Thanks for directing me to Kelly Flynn’s piece in Ed Week. Have always, well since I was a public school teacher in 1969, felt the same, that the elephant in the room was bad behavior, student apathy, absenteeism and other such, and that we, teachers, (and administrators, parents, everyone) refused to talk about it. And this is still the case, as Kelly says.
But even more important we have never addressed the causes of the apathy, absenteeism etc., What makes the kids behave the way they do, apathetic, truant and all the rest? And endless series of reforms, as Diane Ravitch and many others have shown, have not changed the situation in the public schools.
Just the other day I was visiting a public school here where I’m now living and it could have been 50 years ago in the high school where I was a teacher myself. Apathy and absenteeism were still rife.
Well you know what I think, and I probably need not say it once again, that the cause is socialism, that which was the result of our failure, at the time of Horace Mann’s 19th. century school reforms, to make sure that the principal actors in the drama of schooling, the students and parents, had ownership, that they somehow owned the process. But from that beginning some 160 years ago they didn’t.
If teachers and students/parents were somehow to “own” the process of getting an education it would change things overnight. For those who have ownership, and therefore stand most to benefit, or not, from their actions, do not display apathy or absenteeism. In our public schools, alas, the students and their parents don’t own anything at all, least of all their time for learning.
In fact the students, even those, perhaps the majority of them who in one way or another “game” the situation and stick around and do what is expected of them, understand very quickly that the educational system is not theirs, that it belongs to someone else, that it has little interest in who they are or what they most need.
Only a form of ownership, paying for something with money one has somehow if not earned at least controls, will get the buyer, in this case the student, interested in the quality of the product, in this case his or her education.