The Education ‘Crisis’
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 10/13/02

  Since the dawn of my existence I have been aware of this rudimentary fact- at least every election season: that American schools are a disaster, are in crisis, are in need of more funding, that the next generation is in ‘jeopardy’, etc. Oddly, politicians & parents only focus on this ‘issue’ during the fall elections. Why? Well, probably because the ‘crisis’ does not exist.
  Does anyone think, for a nanosecond, that if our education system were in crisis, that the taxpaying public would not fund whatever is needed? Of course. But Right Wingers like to scream ‘crisis’ as an excuse to divert money away from a public education system that they see as Godless, humanistic, & plain-old evil. The fact that the public school system harbors a growing percentage of minorities, foreigners, & poor ‘white trash’, is just happenstance. The tacit assumption is that Social Darwinism- via AIDS, ODs, drive-by shootings, etc.- will weed out those dregs anyway. & their Left Wing counterparts are no better. They scream for more funding because they envision schools not as merely places for education, but to be all-purpose entities that build self-esteem, an awareness of all nature, politically correct indoctrination, & other things schools were never designed to do.
  In truth, the public school system, generally & nationwide, has never been better. Children today are far more wise & educated in the basics- math & language skills (not to mention ‘softer’ social skills)- as well as computerese, plus knowing & understanding far more of the realities of the world- politically & sexually- than they are given credit for. If you were to go backward in quarter-century increments & take representative samples of the child populations, & compare their skills, in every instance you would see growth from the founding of this nation & earlier.
  HOLD THE HELL ON THERE, PARDNER! you scream. When I was a kid we knew this & that. Today’s kids are dolts! This is known as the Good Old Days Syndrome. It’s simply not true. BUT THEY HAVE STATISTICS THAT SHOW A TERRIBLE DECLINE! Yes, but- again- not true. Statistics, before 1980, never showed a complete picture of the child population’s education. The only kids charted were white middle class kids in big cities & suburbs. Minority & poor white kids, especially in the MidWest, South, & other rural areas, were rarely or never included. This TERRIBLY skews the figures. Do you really believe the John-Boy Waltons (of the Depression Era) knew more than your average ‘gifted kid’ of today? Puh-leeze! Recall that even the more well-to-do section of the child population routinely had their educations include such challenging subjects as penmanship, citizenship, & home economics.
  & anytime you put up the marks of a group selected for their economic & sociologic advantages, & weigh them against a truly demotic group, you will see the Chosen group fare far better.
  More money is not needed for public education- just a wiser spending of it. The Radical Right rails against teachers unions, & expects teachers to work for sheer altruism, yet wants the absolute BEST- even as they declaim that the only way to run a corporation well is to pay HANDSOMELY for the best out there. I went to public school in New York City’s Dark Ages of the 1970s & early 1980s. Teacher’s wages were shit- I know, because me & my pals had access to the school’s computer system & saw what they were paid. & believe me, the system got what they paid for- the teachers WERE terrible 4th raters. All the good prospects left for private industry. Less bureaucracy & BETTER- not MORE- teachers are needed. A good teacher can effectively bring good results from a class of 40 whereas a bad teacher cannot make achievers from a class of 12 or 15. Period!
  But, the Loony Left is just as bad. Let’s face it, they care more about producing smiling, narcotized, self-satisfied morons than intelligent, educated, free-thinking (if sometimes- & hopefully- irascible) malcontents. Just where did these PC Elitists get the idea that it’s a school’s job to tell a 12 year old girl it’s more important to ignore Madison Avenue than to know who the hell the street was named for (James- Prez # 4- BTW)? & all this demand for more money for ‘Special Education’. Since when did every kid become special? I’m 37 & I recall schooling with mostly morons & schlubs. My parents recalled the same. & if I look around, there are precious few ‘special kids' out there. Granted, they are smarter than the bands of nincompoops that came in earlier generations- but, hey, as a whole the lot ain’t sporting Blue Ribbons. & recall this bit of logic- if every kid is ‘Special’ then no kid is “Special’. Yes, every child is unique to the 100th %. But it’s that last 1-2% that’s the differentiator- not the 98-99% commonalities. The problem is that in telling these kids that they are all special you are logically telling them they are all the same- there is no emphasis on the unique skills each kid owns. How many a mom has ruined a fat daughter’s trust in her by lying to her that she’s ‘beautiful’ (on the inside) & all those boys who have wallflowered her are just missing out? & how many a Little League dad has berated, & riled Oedipal hatred in, his grease-monkey destined son for bringing home a hard-studied-for (& best-he-could-do) C+, by expecting no less than A’s & Law School? Well, that’s a thing of the past, as now the Left wants teachers to do the lying for the parents.
  But, get this, because the Fascists (er-Right Wing) want to decimate teachers unions, the people left to motivate & inspire these deluded young’ns are the dregs of the prior generations. Yippee. So, we are liable to end up with the worst possible scenario, right? Well, no. Fortunately, despite alternating crisis modes, the youth of today are inundated with more information than kids even 12-15 years ago could have conceived of. The human mind is plastic & attunes to this by getting larger. The information frenzy feeds on itself. Yes, the majority is crap- but the purview of information is so far more expansive than it was in days past that a young brain that devotes itself to using only 15-20% of its capacity for learning will still dredge more knowledge than a 100% used brain of days yore. More kids today are multilingual, have computer skills, know more of sex, drugs, & pop culture, as well as more of math, science, & language. Yes, the average kid will not know the capital of Montana, whether a cursive m has 2 or 3 humps, or Archimedes’ claim to fame- but they can tell you that a black hole is a star that has collapsed, that the Civil War was really about slavery, & that dinosaurs did not share the earth with mankind. Such a crisis. Given that, I’ll take more ‘kids in crisis’ (as the Leftists would cry!) who write like chicken scratch!

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