Wednesday, June 23, 2010

About Glenn Beck and public education

Our local talk radio station, KZRG, advertises heavily that it has all of the superstars of radio.

You can start the morning by listening to Glenn Beck, then just keep the dial on the station and hear the mellow tones of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Jason Lewis.

It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but hey, the people who run these radio stations have to make a living and this particular station has done an exemplary job of keeping on top of inclement weather problems and has become involved in numerous local charitable causes, so I am not going to complain too much about its roster of so-called superstars.

Except that one of those superstars, the aforementioned Glenn Beck, wants to put me on the unemployment line, that is if he doesn’t get rid of the unemployment line first.

On his radio program Tuesday, Beck went on a rant about the evils of public education, concluding with the statement, “You’re darned right we should abolish public education.”

And what would be the cardinal sin that public education has committed, according to Beck?

“We’re being indoctrinated in our schools,” Beck said, without any elaboration on how this indoctrination is being done or what evil thoughts we public schoolteachers are implanting in the minds of impressionable children.

This is not the first time Beck has addressed, perhaps the better word would be created, this problem. He has devoted an entire television show to this “indoctrination,” taking a handful of film clips and using them to buttress his cardboard-thin argument against public schools.

When Glenn Beck and others have targeted public education, they base this conclusion on flawed evidence:

American students have fallen behind students in other countries

Every self-serving politician who wants to garner a few votes has used this falsehood to champion calls for educational reform. What none of them ever mentions is what we should be bragging about to the entire world- We are the only nation that fights to make sure that every child, no matter what his or her socioeconomic background receives an education. In other countries, the children are divided at an early age into those who will receive higher education and those who will be delivered into the workforce. We not only provide free education from kindergarten through 12th grade, but we focus on moving a high percentage of our young people into college.

Teachers are filling children’s minds with liberal doctrine

Contrary to what Glenn Beck and other enemies of public education have claimed time after time, year after year, public schoolteachers do not spend every waking moment devising ways to turn empty-vessel schoolchildren into liberal zombies. When I teach writing to students in my eighth grade classes, I don’t care if they agree with me on even one political issue, much less all of them; my sole concern is whether these students can handle the kinds of writing that will help them succeed in high school, college, and beyond.

If you go along with Beck’s assertions, you have to believe that the vast majority of schoolteachers are wild-eyed liberals, insistent on forming everyone in their image. The political makeup of school faculties is largely dependent on the political makeup of the communities in which they live. In Joplin, Missouri, where I teach, the majority of teachers are conservative and have strong family values, even as those terms would be defined by Beck. At lunch each day, the teacher in the room next to mine listens to Rush Limbaugh. Does he teach conservative talking points during his class? Last I heard, the only thing he was teaching was eighth grade science.

Private schools and home schooling are better options for education

Beck even included a reference to the “superiority” of private schools in his rant Tuesday. How often have we heard that private schools do not have the discipline problems of the public schools, that they provide a superior education, and that a higher percentage of their graduates go on to higher education?

As with all myths that are pushed as absolute truths on our society, there is some basis in fact to this one. Private schools do not have the discipline problems that public schools have because THEY CHOOSE THEIR OWN STUDENTS.

Even the ones that pride themselves on providing scholarships to needy students, which is undeniably an admirable thing to do, are failing to point out that the students who receive those scholarships are the ones whose parents care about their children’s futures. The children who cause the most problems in public schools are often the ones whose parents have not provided the solid foundation that children need to succeed in life.

The same reasoning explains why so many of the children who attend private schools go on to higher education. That foundation is there.

Undeniably, many of those who attend private schools receive excellent training. There are superb private schools, just as there are superb public schools.

What Glenn Beck and the others who have made a cottage industry of trash-talking public education never mention is the efforts that public schoolteachers go to make sure that those children who do not have that solid foundation of parental support have the opportunity to succeed. And despite all obstacles, it is amazing how many times public schoolteachers have been able to reach these seemingly unreachable children and head them down the path to success.

While Beck and others have attacked public education at every opportunity, when public schoolteachers defend themselves, they are consistently attacked as being self-serving, union-dominated automatons who are feeding at the public trough. It is sad, and self-destructive that our nation has reached this point.

We live in an American society which has always prided itself, at least until recent years, and justifiably so, on its one-of-a-kind public education system with its guarantee that any child is welcome. Those who feel uncomfortable with that system have always had the option of home-schooling their children, or sending them to a private school. In recent years, however, the public portion of that system has been under attack, labeled as failing through No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, while proponents of funneling public tax money into private schooling and home schooling have continued to whittle away at the foundations that have provided a solid public education to generations of Americans.

The sea change Glenn Beck is recommending, one which would eliminate public schools and send our children to private schools or have them home-schooled, is far more dangerous than anything that is being taught to our children in public schools.

Glenn Beck’s vision of education would be the very definition of indoctrination.


KOOK said...

You make several valid points and I do not completely disagree with you.
One of your most salient points is that the community where a teacher lives or is from shapes the type of teacher they will be. A huge obstacle that even good teachers face is the quality of textbooks.

I am not in favor of ending public education, but I am in favor of elimintating the DOE. I have many teacher and former teachers in my family and they all seem to agree that the quest to meet federal funding guidelines pushes teachers to lower grade standards, teach to tests, teach meaningless lessons, etc.

I believe our area schools are pretty good. But, I do know that my eight-grade niece did a lot of (what I remember doing as)5th and 6th grade work in 7th grade on her way to the honor roll.

Anonymous said...

My wife is a former teacher for R-8. She had been nominated multiple times for a Golden Apple. She loved what she did and her students. She is a believer in hard work as a student which leads to success. She quit teaching when she did not get any backing from her boss when dealing with parents. One year she was even told by her boss that if she did not pass the certain students (give them at least a D) she could be in trouble. The students who were failing at the time were not trying and the parents more or less just shrugged their shoulders. So she changed their grades to appease the boss. I guess its always better to move a kid forward and the quicker they are out of the school system the better.

Unknown said...

"We are the only nation that fights to make sure that every child, no matter what his or her socioeconomic background receives an education. In other countries, the children are divided at an early age into those who will receive higher education and those who will be delivered into the workforce. We not only provide free education from kindergarten through 12th grade, but we focus on moving a high percentage of our young people into college."

Sorry, can't take you seriously after that one. Please educate yourself on how other countries' education systems work. Maybe you should focus on PISA victor Finland first.

Anonymous said...

Johannes is correct (and who could argue) that there are many excellent school systems around the world. However, there is no doubt that one of our strengths (universal education) detracts from some of our reviews. This is true in general, even if the Finnish system is quite impressive in its success using universal education.

I would also point out that the Finnish system only provides universal education until age 16 - which is their tenth grade. The Finnish PISA score measures only age 15, by the way - so the TR is correct in marveling at the U.S. dedication to providing from K to 12th grade. The link shows that with preschool, Finland provides 10 years of education. In the US we provide 13 without preschool. (Not to mention if you hit 17 you're done in Finland, we're willing to break 20.) The next step of schooling is non-compulsory and it is also difficult to get into the "Upper School" or "Vocational School." This corresponds with our upper grades in high school, which are also non-compulsory, but denied to none.

Johannes, I encourage you to save your vitriol.

Mr.Chips said...

If public schools are filling children's minds with leftist propoganda, then the locals are not very good students. No one around the four-states, or indeed throughout the Four States seems to have been affected at all by any such leftist propoganda: they are still proud of how little they learned in public schools, and eager to insure their own children learn no more than they did. They'd rather vote for the freedom to carry a loaded handgun into school than for better pay for teachers, or better schools and colleges for their own kids.

You folks are just hopeless.

Reagan said...

"We not only provide FREE education from kindergarten through 12th grade......"

Typical liberal, teacher, NEA perspective on public funds. How many $Billions$ does Missouri devote to education? Free? Yes, as long as it's someone else's money.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Too bad so many have decided to drink the Glenn Beck Kool-Aid. Less support of public education just means more taxpayer dollars will be spent in the long run on prisons and police and executions, but, hey, in this country that is a perfectly acceptable "entitlement".