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Beline Obeid

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Public education


To the Editor:

I received a pamphlet from the superintendent of the Grosse Pointe Public Schools supporting her proposed millage increase. In large lettering on its front, the pamphlet began, “If we don’t protect our schools, who will?”

Only a few decades ago, many high school graduates would have immediately recognized this statement for the nonsense it is. Many college graduates would have been able to identify it as that laughable violation of rationality called “begging the question” in which the speaker pretends to prove something while actually assuming that which they’re trying to prove.

Why does the superintendent ask us to blindly assume our schools are worth “protecting” (by us or anyone else)? Maybe they’re not. Maybe the emperor is naked — and the sooner we take our heads out of the sand of fallacious assumptions, the sooner we’ll see the truth and actually fix the problem.

Real spending per pupil (after adjusting for inflation) has more than tripled since 1960 in U.S. public schools, yet the pupil-teacher ratio has declined only from 26 to 16. The percentage of teachers with master’s degrees has doubled, and median teacher experience has increased to 15 years.

Yet the onslaught of studies and sad news stories reveal that, taken as a group, today’s U.S. students actually know less, reason less, and judge less than those in a growing number of other countries, and less than any U.S. generation before them.

The emperor is naked: more money is not the solution.

What’s needed is the one thing that hasn’t been tried: freedom.

For decades, progressivism has been the exclusive dogma of education. From Harvard to teachers colleges, and from textbooks to the NEA, all we see is stale conformity to discredited ideas. Ideas like: egalitarianism, where Grosse Pointe South class ranks are hidden so students “feelings” can be insulated from reality; or cultural relativism, where students are told the achievements of Americans like Henry Ford or Bill Gates are no better than primitive witch doctors or Fidel Castro; or outright skepticism, as in the leading high school physics text, “There is no single scientific method — Knowledge, skill, luck, imagination, trial and error, educated guesses, and great patience — all play a part.”

Is it any wonder so many students are ignorant, narcissistic and bored? What young mind wouldn’t be dismayed by such a jumble of contradictory newspeak as that emanating from progressive education?

The fastest and best way to help our students is to abolish public education. Sell the properties to the highest bidders, and allow anyone to open a school anywhere at any time without permission from socialist bureaucrats. Stop forcing people to support the inept oligopoly that is public education, and watch as for-profit competition delivers innovation and genuine, measurable educational progress at lower cost.

For starters, they’d hire and pay teachers based on ability — not credentials. There’s no logical reason we can’t start here in Grosse Pointe; it’s simply a matter of choice — the kind of choice that values reason and freedom over nonsense and controls.

Peter F. Murphy

Grosse Pointe Farms

Peter F. Murphy
March 30, 2004

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