Long Gone the Schools of Lore
A comment from Norman to Andrew’s “Cross-Examination” post in the Laffey/Chafee series caught my eye:
… we can’t patch a quick fix on to our education problems. Chafee is right that we have to reinvest in the public schools that made America great. If we send money to private institutions we will further marginalize the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans. Steve Laffey should remember his roots and support the schools that got him out of the middle class and made him a millionaire.
The noteworthy aspect of such arguments is that they present education essentially as a two-dimensional issue: dimension one being public versus private, and (the more substantial) dimension two being money. Take a moment to actually imagine the differences between today’s public schools and the “schools that got” Mayor Laffey out of the middle class — the schools “that made America great” — and it is simply impossible to take the class-warfare rhetoric and the appeals for money seriously.
I’d be surprised, for one thing, to learn that 20th century teachers received anywhere near the employment packages that modern teachers boast. I’m not surprised, however, that mainstream discussion of the “education problem” so studiously avoids mention of the feminization, sterilization, secularization, and deramification that our education system has undergone since America became great.
(N.B. — From my admittedly limited experience as a private-school teacher, I’d suggest that Norman layer some qualifications on his insistence that funding private schools doesn’t benefit “the poorest and most disadvantaged Americans.” At least at the Catholic grade school in which I taught, both disadvantaged and poor children were often placed in classrooms that had no room for them, but in which room was made for the reason that they had nowhere else to go. Perhaps more importantly, the school is clearly understood among locals as a means of escaping the stain and sting of poverty that the often-dangerous halls of the public schools perpetuate.)