Here’s a question for the reader, especially for those who have been following the seemingly endless debate over the condition of our public schools.
You may not know the author, but the year it was written, what would be your guess? You’ll probably say you’ve heard this before, probably more than once, that the public schools if not failing are in “deep trouble.”
The American system of public education is in very deep trouble. This is now so widely admitted as to be almost an official truth, especially in the great urban areas of the country. The so-called crisis of the schools shows itself in many ways. In the urban schools young people drop out or are truant in astonishingly large numbers. Despite years of official concern, education for poor and minority youth is as disastrous as ever. All across the country, parents and other taxpayers are so dissatisfied with schools and skeptical of what can be done that they are voting down bond issue after bond issue, with the result that large city school systems have been forced to close weeks early as well as cut down on educational programs. Lack of money worsens the problems, leading, for example, to long and bitter teacher strikes. But in a way, the disgruntled taxpayers have a point. More money doesn’t make the schools more successful in important ways: the kids don’t get less bored, the poor and minority youth don’t find their life chances enhanced by new buildings with decorator colors and opaque projectors.