Every year we spend more money educating the American youth. Every year their performance gets worse! We spend more they get stupider?
I have an immodest proposal to properly educate our children within our budget. This proposal uses the average cost to school a child for one year in the United States of America. According to the U.S. census bureau that cost is $9,866.00 per year. It varies from state to state but the principal will apply in any state. In the 2009-2010 school year it will be well over $10,000.00. his was in 2010, it has changed but you can look up new numbers and so the arithmetic yourselfe. This does not include the cost of the physical school building. It is only the cost of instruction.
We are told that to adequately educate children we need a huge educational establishment with education degree-holding teachers, a massive administration, teacher's aids, counselors and numerous other functionaries. Hogwash!
My father and aunt received an elementary school education better in every way than that provided by the modern public school system. They got this education from my grandmother. She was considered a well-educated woman in the early 1900s -- she had a high school diploma. The town of Westcliffe, Colorado hired her as the grammar school teacher. She taught from 20 to 50 people, ranging in age from five to 65, in a one-room schoolhouse. She taught eight grades, she was the principal, administrator, aid, counselor, janitor and one of the school mule drivers -- they didn't have buses! She put her kids astride the mule with her and meandered from farm to ranch to homestead picking up children and putting them on her mule until she reached the school. Other parents did the same.
We are told that state departments of education are unable to function with only $10,000.00 per kid. More hogwash!
Assume that U.S. Public Schools spend $10,000.00 per kid. Tuition at some of the most prestigious universities in the world costs less than that! With an average class size of 30 students, that is $300,000 per class per year. At an optimal class size of 20 students that is $200,000.00. For a third of that, $66,666.66 you can hire the best teachers in the world. With the rest you can buy textbooks, computers and supplies.
The problem is that the money doesn't get down to the classroom. It gets siphoned off for the multilayer educational administration. I defy you to find a teacher or student who can name a single useful thing provided by the Department of Education's administration that could not be provided cheaper, faster and better by the local school.
My immodest proposal is to make every school a charter school! Under this plan, the departments of education will cease to exist. Each principal will determine for herself how her school will be run. (Notice that when the sex of the person to whom a pronoun refers is unknown I have reversed the grammar rule and used the feminine pronoun. After all, the word "he" really is included in the word "she.") Each school will be organized and run differently.
Parents will be allowed to enroll their children in any school in the state -- public or private. The parents will be responsible for getting their children to school on time. At the beginning of each school year, each principal will be given a budget projection based on the number of children who are enrolled in her school. Every month, she will receive a sum based upon the number of students who actually attended.
Some schools will, of course, develop reputations for excellence. Those schools will be oversubscribed. Parents might be asked to pay a surcharge. These schools will bring in higher revenues.
Other schools will develop a reputation for excellence in certain extracurricular activities. These schools will generate higher revenues.
Some schools will develop a reputation for warehousing children for eight hours per day. Parents will transfer their children to other schools. Revenue will be substandard in those schools and they will soon have a new principal.
At the end of the year, the principal will transfer any excess revenue (profit) to capital improvements, expansion, bonuses for the principal and the teachers or carry it forward until next year.
I would love to spend the next 12 years as the principal of such a school district. My school district would be a high school and its associated feeder schools. I want a district because 12th grade depends on mastery of what was taught in first through 11th grade.
How would I run a school?
First, with the budget we've discussed, $10,000 per student or $200 to $300 thousand per class per a year, I can afford to open the schools a little longer than is traditional.
School will open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. twelve months per year. Of course, no one wants to work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, twelve months a year. I can solve this like most businesses with varying shifts and/or flex time. Curriculum will be developed to fit the month. There will be 12 months of instruction per year. If parents want to withdraw their children for one month for a family vacation or for three monts for farm work they can either take the instuction module home and home school or let their children fall behind.
Parents will get their children to school anytime between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and pick them up or authorize their release at anytime between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Parents will no longer have to suffer the guilt of having "latch-key children."
The curriculum will vary depending on the individual student's development. For the first six years of their education, children will learn the Four Rs and C -- readin', 'ritin', 'rithmetic, reasonin' and computer operations. They will, in other words, concentrate on communicating.
This sounds unpleasant but its not. Humans love to learn. Teach a child phonics and she can immediately read. It will be slow and halting at first but, gradually, she will learn to sight read.
Give her appropriate reading material on subjects that she is interested in and let her read to her peers and to younger children. Then let her write her own stuff and read it to her peers and to younger children. Her audience will enjoy it and her self-esteem will go through the roof. Math is best taught with games and puzzles. All subjects can be used to teach computer operation.
Mandatory core curriculum will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Every teacher is an English, mathematics and computer teacher. There will be no core time wasted for classes in art, science, music, social studies, physical education or band. Teachers will offer instruction in all of these things but for the purpose of teaching the basics. What, to the class, is a history class is, to the teacher, a reading, writing and computer class. What, to the class, is physical education is an arithmetic class. An art class is reading, writing and mathematics. As is music. Social studies is reading, writing and computer. Science is reading, writing, arithmetic, math and computer.
For the next six years of their education, students will learn the arts and sciences, to orient themselves in time and space, and to think precisely and critically. In other words they will learn their culture.
We must remember it is not the purpose of secondary school to give someone job skills. It is the purpose of secondary school to teach the child to learn. In post secondary school or on the job, professors and bosses do not want to have to pour information into a student's or an employee's ear. They want students and employees who are capable or finding and implementing solutions for themselves. Because we are preparing them for the work-a-day world or higher education, classes will be more along the tradition of read, research, lecture, write and discuss.
Students will learn as mandatory core curriculum: geography, natural history, human history, American history, state history, civics, world literature, American literature, algebra, plane geometry, solid geometry, trigonometry, calculus, logic, biology, physics and chemistry. This mandatory core curriculum will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. and between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. those students, both elementary and secondary, who are performing below standard will have guided study. Those students, and only those students, who are performing well in their core courses will be offered extracurricular classes in art, literature, science, social studies, swimming, dancing, boxing, archery, rifle marksmanship, pistol marksmanship, football, basketball, baseball, Spanish language and culture, Japanese language and culture, Chinese language and culture, Vietnamese language and culture, or any other subject that can generate sufficient interest to be viable. Parents may be asked to subsidize the cost of some of these extracurricular courses.
At the end of this 12-year regimen, my schools will produce students with test scores that are off the chart. We will be an inspiration to schools all over the state, the nation and the world. We will send the educational establishment back to the basics where it belongs.