Home
Sometimes it feels as if our school system is at war with parents, and winning. The kids are just the ammunition.

Take homework, for example. Most schools load up the kids with hours of homework, which ruins a family's quality of life after school, putting parents in the position of being bad cops from the time school is out until bedtime. The kids are stressed, overworked, and tired. You might assume there is a scientific basis for assigning so much homework. Does it make our nation more competitive on the International playing field? Answer: Nope. In fact, the Charter School down the street, that presumably looked into best practices, gives kids time during the school day to complete all of their assignments.

Now suppose your kid joins a sports team, or band, or competitive cheerleading, or just about anything. You'll find yourself spending weekends out of town for tournaments and competitions. You might be booking hotels for overnight stays, and generally building your life around these occasions. I will acknowledge that for an elite student athlete/musician/mathlete/whatever, the opportunity to compete with the best in the state might help secure a college scholarship. But parents know early on if they have a scholarship-winning sort of child, and most do not. Most parents just want their kids to be active and stimulated, and to have some meat for college applications. For that, do they really need to travel across the state? Where is the scientific basis for the notion that Joe Average Kid is made into a better human being by playing soccer against kids that are six hours away by car?

Things don't get better after high school. The cost of college is absurd, and half of the value of the degree involves the brand recognition of the school. Worse yet, the best classes fill up early. If society started from scratch to design a system of higher education, I can't imagine it looking anything like the current system.

Interestingly, society probably has all of the knowledge it needs to fix the problems I mentioned. And parents are probably the strongest block of voters in the country. That tells me the real problem is a lack of leadership. Once again, I must reluctantly step into the void.

When I'm president, I will use the power of persuasion to encourage schools to adopt the best practices of the Charter Schools. I'm assuming Charter Schools have less homework and fewer unnecessary competitions on the road. But more generally, I'll follow whatever direction the science points to. I'll also use my powers of persuasion to come up with a useful ranking of colleges by value instead of brand. In time, that sort of comparison should drive down costs and perhaps attract innovative competition. Value rankings already exist, but making those rankings more important will require leadership.

Vote for me and I'll end the war on parents.
 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +136
  • Print
  • Share

Comments

Sort By:
Mar 30, 2012
It's weird that you describe this as a 'war on parents'. This sounds more like a war on children.

But it makes more sense to advertise it this way, because it means tapping directly into a huge target demographic by appealing to their biggest desire (their kids' success), while also promising that parenting will become easier as a result of this change.
 
 
Mar 28, 2012
I graduated from a school very similar to a charter school. They gave us an average of about 2-3 hours of homework each night. However, we did have a forty minute class period dedicated to doing homework. By having this much homework and participating in extra curricular activities, my friends and I quickly learned the value of time management. It is totally possible to have a lot of homework and participate in other activities.
By the time kids are in high school, they are able to think for themselves for the most part. They have figured out that if they do their homework, they will get a better grade. The parents should not have to be hovering over their children in high school.
 
 
Mar 26, 2012
Ranking schools may be the problem, not the solution. The skyrocketing of the prices of highly-ranked colleges happened at about the time that US News & World Report published the first list of college rankings (1983). Being ranked highly allowed colleges to raise their tuition.
 
 
Mar 21, 2012
Many factors go into the direction of our educational system, and most of them are not at all helpful for the child's future. First of all, bureaucrats/school boards determine school curriculum, that tells us all we really need to know right there. At a deeper level, public education is really more about social indoctrination, Making sure these kids grow up to be good obedient subjects of the regime. Make sure they don't learn how the system really works so that some day they won't decide to attempt to upset the status quo. Never expose them to anything that may cause them to question the society's value system. Don't teach them what philosophers have said about corrupt societies for thousands of years.
Don't teach them how to be a discerning voter at election time, Keep their critical thinking skills at the simplest level possible.
If the schools teach your kids to read rite and do some rithmatic, that is probably about all you can realistically hope for. For anyone that is truly interested in becoming educated, you must do it on your own.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2012
Scott, have you read John Taylor Gatto's "An Underground History of American Education?" It's actually free, on the web. I'd describe the author as somewhere between liberal and radically independent. One of his main premises is that public education in the USA was essentially established to create a mass of mindless, obedient, cookie-cutter individuals for a mass production, corporate economy. That's why it was partially financed and strongly backed by people like the Rockefellers initially.

So a model that controls tons of kids' time and overworks them? Sure fits right in to the current corporate culture of 80 hour work weeks with unpaid overtime. I would have thought the author of Dilbert, which has touched on such topics for years, would have caught on to this.

Public education is NOT about educating kids. Gatto explains that what we have is "schooling," not "education," and the difference between the two. So when politicians say they are "pro education," they're really just "pro schooling," overpaying public unions for underwhelming results. I'm sure there are good teachers who earnestly believe they are helping (I had a great teacher every now and then, although that was 20 years ago).... but the system is so horribly broken that one good teacher can only make a limited difference, at best. And it still doesn't fix the fundamental problems.

It really starts at home -- but now a lot of kids don't have basic skills (math, phonics) before even getting to school. So the schools train and socialize kids in herds before they've really developed, and what does it make? A herd. Weren't you the author who once wrote the punch-line, "So, what's it like to be a member of a mindless horde?" (or something like that)
 
 
Mar 20, 2012
Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education. - Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
 
 
Mar 20, 2012
Drowlord, from what I've learned, in and around the 1860's, the upper class in the US started sending their kids to those old family European schools. By the Wilson admin, the goals of college were to make kids as unlike their parents as possible... it's these two things that really gave communism/socialism/fascism/progressivism a foothold in the US.

Phantom II, good point. We already have a liberal progressive in office and you would hope that the public would learn, but they won't. Still, it's too soon for more of a Carter-Obama style president... especially since Obama is still in office.

webgrunt, I just finished reading Lies the Government Told You and frankly Nixon did what every modern president does, he just got caught. Sadly it's those other things that are worse if you ask me.



Scott here's a hypothetical plan for you: the department of home schooling. Let parents choose their own textbooks (so long as the kids can read, type, and do some algebra the other stuff should be fine either way). Then for every parent (keep it general neutral) that stays home to school said children they get the wages and benefits of a teacher. So if a single parent wants to stay and home and educate their kids to make sure the kids end up well, they can and get paid for it. Just make sure the kids have the basic skills in order for the cash to keep coming.

Next thing you do is create a right-wing Parent's Union which can clash with the teacher's union and keep your Department of Home Schooling around. You come out as pro-parent, pro-student, and pro-union at the end of the day.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2012
Just read 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell. I think he would disagree with your analysis on homework/more work (not) adding value to a child's education. See the section of that book on KIPP charter schools.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2012
Scott: Unrelated to this topic, but is your blog's RSS feed broken? The 'most recent' post there is about Dilbert's new mashup site. Seems like it cratered a week or two ago
 
 
Mar 20, 2012
@ardent_eccentric

I'm generally forgiving about grammar and so forth in interweb postings, but when you are lambasting hardworking - whether you think they are right or not - education professionals it would be nice if you could at least get the basics right. Your post really made me cringe.

 
 
Mar 20, 2012
I agree 100% with every word written by Scott in this blog. He has my vote. Our public schools are disfunctional and our most prestigious universities are living off the fat of society by means of their reputations. I student committed to giving his or herself a good education does so by their own hard work. Intelligence helps but it still plays second fiddle to ambition when it comes to getting a good education.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2012
The big secret of America's failure in the school system is that we do it differently from everyone else. Hypothetically, America copied the "liberal arts education" model from Europe at some point in our distant past, but it turns out that very few European universities teach so many topics with so little practical use -- primarily schools meant for old money families. Harvard was the American equivalent. Most American Universities ended up copying it, and our pre-college school system started catering to the Harvard model of education.

Our schools are primarily trying to turn our kids into philosophers and rennaissance gentry, rather than a functional work force.

The vast majority of schools in Europe have a far more practical approach because they have far more practical goals. They do almost no humanities, and most classes try to teach general skills or specific skills that apply to some kind of vocation. Most students have a career in mind during secondary school. Post-secondary education for most people in Europe is a vocational school, and unlike in America, there's no shame in that. In Finland, engineering is a vocational program.
 
 
Mar 20, 2012
"the Charter School down the street, that presumably looked into best practices." Presumably? Are you planning to find out about the science yourself or has the laziness of real politicians already infected you? Based on their behavior, real politicians seem to believe nothing is worth doing until after they are elected. And after the election they consider the problem solved if they create a department to figure out what to do.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2012
I'm an American living in England. My company pays for my kids to attend British private schools. The kids do all sports and homework at school and rarely finish later than 5:30pm. I am not looking forward to moving back to American public school where I have to fight my kids to do their homework at night and then bus them around to baseball and soccer practice after that.
 
 
Mar 19, 2012
@Scott – Have you not checked? The results from charter schools are disappointing at best. Most, when controlled for the background of the students, perform worse than the schools the students came from.
@HumilityRocks – where do you get the idea that home school test scores ‘rock’? I checked this out several times last year. Overall ACT scores for home-schooled children are a little higher than the national average, BUT a) only 3% or so of home-schooled children take it, versus about 50% nationally; b) the verbal scores are higher, but quantitative scores are lower than the national average; c) the ACT scores of the home-schooled are lower than the average in say, Minnesota.

[My understanding is that each Charter school is trying its own thing. I would expect the average performance to be unimpressive, even worse than public schools. But the whole point of the system, as I understand it, is that like evolution, the best practices will emerge from the multiple tests. So what matters is whether the best Charter schools outperform the equivalent public schools. And of course I would look to other countries for best practices as well, but I suspect we'd find the main difference is in the parents. -- Scott]
 
 
Mar 19, 2012
American schools no longer educate. Grades and test scores don't mean jack crap in regards to intelligence.

Standardized test do nothing but test how good the student is at taking standardized test. And GPA's are only an indicator of how good of a ass kisser the student is.

And with more and more testing required, the more and more less time the teachers have to teach critical thinking and logic...

I can teach a parrot to quote math formulas . Bud does the parrot understand the formula and possible multiple solutions to the formula? "LOGIC"

Can the parrot question the data given to it. "CRITICAL THINKING"

Most Probably not.

Their is so much emphasis on grades that kids learn only how to get good grades.

What person would you whether have work for you?

Kevin, An individual with straight A's But cheated half the time, who Never questioned, cant remember a single thing from past semesters, who cant change a car tire, But is really good at taking test.

Or Bill, A C , student, who didn't cheat; remembers most the material, can change a tire, also take apart and rebuild an engine. And who can teach and simplify compliment immunity to a friend in nursing school more efficiently than the Phd professor at the university. But isn't nearly as good as kevin at taking tests.

Strait A's sound good.

Thats about it.

"Sound good"

To bad all the Bills are always looked over...
 
 
Mar 19, 2012
American schools no longer educate. Grades and test scores don't mean jack crap in regards to intelligence.

Standardized test do nothing but test how good the student is at taking standardized test. And GPA's are only an indicator of how good of a ass kisser the student is.

And with more and more testing required, the more and more less time the teachers have to teach critical thinking and logic...

I can teach a parrot to quote math formulas . Bud does the parrot understand the formula and possible multiple solutions to the formula? "LOGIC"

Can the parrot question the data given to it. "CRITICAL THINKING"

Most Probably not.

Their is so much emphasis on grades that kids learn only how to get good grades.

What person would you whether have work for you?

Kevin, An individual with straight A's But cheated half the time, who Never questioned, cant remember a single thing from past semesters, who cant change a car tire, But is really good at taking test.

Or Bill, A C , student, who didn't cheat; remembers most the material, can change a tire, also take apart and rebuild an engine. And who can teach and simplify compliment immunity to a friend in nursing school more efficiently than the Phd professor at the university. But isn't nearly as good as kevin at taking tests.

Strait A's sound good.

Thats about it.

"Sound good"

To bad all the Bills are always looked over...
 
 
Mar 19, 2012
Oh, Lordee, the "Scott for President" thing again. OK, your self-appointed political advisor (me, in case you've forgotten) must once again shake the dust off my consultant's suit and counsel you on your new platform plank.

In a word, forget it. This school thing is a loser. Here's why:

The first thing any presidential candidate needs to do is to secure your base. Since you are basically running as a progressive liberal, you need to hog-tie the 21% of Americans who self-identify as liberal into backing you. Going after public education is the wrong thing to do.

In his just-released book, "Public Education: The Final Solution in the Conquest of America’s Ideals" Jeffrey Wick, a principal in Bowling Green, Virginia (yes, naysayers, Virginia, not Kentucky) posits that public education's main goal is to undermine the foundation of America so its population will accept America becoming a socialist country. So saying something against public education is working against your voters' core beliefs. A loser for sure.

Do you think telling one of the most powerful liberal-backing unions in the country, the NEA, that their system basically sucks is how to get them on your side? Not only that, but once the CTA (California Teachers' Association union) gets wind of it, you'll be the first liberal presidential candidate to lose California since McGovern.

Not only that - the only ones who will be pleased with your idea (get rid of homework) is kids, and I hate to be the one who has to tell you this, but kids don't vote.

So quick like a bunny, print a retraction of this column and say your site was hacked by some political rival, and that these weren't really your words. You're welcome.

 
 
Mar 19, 2012
Why wait until you are president to design a better college ranking system? Why not design the perfect system based on value and then solicit a national brand to partner with to give it credibility and publicity -- Bankrate.com might be a great platform from which to launch a value based ranking system.
 
 
Mar 19, 2012
Feeling a bit stressed while taking the kids to soccer practice, are we?
 
 
 
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog