Worden: The Public School Rip-off

Once again, Metropolis Café returns to its roots – the ‘Village of the Damned’ so to speak. Shortly after The Federal Observer went on-line in July of 2001, we began receiving columns from the author of the following post – Carl Worden. Although what follows was originally posted in March of 2010 – the message remains – the Public Fool System is STILL a Rip-Off. ~ J.B.

Carl F. Worden

If a manufacturer produces sub-standard or unsafe products, as in the current Toyota debacle, you can take your sub-standard or unsafe product back for repair or a complete refund, but when a public school district produces sub-standard students, there is seemingly no recourse. You cannot send your kid back to school, even if s/he cannot read comprehensively or perform basic math. Further, there is no means to recoup the property taxes the parents paid to support the public school system their failing child attended.

Public school systems in the United States have it made: If tenured, it is practically impossible to get rid of a poorly performing teacher, and just like a nation that has a Socialistic form of government, the tenured teachers who actually care about the job they are doing usually get paid no more than the teachers who could care less, and this eventually leads to an entire body of teachers who could care less because there is no reward for excellence.

You hear it almost every day: Teachers complaining that the parents aren’t spending enough time helping to teach their kids, or that their class sizes are just too big, or that long, never-ending wail about needing more money. Teachers make one excuse after another, never pointing the finger at themselves, and all the while they hold a position of undeserved community respect, as if they were donating their time. I have very little respect for today’s public school teachers because all they ever seem to do is make excuses for why they can’t get their jobs done successfully, and it especially fries me when they try to blame their failures on “uninvolved” parents, when the parents aren’t the ones getting paid to do the job!

This is a true story that will illustrate just what a con-job these teachers and their school districts are pulling on the befuddled public.

In grade 7, my son brought home a report that he was near-failing in every study that counts: Reading, writing, math, history and science. He was getting passing grades in basket-weaving and female recognition (just kidding) so his teachers were planning to let him graduate into 8th grade. He wasn’t doing his homework because he knew he’d get it wrong, so why bother?

This came as a surprise to my wife and I because my son would often bring home test papers showing he was doing okay, and as this story unfolds, you will understand why.

Aptos, California is considered an extremely wealthy area of Santa Cruz County, so we’re not talking about a broken-down school located in some inner city, and I called for a parent-teacher conference to discuss the matter.

Only two of Carl’s teachers bothered to show up: His math teacher and his English teacher. Carl was with us, and the math teacher made some disparaging remarks to Carl, indicating he thought Carl was some kind of class clown, but the English teacher is the one who really made an impression on me. She was overweight with rather large breasts. She was wearing a white V-neck man’s T-shirt, a sagging bra you could see … and a “Save The Whales” medallion around her neck. She actually taught school dressed like that. This other long-haired male was wandering around the office wearing a T-shirt, faded blue jeans complete with holes and ratty Birkenstock sandals. He would later introduce himself as the boys’ counsellor.

During the meeting I learned that although Carl was in 7th grade, he was being taught at 5th grade level. I kid you not. That explains why he brought home glowing test papers, but got a near-failing 7th grade report card. In addition, both teachers and the counsellor rejected any consideration of holding my son back to 7th grade again, because … it might hurt his self-esteem! Self-esteem?? My son already knew he was the village idiot, so I doubt his self-esteem could be any lower, and both my wife and I realized exactly what was going on: Those teachers and the administration really didn’t care so much about my son’s education as they did covering their butts. To hold a student back is apparently a big black eye for the teachers and the school district, so those jackasses thought it to be in their own best interest to just let my kid sail right through into High School, knowing full well that he was not really fit to take 6th grade over again, let alone be passed on to 8th grade.

With that, my wife and I realized my son didn’t have any chance of catching up in that school environment, and with teachers and faculty solidly circling the wagons with one excuse after another, I knew I had to remove him from that environment if he had any chance of getting a decent education.

That was in 1982, and my wife and I were both working 12 hours a day, often 6 days per week, and $2,000.00 tuition for one year at a private Christian school in nearby Watsonville, California tapped us out of every possible vacation dream we might have had for that year, but to send a young man out into the world who cannot read comprehensively, who lacks writing skills and basic math would just about prepare him for a life of drug dealing or panhandling and little else. We really didn’t have a choice.

The private Christian school was a client of mine, and I knew the teachers were paid only $600.00 per month plus room & board at the school. They had some health insurance and no retirement benefits at all. By contrast, the starting salary for a teacher in Carl’s public school was $36,000.00 per year for only 9 months work, and they had “Cadillac” health insurance benefits along with a rich retirement plan. If the public school teachers wanted to, they could hold other jobs like construction contracting, teach Summer School or whatever during the 3-month summer break to augment their “insufficient” salary, but that was up to them.

By the end of that private school year, my son held Honor Roll status in at least two critical classes and he was completely caught up enough to go back to public school in 8th grade the following year. His self-esteem never suffered the slightest bit. He never fell back again once he was caught up, and he graduated public High School with flying colors.

So what was the difference? The difference was that the private Christian school teachers dearly loved teaching, and they took my son under their wing for no other reason than that. They were motivated and they really cared, and no amount of money could replace the pride they clearly felt when my son graduated from their 7th grade class with such outstanding — and true — grades.

That is exactly what is missing in too many public schools, and just recently 85 public school teachers in Rhode Island were fired during their negotiations for better benefits because the students they were graduating just weren’t cutting it. Mass firings like that should be happening all over the United States, and any public school teacher who whines about class sizes, money and displays a “can’t-do” attitude should be replaced by a teacher who accepts the conditions of their employment with a “can-do” attitude that produces real results. Further, public school teachers who have 80% of their students pass muster on independently administered tests for that grade level need to be paid meaningful bonuses for their efforts that year and any other years they achieve the same standard of excellence. Do that, and watch the slacker teachers sit up and take notice!

The current public school system in the United States is almost entirely Socialistic, and Socialism always fails because human nature and Socialism just don’t work together. If we were born into this world with selfless genetics like ants and bees, Socialism would work, but we humans don’t operate that way successfully. We humans are basically very selfish in our approach to life and we need to be rewarded for our successes and suffer the consequences for our failures! That is what makes us strong! That is what places the human race at the top of the food chain on this planet!

Finally, if our public school students are going to succeed in this ever-more-competetive international market, we have to get back to concentrated teaching of only the most critical basics like reading, writing, advanced math, history and science — and stop this silly nonsense of teaching art, music or any other elective if the students don’t have those basics solidly mastered. If a High School graduate cannot attend college for whatever the reason, they can still self-educate at the public library so long as they have learned to read well, but they don’t have a snowballs chance in Hades if they can’t, and that’s the undeniable truth.

Submitted to Kettle Moraine, Ltd. Publications for publication by Carl F. Worden and originally published on the Federal Observer, March 4, 2010.

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