students actually survive the K-12 educational process and go off to college and other advanced learning. And that later, they actually become productive members of society.

    The school day duration and timing is not only not conducive to kids learning anything, but horribly disruptive to parents. Honestly, even now, i find myself getting a real decent second wind around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, that pulls me pretty much until 9 or 10 in the evening. It would be later, but I have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to be at my office by the proscribed 7am start time.

    Taking the Physical out of Education is another issue. Again, I like to get up and stretch my legs for 20 or 30 minutes at lunch time. You can’t have a bunch of kids sitting in wooden desks for 5 hours at a stretch and expect them to pay attention. Christ, it’s a wonder MORE kids don’t have ADD.

    Katie and I have talked about it; if/when we have children of school age, we’re going to seriously look into home schooling, unless there happens to be a really good Jesuit school nearby, that is. 😉

    Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!

  2. matt says:

    I’m scared to send my sons to school. Because they’re both bright, curious, loving kids, and the school system is designed to pummel that shit right out of them.

  3. BrianN says:

    I wouldn’t trust scientists to develop curriculum, it would probably revolve around watching the coolest You-Tube videos about whatever seems interesting at the time.

    You can always homeschool. Lots of people around here like Montesorri, I’m not completely convinced, though.

  4. matt says:

    One of my neighbors is a teacher who went to a Waldorf school for the first few years of his education. He was telling me one time about what a huge adjustment it was moving into a “normal” public school after that.

    “Letters and colors? I don’t really know those. But I can knit you a scarf, or sing Christmas carols in German if you like.”

  5. Pitt says:

    I’m not sold on the Montessori schools for every child, but at least it’s an idea that’s got promise. Homeschooling is popular, and there are more and more support groups for that sort of thing- even families that have banded together to teach each others’ children communally, with parents teaching subjects they know best, even hiring private instructors.

    You do have to be careful they’re not just a bunch of Bible-thumpers trying to keep the devil public schools from teaching their children evilution, though.

  6. BrianN says:


    that’s what you get for using a school system named after a salad

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