Friday, March 19, 2004

If I'd Been Better Educated, This Post Would Have Been More Concise 

"We can't say why, but what we do know is that the selection of Snapple reeks of favoritism!"
-New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr.

I'd like to see that stamped on every single bottle of New York City's Official Beverage.

"Official Beverage" my ass. We can all think of a few beverages a little closer to the hearts of most New Yorkers.

What this all comes down to is education, of course. And eductation is in a real horrible mess right now. New York has some of the worst schools in the nation, which shouldn't even be a possibility in a city as fucking rich as this one. If you guarantee education of equal quality to every child in the nation, how do you justify the state New York schools are in?

The arch-leftist in me would say that the people with the means and the power don't ever intend to improve the public schools, because there will always be a need for a servant class. But, while it probably is true of people like Rod Paige that they wouldn't mind seeing the entire institution of public education gutted, people like Bloomberg are well-meaning but completely misinformed and dense and stubborn in their ideas of what the "problems" with the educational system are. I'm not saying we simply need to throw money at it, becauase the issue isn't necessarily the amount of money, so much as where and how it's distributed. We need to hire qualified teachers with actual degrees in the subjects they teach, pay them a hell of a lot more, cut the power and the salaries of the "administrators" and assorted useless bureaucrats, and, when it gets to be high school, ditch the middle-class ideal of identical Liberal Arts and Sciences education for everyone. Why not Trade Schools, anyone? If the kid isn't planning on going to college, or has no use for college, let him learn how to be a mechanic and teach him Mark Twain on the side. Make sure he can read, convince him of the importance of reading the paper every day, and then teach him how to support himself in a world where the comfortable middle-class is vaporizing.

This will never, ever fly, of course. Because what I'm advocating is giving teachers all the power and less "accountability" for the kids' educations. Which would be feasible if they were well-trained, well-educated, and got paid as much as Professors or other members of what the Russians used to call the Nomenklatura (government-appointed members of the professional class who, because of their tenure and high standing in the party, were considered to have the real power in Soviet Russia for many years, occasional purges notwithstanding. But my teacher-example is a sort of benevolent nomenklatura). You get what you pay for, of course, as all proponants of the free-market constantly tell us. Which is why I'm always a little peeved that those types never want to pay for anyone else to go to school.

The funding battle in education boils down to the fact that people don't want their taxes going to fund schools that they, personally, don't use. This is a sort of archetypal libertarian argument, too -- taxation=theft and all that bullshit. If there's a demand for schools, the market will provide schools. Bullshit and they know it. There's no profit in schooling if you have a duty to provide it for everyone. So the market has no place there.

Why do people hate the idea of their money helping some kid they don't know get a diploma? Can it be something as anti-American as classism? Or, perhaps it's that all-American tradition of passive-aggressive racism.

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