The Plight Of U.S. Education: Read All About It - And Weep
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Republished on VDARE.COM on March 10, 2003

Amid a plethora of books, some consensus arises -and it is not cheerful

By John E. McIntyre Sun Staff Originally published February 23, 2003

Examining two dozen books on education - charter schools, teacher unions, vouchers, curriculum - I fell prey to a disturbing thought: If the people educating the nation's children all write like this, then it is time to tremble for the future of the Republic.

An equally disturbing thought followed quickly: Apparently, like everyone else who holds forth on the subject, I was drawing from these books confirmation of views I held going in. Here, up front, they are:

  • America doesn't spend enough on education. Well-off parents in the Baltimore area spend $15,000 a year and more on private schools with class sizes under 20, current textbooks, ample computer and science equipment, elaborate music and drama programs. Per-pupil expenditures for public schools can run a third or quarter of that.
  • Public schools are mismanaged, top-heavy with administrators and laden with teachers of dubious competence. (Get a teacher to talk privately, and you can expect an anthology of horror stories.)
  • Voucher programs and charter school plans can be mechanisms to help middle-class families get something approaching the education available to well-off children. Most poorer families are still going to be left behind.
  • Family circumstances, including cultural values and parental involvement, can count for more than any other element in a child's education.

Easy to opine, difficult to demonstrate. Let's look at the literature.

For the reader seeking simplistic explanations, $24.95 is cheap for The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education by Peter Brimelow (HarperCollins, 336 pages), which is even more tendentious than the title suggests. Brimelow heaves and sweats over the proposition that teacher unions, a sinister manifestation of socialism and "government schools," are at the root of nearly every evil in public schools and American society. He is horrified to discover that unions act to protect the interests of their members (!), that teacher unions shelter incompetents and miscreants of every stripe.

How law, medicine and the church protect incompetents without the benefit of unions is a subject he does not enter into….


John McIntyre, The Sun's assistant managing editor for the copy desk, has taught copy editing at Loyola College since 1995. He attended public schools in Fleming County, Ky., and holds degrees in English from Michigan State University and Syracuse University. He and his wife, Kathleen Capcara, taught their children, Alice and John Paul, at home until age 8, when they entered a cooperative school in which parents were teachers. John Paul, who later graduated from the Park School, is a student at St. John's Annapolis. Alice, who graduated from Roland Park Country School, is studying classics at Swarthmore.

Copyright © 2003, The Baltimore Sun

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