As a former union official and a father of four children, I can relate in a personal way to the struggle in Chicago over the responsibility of the education of children. Our society has enacted laws that require the education of children to a certain age so with few exceptions parents do not have the choice of not submitting their children to the state to be educated. Home study is a rare exception and not a viable option for uneducated parents. The struggle in Chicago is the degree of accountability for the teachers who are well paid to perform the job for which hired and educate the children to acceptable levels.
I am torn between holding the educational system accountable for work performed to the expected standards no different than any other service that I am billed for. It would be totally unacceptable to be told that even though I am billed for the repair of my auto, that it cannot be fixed. If I were required to submit my car to EZ Repair auto shop, be billed accordingly, and the car returned in worse condition it would be unacceptable. Certainly the way I drive the vehicle and preventive maintenance would be factors, but I would expect that these issues would be identified in advance before I was billed for complete restoration.
The education of my child is not tantamount to the replacement of the braking system but there are similarities. In a capitalistic society, compensation is rendered for results. Chicago teachers are unionized so the demand for adequate compensation for work performance is negotiated and the salary of $76,000 per year has been agreed to as mutually acceptable. The abysmal results are that 40% of the students do not graduate and only 8% of 11th graders meet the standards of college acceptance. This is totally unacceptable and is not adequate exchange for the agreed to payment of $76,000 per year.
An alternative solution is the culling of children with negative personal circumstances and not wasting the educational investment. Many can be identified in advance based on family structure, addictions, family wealth, environment, role models and other factors that influence learning ability and desire to learn. But is this an acceptable solution, to identify children as incapable of learning? At what point does this adversity to learning occur, at birth? The bigots would say it’s genetics, but there are so many glowing exceptions that “that dog won’t hunt.” There are exceptions and a notable few are able to escape their environments and learn. But the vast majority goes on to fill our prisons, prey on society and engage in uncivilized activities, adding nothing positive to the community at large. Many can be identified early on based upon behavior, associations and environment.
Perhaps a solution worthy of consideration is the extraction of identified children from their environment that fosters negative influences and applies schooling in a structured setting that is not negated by the daily return to the anti-social factors. We routinely accept that college education more often than not occurs a distance from “home.” Is there something magical about the 13th year of education vs. the 3rd year where one has positive influences over the remaining 18 non-school hours of the day while the other must constantly fight the counterproductive factors that more often than not overpower the school day? The cost would be expensive, but when adding the total cost imposed on society by uneducated drop outs the financial, personal and human savings would be tremendous.
Instead of testing the children there would be an evaluation of the parents and a decision made as to the environment that the child would return to after schooling. Failing to meet minimum standards would result in the child returning to a structured environment after school instead of the chaos that often currently exists. The dysfunctional parent would be limited to sleep overs and weekends.
This would be revolutionary for the poor and the middle class as rich parents presently board their children at an early age and they do not drop out in the 9th grade, engage in drive by shootings or add to the overcrowding of our prisons. And by all accounts, they form normal relations with their parents. Or we can continue down the current bath with the option of blaming someone. In Chicago, it’s the teachers but it could be the politicians who do not maintain every neighborhood so that it is conducive to learning. We could accept the fact that learning does not begin when the school bell rings and lessons learned before and after school contribute to the type of human being that emerges. But when all else fails, we can blame someone. That is the true American way and that is what we are doing in Chicago; it’s the teachers, stupid!