In 11th grade, Allante Rhodes spent 50 minutes a day in a Microsoft Word class at Anacostia Senior High School in Washington. He was determined to go to college, and he figured that knowing Word was a prerequisite. But on a good day, only six of the school's 14 computers worked. He never knew which ones until he sat down and searched for a flicker of life on the screen. "It was like Russian roulette," says Rhodes, a tall young man with an older man's steady gaze. If he picked the wrong computer, the teacher would give him a handout. He would spend the rest of the period learning to use Microsoft Word with a pencil and paper.
One day last fall, tired of this absurdity, Rhodes e-mailed Michelle Rhee, the new, bold-talking chancellor running the District of Columbia Public Schools system. His teacher had given him the address, which was on the chancellor's home page. He was nervous when he hit SEND, but the words were reasonable. "Computers are slowly becoming something that we use every day," he wrote. "And learning how to use them is a major factor in our lives. So I'm just bringing this to your attention." He didn't expect to hear back. Rhee answered the same day. It was the beginning of an unusual relationship.
The U.S. spends more per pupil on elementary and high school education than most developed nations. Yet it is behind most of them in the math and science abilities of its children. Young Americans today are less likely than their parents were to finish high school. This is an issue that is warping the nation's economy and security, and the causes are not as mysterious as they seem. The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research. And Washington, which spends more money per pupil than the vast majority of large districts, is the problem writ extreme, a laboratory that failure made....
1. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:
Public Schools are an abject failure. The Department of Education has been a complete failure.
Home School is gaining ground. Personally, I would prefer to see Churches stepping up to the plate in a huge way and offering more parochial schools. If they were more prevalent, I believe the cost would come down. I also think that vouchers for parochial schools should be available if we are taxed for public “education”.
November 30, 9:39 am | [comment link]
2. A Floridian wrote:
Can’t fix America’s schools or kids until we fix America’s teachers and adults. There are many teaching who should not be because they are poor examples of moral and bodily continence and sobriety and who have nefarious unhealthy unholy agendas.
November 30, 9:41 am | [comment link]
3. A Floridian wrote:
Meant to add, ‘there are many who should not be parents.’
That is one question I want to ask Our Father…why do you allow people to have children who have nothing good to give them? I guess it’s a test and opportunity to witness and glorify God for others to give what good we can to children who have nothing good in their lives.
It still makes me angry that agendites are preying on children in public schools and parents are abandoning them. Makes God mad as all get out too - Malachi 2:15-17 and 4:6
November 30, 9:46 am | [comment link]
4. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:
The most costly commodity in America is ignorance.
Here in Kansas the state pours $10 B a year into “education”—70% of the entire state budget—in a state with under 3 million inhabitants. That does not count local property taxes for schools, which have the depressing of dwarfing the already-bloated amounts headed to fund the lifestyles of county bureaucrats.
I taught high school science for a couple of years, as well as part-time at the community college level for six years. In recent years I have substituted at a few local school boards and I’m compelled to state that the academic competence of current high school students in one of the wealthiest corners of Kansas is just plain depressing.
Government education is one of the Big Four unionised professions—government, education, Detroit autos, and the airlines—that just plain do not work. By their fruit you shall know them, as it were.
November 30, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
5. David Hein wrote:
First, thanks to Kendall for posting this article, especially for those of us who used to read Time religiously, so to speak, and now never bother.
Sick and Tired:
Thanks for your excellent points and questions.
“Public Schools are an abject failure.” I thought “And what about Episcopal schools? Are all of them doing what they should?” I tried to address this question in an article in The Living Church (Jan. 4, 2004): “What Has Happened to Episcopal Schools?”
You might want to get in touch with the Rev. Chip Prehn, assistant rector and chaplain of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and School, San Antonio, Texas. He’s done more thinking (and—through his recent UVa dissertation—writing) about Muhlenberg-type church schools than anybody else I can think of. He has an excellent sense of what they can be—and of how to rescue them from being “Episcopal” schools where “Episcopal” means nothing but a distinct type of American culture-religion, rather than a subset of “Christian.” He also has a strong commitment to seeing these schools serve a much more diverse socioeconomic clientele. He’s bright, energetic, knowledgeable, and passionate on this subject—and I’d love to see him receive more national attention and some kind of national platform for his ideas.
“The Department of Education has been a complete failure.” The new administration should look at getting rid of the Federal Dept of Education, don’t you think? NCLB and other grand visions can end up causing more problems than they solve.
“Personally, I would prefer to see Churches stepping up to the plate in a huge way and offering more parochial schools.”
Yes, I agree: But behind that effort it would be good to see a reawakened sense within Anglican churches of primary and secondary education as a vital part of “social Christianity.” Maybe that could be part of a distinct emphasis within the mainstream Anglican churches in the USA (Communion Partners, Common Cause, whatever they’re called—I have to agree with those who tune in from time to time and are having trouble keeping all the terminology straight). Somehow, between the 19th c. and today, we’ve lost that sense of church schools as a distinct, robust field of endeavor. I don’t mean that parishes haven’t been starting schools—the 1990s were particularly strong in that respect—but that we haven’t consistently and conscientiously been regarding them as a great mission field—really offering something distinctive to all classes of society—the way Muhlenberg did or John Kerfoot and William Whittingham at the College of St. James or William Wyatt and Bp Whittingham at the Boys’ School of St. Paul’s Parish, Baltimore (founded in 1849—three years before St. Paul’s, Concord—for the POOREST kids in Baltimore City; yes, it’s come a long way, in some sense or other).
November 30, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
6. Harvey wrote:
Plain and simple - let’s pay more attention to that wonderful
November 30, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
God-given computer between the ears of our children which doesn’t need a keyboard at least for a few years. Lets start with 2 + 2 = 4 and then to 2/X=4. Get that brain working first!! Let the computer come in LATER.
7. Jim the Puritan wrote:
Public education died many years ago when the schools began to be run for the benefit of the unions, and not students and their families. Here, virtually all families opt out for private education if they can possibly afford it, even at great sacrifice. Yet the public schools get more and more money and do less and less.
November 30, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
8. CharlesB wrote:
I agree with Sick & Tired. The Government is good at nothing, and we entrust our most valuable resource, our children to them. Duh. What is wrong with this picture?! We need to develop a system of private and parochial schools and vouchers to pay them. The schools will compete to attract students by offering good teaching and programs that matter. Good schools will survive and thrive. Bad ones will fail. In addition, anyone with half a brain knows you cannot teach without imparting mores, morals and values. The problem with state-run public schools is that there is a vacuum of good, wholesome values. They then default to the self-centered, self-esteem, pop psychology model. I have a daughter and daughter-in-law, and several friends who are teachers. They care, but are hindered and discouraged. What a mess.
December 1, 12:59 pm | [comment link]
9. Sidney wrote:
The biggest problem with U.S. public schools is ineffective teaching, according to decades of research.
Ah, yes, the usual ‘research shows.’ Wonder who did that research: people with PhD’s in education, probably - who of course certainly wouldn’t find anything wrong with the fancy new methods that were taught to those teachers, or the educational industrial complex which filtered out effective teaching and teachers.
Public education works fine when run locally, parents are involved, and people with PhD’s in education are removed from the discussion.
December 1, 2:09 pm | [comment link]
10. Bob Lee wrote:
1. Do away with bussing. Children go to neighborhood schools, where their parent (s) can take ownership in the school.
2. End single mother welfare. This will “prod” their to be no more children born for the check. Also, will keep some fathers in the homes. To care for their family and the neighborhood school.
3.Do away with tenure. It is doing to the school district what the unions are doing with the “big three” autos.
December 1, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
11. Little Cabbage wrote:
1. End educating the children of illegal aliens! We need to amend the Constitution to reflect modern realities of transportation and our too-easily crossed borders. A child born in the US should NOT receive automatic citizenship UNLESS both parents are in the country LEGALLY. This change, plus Immediate deportation of all illegal aliens and their kids would take enormous pressure off all our public institutions, including the schools.
December 1, 4:38 pm | [comment link]
2. Public schools in the US are called upon to educate the most diverse student population in the entire world. Of course they ‘lag’ behind countries like practically Sweden and Japan!
3. This rant of ‘the government is good at nothing’ is an outworn slogan, designed to stop intelligent discussion of real solutions.
12. CharlesB wrote:
Little Cabbage, it’s not a rant. It’s a fact. I work with the governemnt as a customer. While there are always a few exceptions, by and large they don’t really care. It’s all about the process and their job security, not the result. I do however completely agree on the citizenship and illegal alien issue. We are the only country in the world that is so lax on this. I recently helped a frind go through the paperwork process to immigrate to Australia. It took him over a year and much money to complete the process. And they made him submit certified documents, offical transcripts, proof of a clean ploice record and proof of his ability to speak English.
December 1, 5:07 pm | [comment link]
13. CharlesB wrote:
Sorry about the typo’s. Forgot to run the spell check.
December 1, 5:08 pm | [comment link]