“Washington is full of people there to be something, not to do something.” Marco Rubio
Mr. Rubio is correct not only about Washington but also about education, our military, the legislature, and most of our organizations. There are people who follow rules and invent more of them while completing one or another form and in assignments that lead to advancement. In contrast, we depend on the Shermans, Grants, MacArthurs, and Pattons or on such as Gates, Jobs, Ford, and Carnegie. (Or for that matter, stars such as Palin, Ryan, and Petraeus!)
The following is a forecast. It may be upsetting.
1) We have taught our children for 200,000 years without psychologists and masters degrees. Private schools are effective with diverse students but pay teachers less. Home schooling is as effective as public instruction. There are no socialization costs.
2) Teaching children is instinctive, done gladly by most of us, and rewarded most powerfully by the child’s appreciation. This powerful arrangement means that children train adults in what to teach them.
3) Religious belief is instinctive for about one-third of us: failure to meet those needs lead to cults and plant adoration. For that third, religious education is as instinctive and as vital as English and I prefer such education to be Christian or Jewish. Secularism leaves many of us confused and vulnerable and is a waving flag that draws invaders.
4) Traditional education was accomplished in sex-separated classes. The students appear to have done better. Recent evidence is that males fall behind females, even in universities, and American children are internationally competitive before middle school but not after it.
5) Children choose what they learn…it starts at conception and is most evident by the 8th birthday. Further, every one of us learns best what he or she enjoys most. Given the substantial heritability that occurs between parents and children, survey your family for two generations. Identify talents and how they might be used in modern society. (A personal example: orphaned when a year old, my father did personnel work for most of his 29 years in the Army. He also was Sergeant Major and later, Secretary to the General Staff. He frequently was responsible for the Daily Bulletin. I was 36 years old before noticing my career in government-run institutions, my profession in psychology, my enjoying the role of a weekend duty officer, and my publishing newsletters, whether for the institution, the local Porsche club, or for political causes. Each of us is a mosaic of our parents and grandparents and you will often find them looking back at you when you shave in the morning or provide the lenses and filters when you think about your marriage or your work.)
6) Modern education is led by reading and rules. Much of human creativity, however, comes from the non-reading areas of our brain, it is most evident before we reach age 35 and most evident in young males. And a lot of this learning occurs through personal experimentation, not sitting at a desk. Our children now hunt and gather on the computer just as they once did on a grass land.
7) “Effective teachers” move children ahead developmentally but the factors that make a teacher effective are separate from those that inflate his or her resume. “Scarcity” does not apply to talented teachers and there is no need to pay astronomical fees. Our volunteer military operates on duty and aptitude; teaching should be allowed to pivot on those same motives.
8) Technology – tapes, DVD’s, and the Internet – provides all of the best on any topic to be imagined. It is also true that professionals in real estate, auto sales, medicine, the law, and even psychology now find their clients having more specific demands and willing to pay less. Teachers are to have the same fate.
9) Future-oriented districts will abandon the business of instructing and embrace that of assessment and evaluating. I can also imagine corporations that specialize in English or math and sell educational support – “classes” for children of mothers who refuse to teach, mothers who pay tuition for such classes – to many districts.
10) A bit of wisdom from Charles Murray that works against the same needs that make us buy large houses, cars with fins on their rear, or country club memberships. Only between 10-20% of our children can handle college material.
11) Accounting hires people less on the basis of grades but more on the applicant’s performance on a national certification exam in accounting. This example is worth duplicating.
12) Ninety percent of education is funded by local real estate taxes. And parents who opt out of public schools still pay those taxes in addition paying tuition for a private school. Paying twice but receiving only once is blatantly unfair and an excellent kindling for moral indignation.
13) Finally, realtors sell houses for more if there is a nearby expensive school. This is probably one of the main reasons for having an expensive school. And it’s possible that we have expensive teachers because the males who avoided Viet Nam by landing in the Education Department could not support a wife, jumbo TV, car, and foxy wife with what teachers traditionally earned. Unions formed and now occupy some of the most expensive real estate in Harrisburg.
Finn, Chester E. (2008) Troublemaker: A Personal History of School Reform Since Sputnik. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Mathews, Jay (2009) Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
Murray, Charles (2008) Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing American Schools Back to Reality. NY: Crown Publishing.
Plomin, Robert (1994) Genetics and Experience: The Interplay between Nature and Nurture. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Sowell, Thomas (1993/2003) Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas. NY: Simon & Schuster.