Public Schools in Troubled, Monopolistic Waters

Public schools are in troubled waters, troubled, monopolistic waters. Many feel public schools cannot be fixed because of the structure. Schools are government owned and government operated monopolies which are populated with learners who  are  forced  to attend. Parents cannot, for the most part, even send their children to any school in their district; they have a designated school and must get an intra-district transfer if they choose another school than the one designated

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 reminded you that it was still a monopolistic merry-go-round. It remained the only merry-go-round in town

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 some 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 that an enterprise so important to everyone would not offer choice for its participants. It is strange that a system so important continues to remain a monopoly that has the power through unions to protect people who should not be with our children.     

There is a local union supported by a state union supported by a national union supported by union philosophy in general. There are many members in all these unions who would not belong to them if they had choice. These are the wonderful professionals who are committed and passionate about their work. They spend their time and energy helping young people accomplish 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.               .

One might ask how this entity stays in business, why parents don’t make other choices. Public schools are protected through 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.

It is for all of these incredible digital natives like my grandchildren and the thousands of other 21st century learners, that this immigrant to the digital generation writes these words. I have spent my professional life trying to make this monopoly called public education less monopolistic, less compulsive, less governmental, and less servile. I put forth my ideas with joy and enthusiasm. I know that the human spirit is alive; the desire to learn is alive. I know that I have learned to negotiate the shoals of the troubled waters. I know that there are many who teach and learn with passion and purpose. They create the tapestries of their classrooms from the vibrations of the positive energy of their learners.

But we must have this for all learners. Our great country has been successful because of creativity, ingenuity, inventive hearts and minds, and  the pursuit of dreams. But it is sad that much of the ingenious enterprise and the technology that benefits us all has been spawned in someone’s garage and often by a drop-out of our educational system. That is sad. The institutions that profess to educate are often so confining that a mind full of creative ideas and dreams must exit those walls to survive, create, and grow.