Education in Maine is captive to progressive administrative and structural stagnation. Our educational system has become the dream of progressive theorists and has suffered the unintended consequences that come from teaching social theory instead teaching the three “R’s.”
We’ve seen reduced academic achievement and our teachers have become babysitting clerks who waste time filling out forms and adhering to ridged schedules instead of teaching. We enforce zero tolerance policies and remove school officials’ responsibility to be evenhanded in dealing with infractions of school rules. No longer are school officials capable of evaluating an offense and adjusting the punishment to fit the crime.
We’ve also experienced a buildup of administrative overreach that diverts funds from the classroom to administrative personnel who are busy codifying policy based on process rather than classroom excellence. And we teach curricula infused with social engineering theories instead of the accumulated knowledge learned from the millennia of hard won wisdom, wisdom distilled from many destructive attempts to control and direct society.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in progressive educational theory is the belief that the word “public” gives government a constitutional first claim on the American people’s resources to fund government schools. For Progressives, the fact that there is no constitutional grant to government for education is a very inconvenient truth. Inconvenient because there is no correlation between the amount of money administrators demand from the people and the amount of useful knowledge that students accumulate while in school. Educational monopoly on funding pushes administrative costs up while real educational innovation dries up and academic achievement drops.
Progressives say that the Founders wanted public schools to provide for all children, paid for by taxes. Yes and no. Yes, the Founders believed that an educated electorate was essential to self-government. No, the Founders didn’t want the Federal government to fund or make decisions about education. The Founders believed that it is the civic duty of the electorate to educate the public, not the duty of the state and/or federal government to design curricula and enforce rigid standards. The Founders intended the rearing of young children, including their education, to be a parental function initiated and instituted in conjunction with their neighbors at the local level.
A more accurate understanding of the Founders’ philosophies on education is that the educational curriculum and responsibility are with the parents and local community. Given today’s existing school systems and their failure to properly educate our young to be literate in reading, writing, and mathematics, we need to look at alternate systems to educate our young.
In order to introduce a full range of options, the people will have to break the progressive hammerlock on education forged by the “public” school monopoly on tax resources. If we return to the Founders’ concept of civic responsibility for the education of the public, we will come up with a form of funding that links to the student rather than the school system. Parents determining where their child’s education dollars will go will have a profound effect on the education establishment; it will force the education establishment to change from a process-oriented model to result driven education. The competition for student dollars will very rapidly create new schools and improve existing ones. Schools with effective learning and teaching techniques will thrive, and schools that are too hidebound will wither.
Conversely, some schools will develop expertise in educating mainstream students while other schools develop expertise in educating special needs or gifted students. Schools will have the ability to require that parents participate in and support the education of their children. For example, Maine’s charter schools have seen an uptick in enrollment from students with special needs, a sign that recent innovation in public education is already helping underserved students.
Maine’s existing charter schools have waiting lists and use lotteries for admissions when applications exceed allotted enrollment. It would make a lot of sense to expand the charter school system now rather than wait for the current charter restrictions to expire. Unfortunately, the education establishment resists new ideas because they have grown comfortable with their substandard system.
You would think that by now the advocates of these collectivist educational theories would have learned from failures over time. They should have learned that the answer to societies problems do not lie with government, but with freedom of thought and action and the concomitant responsibility for those thoughts and action.
Our education protocols need to change from equality of results to equality of opportunity so that students can develop to their fullest capabilities.