I’m a big fan of the movie, “Waiting for Superman” It scratches the surface of all the things that are wrong with our public education system today. I’ll spare you the movie review here but I will say this:
Unless our elementary and secondary education system undergoes drastic changes by the year 2050 China will have assumed the role as the leader economically, politically, militarily, and culturally. HSBC is running great adverts talking about tapping into a world of potential one of their adverts is the following:
“There are 5 times as many people learning English in China as there are people in England.”
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) there are approximately 51mm people in England (which is likely an understatement given the last estimate was in 2008). Even so, that would mean 250mm people in China are learning English. That is a staggering number and goes to show how competitive our world is and about to be.
Gone are the days when one could just cruise through high school, stumble into a good college, get a degree, and enter into the workforce and earn an above-average salary. The world is smaller, the supply of students and workers available workers bigger, while technology renders many labor intensive work spaces obsolete. Globalization and technology have made it more difficult for American educated students to find work.
This has also exposed the shortcomings of our public school system. Inept policies, overworked inner-city teachers, and lack of funding makes the public school model outdated and ineffectual. Charter schools seem like an easy solution, especially when it appears they are performing miracles. However, looking deeper one sees two main skeletons in the closet.
1) They cook the books to make it seem like they can turn water into wine. What I mean, is that they are very selective with who remains in the school. The kids who can’t hack it or the ones who don’t “fit in” are booted from the program. That usually means kids who are failing for whatever reason. This leaves all the kids who conform and adapt well to the environment who post strong results.
2) Ask any normal charter school teacher if they think their lifestyle is sustainable. Any regular teacher (and not someone so high on KIPP kool-aid) will tell you that they work 14 hour days and most of the weekend. If you were to compute the hourly salary of a charter school teacher it would be equivalent to a worker at Arby’s. My point – charter schools grind their teachers to the bone which makes it difficult for anyone to have any sort of life outside of school. Starting a family ? Forget about it if you are a charter school teacher.
Now, while I do think the charter school model, with some tinkering, is the way forward (and while it does produce above average results) the thinking that these charter schools are the best thing since sliced bread is naive.
Either way, the public school system is so wrought with bureaucracy, corruption, incompetence, long lines, and red tape, that its prospects for being the agent of change in our education system are very slim.