By Joseph Batory
How politically pragmatic it has all been for so many elected officials and television talking heads, so far removed from the real world problems of schools and society, to scapegoat the very failures of American society onto the backs of public schools. Indeed, it is the “Theatre of the Absurd” with politicians and new media types perpetually offering shallow analysis.
Certainly school improvement in the USA needs to be ongoing however schools are not the only player in educational improvement. The roots of our nation’s problems with education have much more to do with societal inequities that define a huge underclass within our citizenry, an apathetic and misguided government (consider the current underfunding of schools across Pennsylvania) that ignores the realities of its neediest children, and a dominant materialistic “Me Only” culture across the USA that has evolved away from the common good for all.
How many of these elected officials or television demagogues have ever spent any significant time inside an inner city public school or just observed the diverse populations of students in a typical public school anywhere in the USA? How many of them have any idea of the social class strata of “haves and have not’s” that pervades the nation? Few (if any) elected officials or television personalities worry about paying monthly bills, how to afford proper housing for their families, purchasing health insurance, or how to afford higher education for their children?
Why have teachers and school administrators, those closest to the schools and the students they serve, been excluded from the national dialogue about educational reform? Instead, self-serving political ideologies continue to rule education policy.
If our nation did truly care about improving schooling for all students the priorities would be on:
Initiatives that reduce poverty and foster a more equitable society;
Community revitalization projects and economic development in the poorest communities of our nation;
Universal pre-school education;
Programs to build parental engagement and responsibility as partners with schools;
Remedial and enrichment programs for all students in need;
State of the art professional development for all teachers;
Improved utilization of technology especially in schools that serve the underprivileged;
School modernization in all schools where necessary;
Programs in music and the arts for all pupils;
Improved “state of the art” vocational and technical opportunities for pupils; and,
Much smaller class sizes.
How tragic (or is it immoral) it is that our elected officials and media talking heads perpetually ignore the societal realities facing American society and continuously scapegoat the public schools and the persons who work in them.
Joseph Batory is the author of three books on school leadership and numerous articles on the politics of education published locally and nationally.