Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why Is It Compulsory?

Why is K-12 education compulsory? No matter how self-evident the answer may seem, I still have not come up with a good enough justification to criminalize parents who choose to raise illiterate imbeciles.

Being a Big Sister in a mentoring program has completely changed my outlook on education and now has me questioning the unquestionable. My mentee, a wonderful, 15-year-old from a very broken home, goes to a heartbreakingly bad charter high school in the Watts area of Los Angeles. Her school isn't bad because of teachers, lack of funds or whatever, although it could certainly use some help in those departments. It's bad because she shares her classrooms with 15-year-old boys who already have babies; 15-year-old boys who are more concerned with making her the next conquest than with doing homework; with a 17-year-old boy (who, by the way, is still in basic math) who brags that he has slept with over 30 girls. The list goes on.

The situation was not much different when she was in junior high school. There were 13 and 14-year-olds in her school who were sexually active. Little girls wore outfits emulating the video whores from a Nelly video and carried themselves in the same way. At her graduation, a little boy in the stand with a foul mouth and an attitude to match defiantly ranted that he "didn't want to graduate anyways."

Why are these kids forced to be in school? They are taking valuable space in otherwise overcrowded schools and they are distracting the kids who actually can learn and want to learn from accomplishing their goals. Teachers waste more time on bad kids who distract the class than on good kids who ask questions. Most of the losers do not want to be there and their parents probably do not care either way. If the parents do not care, why should we? Why should the government?

Instead of the incessant complaints about underfunded schools, how about we cut costs by making K-12 voluntary. Parents who care to raise productive, educated citizens can send their kids to school. The parents who do not care can keep their kids at home to be the criminals they already are. School isn't doing anything to improve them. It's just giving these criminals-in-the-making a pool of vicitims for their destruction.


At 12:10 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Yeah, just think how much better the world would be off, if dubya hadn't been forced to go to school.

At 12:24 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

In spite of the best education, that numbnuts still can barely speak English. Yet another example of someone who is education-proof.

At 2:58 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger Boris Yeltsin said...

It would be nice if they did the schools differently. When I went to high school in Columbus, Ohio, the teachers were afraid of the students. People openly dealt drugs in the bathrooms and hallways. Even a kid in a wheel chair, believe it or not!

They didn't have fights there. This was a hill-billy highschool, and they had what they called "hill-billy ass-whoopins," which consisted of 5 guys walking shoulder-to-shoulder down the hallway, until they came up to the intended victim, whereupon they sucker-punched the poor bastard, and while he was down, kicked, and hit, and sometimes even used num-chucks.

Fights were always unfair - that was the point.

I knew a guy who took so many pills, he fell up the stairs!

Was it any wonder that people who could read were considered geniouses, even though their lips moved slower than their minds could comprehend?

These kids need to learn the basics, then they need a vocation - period.

At 3:43 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

You're just frustrated. I've worked on issues of criminalizing the parents of kids who skip school. I'm an adamant supporter of those laws. Education without parenting is nearly worthless.

Keep in mind, China has new laws that make it MANDATORY that a person know Chinese AND English by the time they graduate high school. We need tougher laws, less bureaucracy, and corporal punishment. (Yes, spanking)

At 4:44 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

Interesting. I tend to go the other direction... I think it's ridiculous that schools close for the summer. I think it's silly that parents work 8 to 5 but the kids are only in school from 9 to 3:30.

Schools should be year-round affairs, with eight-hour days. Where's the money gonna come from? Tax cigarettes another buck or two a pack, and tax gas another dollar a gallon. Legalize marijuana and tax it. (And no, I don't. Never will.)

I know, I know... That money could be spent on health care or developing a hydrogen economy. But education is important, dammit. If kids don't want to go to school, let them work in the local packing plant for a day or two - that scared ME into college!

I'm shooting from the hip here - I've not really stopped to think any of this through. But that's my gut reaction...

At 5:04 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...


Why don't parents have the ultimate say in whether their kids get educated? Why do you think they should be criminalized?

You are right that education without parenting is worthless, but tougher laws and less bureaucracy won't fix that. You can't legislate better parenting.

At 5:31 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger bombsoverbaghdad said...

Education was not always mandatory in America. In the early part of the 20th century, a large portion of the American public was functionally illiterate. Just like we've decided as a society that murder and molestation are against the law, so to have we decided that children should be educated until they are teens. Violating other laws lands you in jail, so should this one.

Parents and any other kind of individual do not have free reign over their own lives. It's really a basic conversation about the role of gov't.

My view is that our schools should be more like academies. Uniforms. Strict disciplline. Corporal punishment. Of course there would still be fun time, PE and art.

At 6:33 PM, March 09, 2006 , Blogger Stalin the Shark said...

Ha, one of my pet peeves.

The problem isn't with the schools or the teachers, in my opinion. The problem is that we as Americans generally frown on intelligence, that our culture despises learning, and that a term like 'egghead' or 'nerd' is one of derision, not adulation.

Somebody like Bush is the perfect case in point. The man is, arguably, the least curious and educated man ever to be, um, "elected" to anything. As JC Watts said in 2000, "you don't need to be smart to be Preznit".

Fix the society, and the schools will fix themselves.

;-), StS

At 1:20 AM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 10 06

II: I think your logic presupposes that a child has the capacity to make the decision for himself. He can make decisions to act, but he doesn't have the capacity to form rational judgements! And that is why he is a minor. If parents allow their children to make such broad sweeping decisions, then why are they parents? We should be analyzing the parents' ability to take responsibility for their children. I tutored in East Oakland for a couple of years and there were some cases where mommy worked three jobs to PROVIDE and had very little time to actually raise the kids. She was working and loved her kids but what other options had she? And this is where the discipline issues come in, we have a generation of kids that don't have their parents their to guide them...

At 5:16 AM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

Mahndisa's comment spiked a thought... I don't know if it takes a village to raise a child, but an extended family would sure help. Of all the thousands of generations of humanity, we're the second to be without an extended family... If ma had to work, gramma or Uncle Ed was home to educate, raise, discipline, watch over the children.

At 9:20 AM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Reign of Reason said...

In answer to your question:

It's cheaper to try and educate these kids than to incarcerate them. And at least you have a chance of ‘turning’ a few in the schools – the probability is likely much lower once they go to prison.

At 10:59 AM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger mrsleep said...

Common sense tells you a one size fits all approach won't work. That's our current education system in a nutshell.

Should we try to educate everyone? Yes to some level. Readin' ritin' rithmetic'.

At what point do you change the course or redirect some kids to different tracks? I don't have the magical answers.

At 11:55 AM, March 10, 2006 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, thats some food for thought!

At 11:56 AM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Mr. Wilson said...

classic question of economics: incentives.

i hear your troubled me to read what you wrote simply because i know what a sweet girl your mentee is. however, i don't know if just making school voluntary is the answer. seems like we need incentives to take education more seriously, not just use it as a day care.

i have often thought that parents should have to pay a deposit to send their children to school...if the child does not complete the grade or gets expelled or has too many absences...then the parent loses the deposit. We are basically talking about increasing the tax burden of parents who have kids and don't give a damn about the kids enough to make sure the kids complete their work. I don't know if this would fly.

At 4:55 PM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

03 10 06

Chris: You hit on a VERY important topic; extended family. As a kid, my extended family WAS the neighborhood and the church. And while a bit insular, everyone had a stake in your success or failure. And in time, due to changing local economies, White and Black flight etc, extended families have all but been decimated. My godmother stays in Oakland, another in Berkeley, others in Antioch down to Gilroy, whereas before we all used to live in the same neighborhood and it was a poor to working class neighborhood in East Oakland. Per pupil spending is one of the biggest fallacies that libs try to push on us it has EVERYTHING to do with familial support, whether biological family or not.

II I am happy that you mentor a child. I just got finished speaking with my neice, but I think she was mentoring me! Ha!

Regarding the comment about charging a deposit to parents to place their kids in school, what about parents who work three jobs just to put food on the table? They likely have very little income to spare after the obligations are met. These are the working poor, people who make too much to qualify for welfare, but are one cheque away from being in the streets. How do I know this? I went there myself about five years ago!

At 6:02 PM, March 10, 2006 , Blogger Boris Yeltsin said...

"...what about parents who work three jobs just to put food on the table? They likely have very little income to spare after the obligations are met. These are the working poor, people who make too much to qualify for welfare, but are one cheque away from being in the streets. How do I know this? I went there myself about five years ago!" - Mahndisa

Just thought it bears repeating.

At 12:23 AM, March 11, 2006 , Blogger chad said...

Thought provoking post Insurgent...

Everyone is in agreement that we have a problem in our public education system. I think solutions to this problem are complex. Furthermore, we have allowed the situation to get so far off-course, that to right the system will be a costly enterprise (economically, socially and culturally).

Insurgent, I know that you are merely playing devils advocate and raising a question...not offering a comprehensive solution to the problem, but this is really a question of incredible urgency...just as much as the problems of the energy crisis, civil war in Iraq, and nuclear enrichment in Iran. It deserves thoughtful discussion.

I suppose that your solution would solve one problem, and make the public schools more effective at educating the minority of children who are motivated to learn, but the deeper question is...what about that majority? What would happen to all those kids who would not be in school, because no one is able to hold them accountable for their educational progress and behavior.

The question I have is: why are today's parents unwilling or unable to motivate/discipline their children compared to 30 or 40 years ago? I think some major cultural changes have occurred, and our fundamental values have been altered to the point where the family is nothing like it was 40 years ago, and therefore children are not like they were.

I agree that it is idiotic to send the kids to school when they don't want to be there, since they only serve to disrupt those who are motovated to learn, but why are so few motivated? When I was younger, I did not enjoy every class I took, but I recall seeing value in developing my mind. I was motivated to learn, because I thought it was a worthwhile endeavor. It was easy for my teachers to teach me, becasue I insisted on being taught. But today, so many kids insist on not being taught. They see no value in education, and now our society is producing a generation of underachieving, sexually precocious, violent, maladjusted young people. Maybe it's because something is inherently different about kids today, but I doubt it. I'm pretty sure it's the culture the kids are growing up in that has's the parents, and the extended families, and the communiites, and the churches, and everyhting else...not the kids.

So I think your proposal is a good start to help ensure kids who do want to learn are able to do so, but it then begs the question... How are we going to help all those kids who are lost. I suspect it's going to take a lot of individual sacrifice on the part of interested adults. This is a long way of me praising your commitment of time and energy to being a mentor for that young girl. That, Insurgent, is the real answer to our problems.

Thoughtfully yours,

PS: I got your note, and I promise I will do better on responding to responses in the future...

PPS: I know you were hoping for some more trigonometric functions to explain our social ills, but it's late.

"Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing, the rest is mere sheep-herding."
~Ezra Pound

At 11:06 PM, March 11, 2006 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I was thinking about this again. Just because you make school voluntary doesn't mean that any bad element wont continue to use the school exactly as he or she currently is. Unless you're talking about expelling them - but you could just do that now, couldn't you?

At 11:59 PM, March 11, 2006 , Blogger Chris said...

Voluntary. For the kids? Or for the parents? The "bad" kids probably wouldn't go if it were voluntary, but the parents may view school as cheap day care. Then there sit the kids anyway.

The "tax" or "deposit" idea Mr. Wilson put forth has been stuck in my mind. Interesting.

At 9:30 AM, March 12, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Birdy -

I don't think the kids who don't want to be there would go if it were voluntary (for either the kids or the parents). They barely show up as it is now.

Kids can be expelled from a school district, but there has to be somewhere they can go. Here in the LAUSD, they send expelled students to "continuation schools", which are basically holding tanks for the obstinately uneducatable.

This would be pretty interesting stuff for a PhD thesis.

At 9:05 PM, March 12, 2006 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I was thinking that a certain pool of kids are attending school to abuse the system - not use it for its intended purpose. You know, more a matter of intention. Thinking that not everyone that actually wants to go to school wants to go there to learn.

This is a facinating topic. I keep thinking about it!

At 11:55 PM, March 12, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

There probably is a pool of kids who show up because their friends are there.

At 9:59 AM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Rae Ann said...

1. Having an educated population is in the best interest of any society.

2. If these so-called bad kids don't want an education put them to work... doing all the menial jobs that illegal immigrants do. If they refuse to work, then deport them to Mexico, sort of a trade-off for people who will work.

(came here via Mahndisa)

At 10:04 AM, March 13, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Rae Ann -

Welcome and you are too funny. I was pondering the question of illegal immigration the other day and I thought that a great solution would be to allow one hard-working illegal immigrant to come in if we can convince on lazy American to leave. The only problem is that I am sure Mexico would not appreciate being overrun with the lazy, sloth of America.

At 3:02 AM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger SwallowedAlive said...

Interesting debate.
I know I will sound a bit cliché now but screw it . . .
I am definitely one of the bad kids of which you speak. I came from a home life that swung from Texas town to Texas town only to land back in my hometown where my parents finally split. I was an honors student and found my way into a gang by familial associations (if your thug-cousin is a gang-banger and you guys play Nintendo together, you are definitely wearing his colors to school fucker). When high school came round, I was still an honors student—barely but with grades on a descending trajectory. My mother was locked in a full-on depression with traits of man-hate and no decent qualifications to wrangle a job. Everything came out of her mouth dripping poison. I didn’t want to be at home and I definitely didn’t want to be at school where rivals were looking to break my bones into mashed potato. Then I found wome—no, I found girls. Girls were the antidote; a relatively easy sense of accomplishment on a moon without merit. It was a great feeling to have the guys, and girls alike, whisper my name with a reverence I’d never had connected to me before as I kept a secret count of my conquests, comparing it to the, posited aloud, number. I saw no future so I sought only the most readily available affirmation. It wasn’t until my younger brother caught up and passed me by graduating that I awoke to the possibility of life as an unemployed go-nowhere loser! I remember being proud and angry the day he walked with his diploma in hand—the bastard. I went back to school that summer and all that next year with a scholastic zeal I’d never before tapped. Seeing how easy it was to be an honor roll student again almost made me regret those years of mistakes. I can’t say that I haven’t paid for them in full but, in college now (night school due to my military service), I stubbornly hold onto my 4.0 GPA and smile proudly when I receive a dean’s certificate in the mail. Voluntary or not an education must be available even to those who never thought they needed one.
Apologies for the length of comment but this one hit right between the eyeballs.

At 8:35 AM, March 15, 2006 , Blogger Intellectual Insurgent said...

Wow Swallowedalive. That was a cool story. Sounds like you have had quite a rich life and I'd bet you are still fairly young.

I am not advocating to get rid of public schools. My only point is that the people who don't want to be there shouldn't be legally required to be there. For people with similar stories like yours, school will always be there when they decide to get their shit together.

At 8:30 AM, March 21, 2006 , Blogger Possum said...

You know II, this topic shows a deep conservative slant in that somewhat liberal facade you have...heck, the same could be said for almost all the comments here.

Understand this: a core Democrat issue is the government sow taking care of the masses from cradle to grave. The converse of the logic presented here is that if some people don't want to take care of themselves should our government take care of them inspite of their lack of effort?

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