Friday, February 24, 2012
Why Competition Won't Work in Education
This is what I have to say to that line of thought.
American education is never, ever going to improve so long as we as a society keep blaming the teachers. Go ahead and look up the statistics. Most failing schools in America are in poor, urban areas. You can look at Columbus just as an example. Not every public school in the Columbus City School district is a failure. The nicer the area, the more successful the school is.
"Well how can you really prove that Jack?" The kids who perform poorly are generally the ones that have very crappy home lives. Their parents don't care, they're surrounded by drugs and alcohol, and crime is rampant in their neighborhoods. My son is in first grade, he's 6, and he can read. Not only can her read, but he can actually retell the story in his own words.
Has he reached this level of competency and higher order thought because the teacher is just absolutely amazing? Only partially (she better be amazing considering how much money I pay). The key is that he always has either me or his mother to help him with his homework. His homework consists of practicing reading, writing, and spelling. If she and I never helped him with any of that then he'd likely be behind.
I remember vaguely when I was his age my mother doing the same thing, helping my brothers and me with our reading, spelling, and writing. And we three are generally intelligent adults. So what about a kid who doesn't have mom or dad to help them? What about a kid who doesn't have anyone to read with after school? How well do you think that kid will do in school with zero reinforcement from home?
Guess what: it doesn't matter how amazing the teacher is. If a kid does not have a positive, supportive environment at home, that kid will be stunted, and no amount of instruction will help pull that kid out of that hole.
"But Jack, not all inner-city kids turn out to be useless. Some of them go on to succeed even without a supportive homelife." That's true, but given the drop-out and failure statistics, how many of those kids actually break out of the cycle of poverty and/or ignorance? Statistically, not many. And that's because we can't expect every child to have the amount of drive and tenacity it takes to overcome such potentially debilitating barriers.
If you still don't believe me, then you must answer me this one question: if money is the solution then why do well-funded districts still fail? Is it any coincidence that those well-funded but still failing districts are largely located in urban areas? Why does Worthington City Schools continually outperform Columbus City Schools with comparable funding? Well, for those of you who've never been to Worthington, OH (it's a suburb of Columbus) all you have to do is just look at the neighborhoods to tell the difference.
So sure, fire all the teachers and pit them against one another. Let's ignore the real problem, because we know the real problem is politically incorrect to articulate and it's likely unfixable anyway. Let's punish the teachers for factors that are completely out of their control, because that's what we're all about in America: finding someone to blame other than the individuals actually responsible.