Very few things get my ire up more than our educational system here in the United States. “Oh, but Mr. Elephant”, you say, actually believing my first name is “Annoyed”, “teachers are wooooooonderful…. and don’t you know that I believe the children are our future…?”
Silly person. Sit down and let Mr. Elephant educate you, and by “educate” in that sentence, I mean something completely different from the “education” your children are getting today.
First, let me get this much out of the way: I think the public education system is unconstitutional. I believe our students would be better off if we had a system of privately-held schools that had a profit motivation for producing high quantities of high-quality students. I also think they would do so at a much lower cost than we currently blow on our unbelievably mediocre national school system – over $1.1 Trillion dollars annually on all levels of education from all levels of government – compare that to our Defense Budget of $707 Billion. And yet, here, I am not going to advocate for the dismantling of the system. No, I’m just going to point out what’s wrong with our current system and what we could to fix it.
Pedophiles. Whenever I say that word, I’ll bet you that you start thinking “priests” or “boy scout leaders” or “creepy guy hiding in a white van labeled ‘free candy’”, right? I mean, obviously, the problem of child sexual predators is surely restricted only to those weird and creepy people who do stuff like “pray”, “build fires”, and “drive around in a van advertising free candy”.
OK, I’ll give you the last one.
An organization called “Bishop Accountability” once estimated that 10% of priests were pedophiles. The problem is that they used a very loose interpretation of “pedophile” that included priests who were merely accused of sexual abuse. The real number is probably between 2 and 5 percent. Still a high number, but it’s pretty much equivalent to the rate of the general population. Still – 64% of people, when you say “Catholic Priest” wonder exactly how many children they’ve diddled.
If they’re looking for diddlers, tho, maybe they should look at teachers. There are no hard facts because, shock of shocks, powerful lobbies like the National Education Association have worked to keep government polls from being done. Fortunately, private polling has been done. It is estimated that the percentage of abuser teachers is similar to the general population (between 1 and 5%), but the problem is that while the average abuser is exposed to children for only a brief time, teachers are exposed to children on a daily basis for many hours a day. The result is that between 10 and 15% of students have reported being sexually harassed or abused by their teachers. When the American Association of University Women Foundation interviewed over 1,600 students between 8th and 11th grade, they found that 25% of girls and 10% of boys had been abused or harassed, and identified their abuser or harasser as a school employee. The same poll found that between 1991 and 2000, over 250,000 students had been sexually abused or harassed by a school employee.
The response from the schools? 15% were terminated. 38.7% resigned, changed districts, or retired. 54.3% suffered no ill effects other than a stern talking-to or re-education. While it’s certainly terrible that sexual abuse happens, it’s even more terrible when over 54% of cases are covered up, ignored, or punished with little more than a slap on the wrist. In New York City, teachers accused of sexual abuse of students are put through the district’s disciplinary system, aka “the rubber room”. Basically, they’re sent to a room to twiddle their thumbs, get paid their full salaries with benefits, and wait – often for years – until the district decides what to do with them.
How bad is it in NYC? Well, we have the case of this lovely man, one Roland Pierre. He finally retired last year at the age of 76. He’d spent every day since 1997 in one of the rubber rooms, twiddling his thumbs and collecting his full salary and benefits. Why was he in the rubber room, you may ask? Did he give a rich kid a bad grade? Did he vote Republican? Nothing that heinous, apparently. All he did was call one of his 6th grader ESL students into his classroom, hugged her, kissed her full on the mouth (with tongue), grabbed her boobs, and finally reached under her skirt for a good feel of her downstairs parts. He was arrested and then the school system parked him in a room and paid him $97,000 a year, with full vacation and benefits from the age of 62 (when he could’ve retired) to the age of 76.
And then there’s Alan Rosenfield. This man has a $10 million real estate portfolio and has been deemed a walking danger to children when he perved out, made some lewd comments to 8th graders, and grabbed some girls’ butts. So the NYC schools pulled him out of the classroom and put him in a rubber room, paying him $100,049 a year with benefits (including a currently-estimated $87k annual pension) for the past decade. Again, he could’ve retired at 62, but decided he’d rather, in his own words, give a big F-U to the school system for denying him his rights to grab 13-year-olds’ hinnies.
And then there’s Francisco Olivares. This genius among men impregnated a 16-year-old back in 1978, but avoided any fooferall by marrying her. Over the next 14 years, he molested and took porno pictures of at least 3 more 12-year-old girls. The school system… overturned his conviction on a technicality and later, in 2002, he found himself in trouble again when he fondled yet another girl. This time, the schools struck back hard and the arbitrator gave him a warning not to stand close to students. And then the stuck him in the rubber room and paid him $94,154 a year, plus benefits.
The NYC Schools response, once these controversies were exposed? They shut down the rubber rooms, sent the teachers home, and paid them their salaries and benefits anyway.
It’s like the thin blue line, except with chalk.
- Performance. There’s a very helpful infographic that will pretty much sum up my problems here. Non-collegiate American education spends more money, per student, than any major country on the planet, and yet, our students consistently come in average to below average in comparison to the rest of the planet. Obviously, dollars are not helping matters, as nations who spend less money per student get consistently better performance from those students (Canada, Finland, South Korea, etc.). And yet, at the state and local level, we consistently hear how our schools need more money, more money, more money. I’m fully convinced that if you offered them every last dime, there still wouldn’t be enough money to spend on making students more and more mediocre.
- Indoctrination. Teacher in Rowan County, NC tells her students that it’s illegal to criticize Barack Obama. Another NC teacher, Diantha Harris, used her classroom to bully a student who supported John McCain. And lest we forget: Barack Hussein Obama… mmm… mmm… mmm…A simple question: would this be allowed for George W. Bush? How about Mitt Romney? Ronald Reagan? I’ll go ahead and tell you: hell, no. Private organizations, like clubs and churches, may voice support for those men, but never, ever would a public school be allowed to be used for such caterwauling praise of a sitting President. At least, not a Republican President. And why is that, do you suppose?
- Student discipline. There’s a reason people’ve been complaining for years about how schools aren’t paddling students anymore: paddling works. There’s nothing that’ll cure a desire to bring an AK-47 to the classroom like the thought that you’re going to get your butt whooped by a principal with a 2×4 and the upper arm strength of a major league home run king. You don’t need to be abusive, but with classroom behavior downtrending like a flushed turd, a logical person would have to somehow conclude that maybe, just maybe, a limpwristed approach to discipline isn’t an effective means of discipline. Joe Clark took up a baseball bat and chained the doors to his school and got rid of most of the discipline problems at his school.Of course, there’s more than just political indoctrination. There’s religious indoctrination, too. If you’re opposed to teachers pushing the religion of Christianity on students, then certainly pushing Islam, Buddhism, and Atheism is equally wrong, right? RIGHT?
Those are just 4 areas. There’s more, but let’s just run with those 4 for right now because my solution, frankly, will solve the other problems, too. And like I said above, I’m not going to advocate for dismantling the schools, even though I think it would probably solve these problems much, much more quickly.
- End teacher unions. There is no reason in the modern world for a teacher union to exist except to bully the taxpayers and protect a class of citizens that need no protection.
- End tenure. There is no reason in the world to allow bad teachers to have extra protection in their jobs. Good teachers will keep their jobs by being good teachers.
- Keep testing students. Like it or not, standardized testing is good. It lets us know if your students meet the standards. Yes, there are issues, but at least we have a number we can use to base whether your students are failing to meet, meeting, or exceeding expectations.
- Pay teachers accordingly. If your students are expected to be at level 7 and they’re consistently testing at level 9, you should be paid more. If, however, they’re testing at level 4, you should be fired.
- Hold all school staff accountable. Do regular background checks and drug testing of all school staff, from the janitors to the principals. Hold them accountable if they step out of line.
- Ban political activity by teachers and hold them to the ban. Teachers who push a political agenda should be fired immediately.
- Revoke licenses regularly. If a teacher crosses the line often or egregiously enough, revoke their license permanently.
- Fire limp-wristed disciplinarians. Children need to learn to act like adults and they can’t learn from adults whose solution to discipline problems is to hide in the corner, smile through their teeth, and hippie-hug people into submission. If you have a child who’s a problem, they’re keeping other children from learning. Send the child home with a note that says they’re not to come back until they grow up and if the parent doesn’t like it, they can pay for a private education or homeschool their little angel.
- Give parents an out. If the school their kids attend sucks, then parents need to have an out, via school vouchers and charter schools. At the very least, if those kids end up in charter schools, then you’ll get lower classroom sizes at the schools they leave.
- Keep school boards accountable. In North Carolina, I’m in favor of removing school taxes from city and county budgets and placing that taxation authority in the hands of the school system – but only giving them taxation authority over families whose students use the school system. On one hand, if I have no children, then I am receiving a very limited benefit from the school system. On the other hand, it means that the people who receive the greatest benefit from a public education will have to hold those elected officials responsible for the expenditure of their local tax dollars. In other states, I dunno. Just vote the punks out.
Do you have any ideas to make our schools better? Comment below, man!