: Yes, there certainly is a problem with schools in America. Lark is painting with a pretty broad brush when he says they produce nothing but dumb people however. You can still get a good education, even at a bad school, provided you have drive and self reliance.
SDF: Ah yes, the "Horatio Alger" myth applied to education. Nobody really has "self reliance," we are all in this society together, all labor is social labor, people are groomed to fit into social classes. The folks who once claimed the mantle of "self reliance" were actually beneficiaries of community and government benefits -- see Stephanie Coontz's THE WAY THINGS NEVER WERE for evidence.
: If Hank is going to blame the troubles on 'Big Corporations' then I'm going to blame the lefties who put kids in diversity training and hug therapy classes instead of math and science.
SDF: I would like to read a citation of even one instance of a "therapy class" or of "diversity training" being held in any of America's public schools.
: Don't get me wrong, I'm all for diversity. Hugs are great. But let's be serious for a minute people. The public schools in America had better start to act their age. Seriously, if someone has a hang nail they cancel class and call in the grief counselors.
SDF: I would like to know the name, position, work phone number and work address of anyone in America's public schools who is in fact a "grief counselor".
: If I had to do it over again I would have gone into grief counseling. Talk about a growth industry, good grief. The students today are slowly learning that how they feel is far more important than what they know.
SDF: Um, where I come from, the main thing that students are learning in public schools is that schooling is irrelevant to their lives, and so they tune it out. And the fact of the matter is that schooling is irrelevant to their lives -- with a little more education, why most of America's high school graduates could be overworked and underpaid, whereas, today, most high school graduates are overworked and underpaid.
: To fix the problem they created the schools adopt bare minimum, poorly crafted standards like Goals 2000, School To Work, and the Profile of Learning. Trust me, this is serious Mickey Mouse shit.
SDF: Well, we could have a system like the ones in Europe, which fails large numbers of its students before channeling them into menial work. Only problem? America claims to be a nation founded upon the equality of opportunity, and so here we like to give our students lots of second chances. In the US public schools, on the other hand, we have a system where teachers are so underpaid and overworked and overhassled and underqualified that the teaching profession attracts the people who couldn't find any other line of work, and where the school systems chew up and spit out a large proportion of the teacher work force each year. So there are plenty of opportunities, but the real ones aren't for teachers.
As for the proposed solution of failing everyone who doesn't "measure up" -- well, we could put our 9th graders back in 5th grade, but what would that do for their dignity, then they'd just drop out, and that's what they in fact do (see Michelle Fine's FRAMING DROPOUTS for a groundlevel description of this real-life phenomenon).
Education is an intractable problem as long as the school systems serve the dual function of being the shock-absorbers for the stresses capitalism places upon the working class (see Dennis Carlson's SCHOOLS AND CRISIS for a groundlevel description of how this plays out at the junior-high level) and as the apologists for the class structure (and here one can read any of Michael Apple's volumes for analysis). The more schools function as apologists for the class structure, the more stress they must absorb from the losers of the class-differentiation process aka the "failures" and "discipline problems". No politician running today will improve America's educational systems. What's needed is a society of learners that will allow all of its members to participate in the good life, and if we had enough real educators putting their combined efforts into creating that, well, then we'd have a revolution on our hands...
: The students get coached through it and passed on to graduation all the while being told that they need to go on to college. In lump sum, they move on to the nearest university to have their tuition coddled away from them. It's pretty disgusting because a lot of these kids believe they are being educated, only to have the rug yanked out from under them when they attempt to join a work force they are totally unprepared for.
SDF: I really doubt that students think they are being educated, rather they don't think about school at all even while being imprisoned within its walls for thirteen years per head.
: Myself?...after 12 years at public schools I put myself through four years of private college and started my dream job a month after graduating. Does that make me smart in the eyes of some European wonk? I could give a flying fuck. At the end of the day...I know I'm smart.
SDF: Maybe you should have experienced more failure, then would you feel smart? On the one hand you complain about how the schools pass everyone along, then on the other hand "I know I'm smart" as a graduate of this same system!