Monopolies Never Work–Public School Model

 For more than eighty years I have been a rider on the merry-go-round called education. Experts with many ideas have jumped off and on. The dashing horses have been painted new colors and given new names. Sometimes the horses were replaced with elegant carriages. But the music didn’t change much; the same melodic sounds remind you that it is still a merry-go-round. People come and ride because it is nostalgic. Workers come and go and try to change the music, but powerful groups like the music as it is.

 The monopoly continues. Before compulsory education, literacy rates were higher than before this compulsory monopoly was created. Millions of American over the age of sixteen can’t read or fill in simple applications with personal data. Many can’t write simple letters or messages or do simple arithmetic problems. This monopoly has created a system of protections for unfit, unwilling, and non-productive personnel; unions not only protect these people, but they make it difficult for the great committed people to do their jobs. Student learning suffers. It is a puzzle, but the puzzle doesn’t have many pieces.

 There is a local union supported by a state union supported by a national union supported by union philosophy in general. There are members in all these unions, many who would not belong to unions if they had choice. I know that many union members would not want their dues to be spent on political campaigns. Witness the millions spent this year by the teachers’ unions, but just on one political party.  These are the wonderful professionals who are committed and passionate about their work. They spend their time and energy helping young people accomplishes their dreams. But their environment is clouded by the demands of the negotiations, the multi-level government requirements, and the malaise of many who are forced into this monopolistic monolith, public education.

 In addition, the more that we try to be all things to all people, the less we are to anyone. State directed curriculum and state and national testing have added great burdens for our teachers and students. Legislation is passed because of pressure from one group or another. Trying to meet the various directives buries educators under mountains of paperwork that take valuable time from teaching and learning activities. And now we have Common Core.

One might ask how this entity stays in business, why parents don’t make other choices. Public schools are protected with government compulsion. Children are forced to attend; parents are forced to pay school taxes, school boards must negotiate with the unions, and unions oppose any school choice options that appear. In addition, private schools are out of the reach financially of most families. Charter schools particularly are opposed by the unions, and therefore, by many teachers who enlist the aid of their students’ parents to also oppose them.

 Until this monopoly is broken, or by some magic, choice becomes a viable option for all, our merry-go-round will only see surface changes, new paint, a new melody here and there. The price for our young learners may become more critical. We now must add the fact that we have a carrousel not only not suited to many riders of the last century, but one now playing music that is not even recognized by the natives of the digital learners of the 21st century.

 

Perspective

          Each morning I go outside to check the temperature, take a little walk to the end of the house to check any gentle breeze that might have ventured out in the early morn, and just generally take a look around. Each day it is amazing to see what lessons in perspective stare at me.  It’s all there in the vista before me. And each morning I have a new opportunity to check my sense of proportion, my seems of values, the near and the far, the obscure and the evident. 

          Each morning I am given another opportunity. I can choose the way I look at the scene before me, the way I think about God’s perspective placed before me, and the way I feel about what I see. This morning at my first trip outside, the fog obscured everything beyond a few yards. What an opportunity; I can take that obscurity through the rest of my day or I can look to the bright light in the east and have the faith of the bird that sings before the dawn, knowing the dawn is coming.

          After a cup of coffee, some breakfast, a shower and it’s time for my grateful walk. This morning I stopped at the end of the driveway, sat down and marveled at the landscape. The sun was warm and the breeze was ever so slight. The sun was pushing against the fog, and the fields below were half foggy and half sunny. The trees were declaring their satisfaction with the moisture of the night as the drops of water fell from their leaves and fronds with each gentle movement from the breezes.

          As I continue my walk, the lessons of the seasons declare their self-evident truths. The jade plants are getting ready for their season; they will be covered with small white blossoms. The birds of paradise are beautiful. A few lilies hang on to their season. And of course, the mums tell you in bright fall colors that it is their season. The orange trees are laden with fruit, and the roses are hanging on to their season, some bushes  better than others.

          And by the time that I finish this blog, the sun will have won the battle with the fog. It will be pretty clear. And how shall I view all of this? It’s all a matter of perspective.