from the Dept. of Forgetting... Wait, which department was this?...,
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15 years of decline in armed conflict...,
scatalogical, impractical thought on education:
skimming the surface of the problem with education in this country quickly reveals wide gaps in state to state spending per student, that nevertheless buries even wider gaps district to district. Education spending is based on local property tax revenue and so spending is strongly linked to household wealth and thus reflects the nation's enormous weath inequality indeces. I'm in Chicago, so to take the area's extremes [via hullhouse] as an example: in 2002 Lake Forest's Roundout School District 72, a few miles away from me, spent $18,225/student, while Chicago Public School District 152, also a few miles aways from me, spent $6,678/student.
Wealth inequalities are smoothed out somewhat by a heavy amount of state intervention or the picture would be much more disfigured: Lake Forest gets 12.5% of its funding from outside, while CPSD 152 gets 84.6% of its funding from outside. The whole system seems absurd: kids get to ride the backs of their parent's success and get a well-funded education, or trampled under the feet of their parent's lack of success and get a poor one. How would nationalizing the funding system, any number of ways of doing it, not make sense? For anybody who believes in equal opportunity, or just expects a decent education for the general populace, isn't it pretty much a simple neccesity?
But gross national spending keeps increasing and education keeps getting worse, so we're constantly told. Looking at figures like the above - and I can't find anything specific to the district level at the National Bureau of Education Statistics website - at least suggests that most of the new spending has gone to a few schools while the rest lose ground to inflation. I can only guess so far.
The other thing was a show on PBS, either NOW or Frontline, not long ago discussing standardized test taking in public schools, which, OK. They were tossing up stories on entire districts that were a) telling kids to drop out or holding kids back to artificially inflate test scores, which means there needs to be real, very basic incentives for enrollment - your kids fail, you lose money, your kids dropout or disappear, you lose money; and b) spending more time administrating tests than teaching to them. One school was administrating nearly one standardized test for every day these little gradeschool kids were in class, it was bullocks. Nobody ought to have to take more than a week or two of standardized tests to fill the heads of policy wonks with enough information to figure their shit out.
Otherwise: local control, nationalized funding. This 'no child left behind' thing seems to be almost the exact opposite of what I'd want if I were a small government conservative, which, as something of an anarchist, is kind of what I am, afterall. They're testing kids to death, creating redundant taxing authorities and funding bureaucracies district, state and federal where one would suffice, and overlapping levels of outside interference in what should be matters largely relegated to the conscience and interests of a school's constituent families, teachers, and community.
update: in a timely fashion Max suggests taking a look at how other people do it better. Finland starts at age 7, state supplied daycare previous to that, low national poverty rate, "immigrants, of which Finland has relatively few", "500 students, about as big as Finnish schools get", "the non-compulsive Finnish approach to education", "the general absence of testing", "He worked a 190-day school year, three to eight hours a day...$2,500 a month" plus cushy socialist benefits package, aging population means "state spending on schools is actually declining", no further structural details, just "Teachers, teachers, teachers", which is true so far as you can throw it: in Illinois school districts average teacher salaries range from 20 to 80 thousand on what at first glance appears to be an even distribution, indicative but in no way conclusive of a fairly unfair distribution of resources where, all things being equal, resources would be distributed equally.