Fixing Our Schools
Originally published in The Escarosa Press newspaper print edition and Updated on April 3, 2020
Late in the 80’s a friend and I discussed the virtues of home schooling while I helped him with his new computer. During that discussion we came to the conclusion that the day of traditional schools was not only out dated, but could one day be eliminated for all but special needs schools. Thirty years later with high speed internet, we are fastly approaching the obvious conclusion of what we know as the public education system
Firstly, with the advent of teachers unions, teachers have become more focused on their own financial and benefit rewards than the education of our nation’s children. Though not in whole, to be fair, but by human nature the constant negotiation for more, more, more only takes from the children themselves. Every dollar going to teachers is one less that goes to books, equipment, and facilities. With a national average wage of $52K per year and having three months off a year, in many districts, teachers are hardly underpaid.
The only way to prevent the vampiric leeching of money that should be spent on education is to increase taxation. The problem is that there is a finite amount of taxation that can be endured by society before faculty salaries overstep the tax base. There is only so much taxation any society will endure before voter backlash brings in those willing to reduce that burden.
It is for this reason that our nation must now undertake a paradigm shift in the way we educate our children and our citizens. Our feet are already wet with the advent and availability of home schooling and online internet courses, but the real shift will, or should, come more quickly as state and federal governments look for ways to be efficient and reduce expenditures.
Teacher unions are fighting for their lives as they refuse to move into the future, looking to find any example of failures of home schooling to save teacher jobs, and their own as well. No need for teachers, then no need for the union. However, like the buggy whip manufacturers of Henry Ford’s time, it is time for governments, teachers, and unions to accept a future that is needed now.
This future is a time without schools as we know it. Educational facilities will always be needed for special needs children and adults much in the way the Area Retarded Citizens organizations operate now. But for the average healthy child and adult, schools and large colleges are no longer needed.
Learning is not about arbitrary standardized tests that teachers teach students to pass, nor is it about hammering away in a limited amount of time to pass or fail a grade level. Teaching is to provide the student a way to learn that fits their style, intellect, and interests. Learning should be geared toward helping the student find the path that they want to be on and giving them the tools that promote the successful acquisition of the necessary knowledge and skills to meet that end.
Maximum efficiency and standardization could be achieved by gathering the best teachers in the country to record and develop online accessible courses for each student to progress at their own pace. However, there may be consideration to use teams of regional or state level education specialists to develop the curriculum. By doing so you eliminate all the costs of schools, faculty, transportation, and support systems.
Eliminating the costs involved with building, maintaining, and securing schools will save over half a trillion dollars per year. This money can be invested in fiber optic internet to every home allowing true high speed internet to every person in the US. This will give the bandwidth necessary for video, audio, web conferencing, and more. For low income homes that qualify, this money can be used to provide the internet for free to ensure no child is truly left behind.
This is very important as local governments are cutting hours and even considering eliminating libraries that are in place for those who cannot afford books for themselves. These cuts and closures truly disenfranchise the poor and minorities disproportionately. By providing internet to every home, you levelize the accessibility of knowledge, culture, and education that will be lost as libraries go the way of the dodo bird.
In addition to the billions saved, there will be health impacts as well. Without schools, millions will be saved as communicable illnesses are reduced as students aren’t herded into buses and classrooms intermingling with each other, teachers, and support personnel. Fewer cases of flu, cold, lice, and other maladies will increase the productivity of students who are learning, and not sick.
The 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic has already endangered children, staff, teachers, and possibly eliminated a full graduating class from our nations history. A fully online school system would not have been affected in this manner by an emergency of this type. Students would still graduate, and not have their whole lives shifted by one or more years.
Additional savings are going to be realized as we eliminate school boards and all the state retirements that are paid long after the politicians, faculty, and supports staff no longer directly contribute to the educational system. This fact is the biggest barrier to the needed change as politicians along with the unions will be hard pressed to give up their positions of power.
Getting rid of costly schools also eliminates an environment that fosters many societal harms like bullying and peer pressure to smoke, do drugs, join gangs, and much more. These will still exist, and occur in neighborhoods, parks, and extracurricular activities, but they will have a higher chance of being negated by higher ratio of adults to children in these settings. There’s also the added benefit of eliminating targets of terrorism and school violence like that of Columbine High School, not to mention the reduced likelihood of pedophile teachers having access to children.
So we migrate from schools and libraries to a home based educational system that is self paced, monitored, with educational resource (call) centers staffed with “teachers” to provide one on one support as students need assistance beyond the coursework. These centers can also provide the truancy monitoring to keep students engaged and attending as required. This will reduce the number of teachers needed from seven million to a few thousand nationwide, even if we implement this plan at a state or regional level.
Realized savings can also increase funding to extracurricular activities that are in danger of being eliminated in some districts. Be it sports, arts, trade skills, or clubs, by increasing funding to allow all “students” to participate free of charge will maintain the social development skills necessary to interact functionally with others in society.
There will be many more changes and expenditures to ensure students have a sense of self, the interactive skills to be successful in society, and learn teamwork, but these will still be vastly more affordable than our current system. Community centers can once again fill the need that schools often do today.
Getting it Done
Implementation can be started with the existing home schooled children and perfected. Then the elimination of charter schools, as they represent a smaller portion of the student population. Finally we eliminate schools that are already slated for closure and in small communities before finally transitioning the remainder over time.
It will take pressure from those who realize the folly and danger of continuing the existing way of doing things. It will take pressure on your state representatives, senators, Governor, and those in the federal government to make the change happen in the face of opposition from unions, teachers, bus drivers, janitors, and especially the school board members. This is going to happen sooner or later. So I ask, will you be a buggy whip maker, or do you like the current costly and inefficient assembly line manufacture of students?