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The Dumbing Down of America


© Clay Bennett

Once upon a time, about 50 years ago, we had higher taxes and spent it on things like education and space exploration, which led to the technology and products we enjoy today.

But now, a majority of high school biology teachers don’t even teach evolution, ranking us 34th out of 35 developed nations. Next thing you know, we’ll be giving equal time to the flat earth advocates.

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36 Comments

  1. starluna wrote:

    I am truly bothered by this.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    We as a nation, including congress has never denied an education funding request that I am aware of. We debate whether it should be put on the credit card or paid in cash, but we do fund it. Massively. Billions and Billions. Its just that politcians are trying to determine education needs and not educators. We teach to tests (no child left behind = worst education program ever), (race to the top not much of an improvement). Get politics and the fed (except for $’s ) out of education and let our educators develop a curriculum that addresses their student body.

    Comparative studies comparing the world are comprised standardized tests for many parts and can not be representative.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  3. Mad Hatter wrote:

    It’s a shame that conservative ideology is destroying the nation that they claim to love so much.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink
  4. Dan wrote:

    I agree with Patriotsgt, local control for local schools, but, No Child Left Behind (in public schools) was/is unfunded. The best overall school in Texas recruits its teachers from small selective colleges in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin,(I know this because they recruited me). Here’s the kicker- they have the best numbers because their drop-out rate is high.
    There is a small problem with too much local control, look at South Carolina for example. They limited the tax that could be collected. When I was stationed near Sumter SC the base had to build a school nearby so the children of military members could get a decent education without sending them to the private school.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink
  5. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Dan – speaking of local control and Texas, what do you think about the changes the Texas Board has been making to curriculum and textbooks down there? If we keep headed down that path I could see some of our states having schools that teach creationism and other right wing propaganda as state policy.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink
  6. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Mad Hatter – I agree there is a war of books going on and it seems Texas is always the epicenter. There are arguments from both sides that seem to hold water that the left and right attempt to “indoctrinate” our youth to their way of thinking. History is always written by the victor and is shaded as such. I don’t know a good way to fix this, but ultimately I believe each community should decide for themselves. I agree one state should not hold all the cards and call the shots. If a community believes in creationism they should teach it, if they believe in evolution they should teach it.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink
  7. Michael wrote:

    “We as a nation, including congress has never denied an education funding request that I am aware of.” Oh please. Do you even know how most schools are funded? In almost every state, local property taxes are one of, if not the, primary source of income for the schools. If we have never denied an education funding request, why are teachers getting laid off left and right? Even in some of the wealthiest parts of the city I live in, teaching aides are being let go and programs are being cut. Classroom sizes are increasing from 25 to 35, significantly reducing the efficacy of the educational process.

    Local control and funding for schools is one of the primary causes of social inequality in this country. If you want to see great illustrations, read some of the books by Jonathan Kozol, such as “Savage Inequalities.” You’ll read about urban schools with 3 English textbooks for 20 students, compared with suburban schools a couple miles down the road with laptops for every student. While, yes, the local community should participate in shaping the educational environment, there needs to be significant work at the *state* level to ensure that students are provided more equitable opportunities. Just ask Kelley Williams-Bolar about the equal opportunities for students in the Akron metropolitan area.

    The great failing of NCLB, in my opinion, is that it was an unfunded mandate from the federal government directly to local school districts. This is absolutely the wrong approach. The pressure should have been from the federal government on the states. The states are in a much better position to address the challenges of the educational bureaucracy, but without as much dependency on local property taxes.

    As for Texas, let’s be very clear about what has been going on there. There is a small faction of people with ultra-conservative views that have an explicit goal of using the school board to ensure children adopt their views on history and science. They have been fairly open and vocal about their goals. It is not a group of educators who happen to be conservatives. It is a group of conservatives (led by a dentist) attempting to gut the current educational standards to push their political agenda. And they know that, by changing Texas, they can change the country. Because textbook publishers basically target Texas and California (as the two largest markets) when setting the standards for their books. Since no other state has the same leverage, the other 48 are stuck with picking between those two versions. Right now, though, because of California’s fiscal crisis, there is no California version. For the next 5 years or so, whatever Texas does is what will be adopted by EVERYONE.

    Here’s one of the things that NCLB should have done: It should have set standards for the make-up of state boards of education. A dentist should not be able to rewrite a history textbook written by an actual historian. A real estate broker should not be changing science textbooks written by biologists to better reflect his religious sensibilities. If states can require that teachers have licensure, why can’t we require that politicians who are shaping educational curricula hold adequate credentials for evaluating the subject matter? I would LOVE to see a federal mandate that any changes to subject matter be reviewed and approved by practitioners of that field. Have biologists and chemists review changes to science textbooks. Have historians review social science books. Etc., etc.

    “If a community believes in creationism they should teach it, if they believe in evolution they should teach it.” This sounds nice in theory, but it is utterly naive in practice. What defines whether or not a *community* believes in creationism or evolution? Is it majority rule? Or does it require unanimous consent? Why should a high school drop out who never took science hold the same sway over a biology curriculum as someone holding a doctorate?

    And let’s not forget that creationism and evolution are not simply differences of opinion. Creationism is a religious doctrine. There is absolutely no scientific rigor to it at all. Every argument put forth by creationists, whether it is irreducible complexity or misinterpreting the laws of thermodynamics, has been thoroughly and repeatedly shown to violate the basic principles of science: observation and evaluation. The theory (and don’t mistake this for the common usage of “theory”) of evolution is the most comprehensive explanation for natural phenomena on this planet. The theory is based on observations, hypotheses, and laboratory experiments. Scientists don’t “believe” in evolution the way that religious folks “believe” in creationism. If someone could come up with a better explanation for the behavior and diversity of life on this planet, and could provide empirical evidence that their hypothesis was correct, the theory of evolution as we know it would become history. That is how science works. The reason that scientists argue for evolution is because there is no better explanation that is consistent with everything we know about the world.

    Notice also that I haven’t even mentioned the issue of using public money to pay for the teaching of a religious doctrine. If a parent wants their child to learn creationism, they can send them to church or pay to send them to a private school. But teaching creationism in a public school science class? Abso-frickin-lutely not.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Permalink
  8. Michael wrote:

    This is your Michael on too much caffeine…signing off (for now).

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    Michael, thanks for saying what I wanted to say. If this country wants any chance of having a thriving economy, we have to teach science — real science, not religious dogma — in our schools.

    Reality is not created by majority rule. If a community believes that Jews are evil, should they be allowed to teach that? If they believe gays are an abomination, should they be allowed to teach that?

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink
  10. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Hey Michael, maybe you should switch to decaf for awhile, LOL.
    When I was speaking of funding I was referring to federal $. Of course as a property owner I know what my 24,000 in property tax dollars are for. In my state the avg $’s per child is 15k for education, not including independant schools and our large urban area has some of the worst scores in the world. A dropout rate near 40% and only 5% of students go on to college. Thats why I have my kids in an independant school. But guess what Michael, I still pay for other peoples kids to attend an inferior school system.
    What I’m saying is who are you Michael to dictate what is taught in my county? If it’s all our money paying for our schools, then why should the fed be involved at all? Now i they give, and they do, money to local school districts via the state then the govt feels it has a right to dictate what a school teaches. Fair enough, but if the locals decide they don’t want any federal dollars then the fed has no business, because its clearly state business.
    On the textbook issue, I no more want the texas version then I want the california version (especially an economics book). The book business is a giant corporate business in cahoots with colleges and schools. They change a version, the school says you must by it, the only thing changed is a couple dozen words. Really.
    If the fed never funds state schools then what was the 56 bill emergency school funding bill congress past last year?

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink
  11. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    Michael, have another cup of coffee! You said it so much better than I could — as an ex-Texan and follower of education issues, you are right on. IK — “If this country wants any chance of having a thriving economy, we have to teach science — real science, not religious dogma — in our schools. Reality is not created by majority rule. If a community believes that Jews are evil, should they be allowed to teach that? If they believe gays are an abomination, should they be allowed to teach that?” I personally believe that the “created reality” masquerading a “education” right now is the greatest threat to dmocracy that we have. I also find it ironic that the talking head right screams about “big lie” techniques and are the biggest practitioners of the art(?)!

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink
  12. starluna wrote:

    A thriving, or at least stable, economy is important. However, an understanding of basic scientific principles is important for other reasons as well. The vaccine scares that resulted in hundreds of children unnecessarily suffering (and a few dying) from measles and mumps in the US are almost entirely based on misunderstandings of science. The view that somehow there are alternative “opinions” on climate change is also based on a complete lack of understanding of scientific principles and process. I once had a student tell me that the government had no business regulating CO2 because it is “natural”.

    If you are not learning one of the most fundamental pieces of what the modern world considers basic knowledge (like biological evolution), you are incapable of contributing to any conversation on, much less making decisions about, any science based issue.

    Moreover, anyone who disputes the reality of evolution should forgo all future flu shots. The annual flu shot is premised on the basic principle that the virus mutates every year. In short, the flu shot is based on the concept of evolution. If you don’t believe in it, don’t take it and take your changes with death. I’m perfectly happy to let evolution do its work and prevent the spread of the stupid genes.

    Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink
  13. BTN wrote:

    PSGT,
    So if a community decides that the Jews started WWII, you’d be okay with that county teaching that? What if decied that the Moon IS made of cheese? What if they decided that 2+2 =5? Where does it end?

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  14. BTN wrote:

    The biggest problem with education is a reflection of what I see as the biggest probelm in America: people’s increasing tendency to avoid responsibilty and accountability. It is everywhere: you see it in people suing for spilling coffee on their laps while driving or burglars suing while getting injured committing crimes; people buying more house than they can afford and bank bondholders demanding full payment even when the bank should have gone under; and of course, people demanding lower taxes but don’t want any of their own benefits getting cut (benefits being defined in borad terms here).

    In our education system, it is equally evident: parents whine to teachers when their kids get F’s for cheating; parents blame teachers when their kid isn’t learning even though junior spends more time on the internet than doing homework or studying. While it’s true that there are problems with our current system (for example, I think a merit system based on peer-review, parents’ inputs, and objective tests is better than the common tenureship and seniority systems), this alone will not solve America’s educational deficit.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 12:33 am | Permalink
  15. No u wrote:

    This is because evolution clearly doesnt exist. Everyone and everyone just poofed into existance via a magical fairy. When this fairy gets bored it takes an animal and makes him different, thus “evolution”. It’s all the fairy guys…allllll the fairy

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink
  16. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I whole heartedly agree with BTN that personal responsibility is lacking everywhere and particularly when it comes to public education. IMO we have our Government from Fed to local to blame. We are parenting for parents, and the message it sends to them and their children is “your not smart enough to do this se we’ll have create a law/regulation to do it for you.” Proof look at San Fran, banning toys in Happy Meals, how is that gov business, or better yet while not give a parenting class and teach the spinless idiots it’s OK to say NO to little Johnny. Or our 1st Lady saying “you poor parents and children can’t figure out how to eat healthy, so the federal Gov will do it for you”.
    Let the Governments teach the parents how to be parents if they want to help.

    BTN, Starluna – on a community teaching what they want ie “the Jews starting WWII”, or (creationism vs evolution)VS what is federally mandated, of course I don’t want WBC teaching children. However, where does the mandate stop, where is the line that separates what someone from California or Texas or DC wants your child to learn and what you think is appropriate for your child to learn.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink
  17. starluna wrote:

    Fairies! I love it.

    This post makes it clear that there is an important number of teachers who somehow are able to teach biology as if it was social studies. Science is not based on opinions, as Michael very nicely summarizes. But some children have teachers who apparently believe that modern biological theories are based in bias against spiritual, usually Christian, belief systems. Apparently they believe that the Victorian era way of doing science is appropriate when the modern physical and biological science community has long since moved away from basing scientific theories on non-empirical data.

    In fact, you might argue that these teachers have decided to take “personal responsibility” for the (distorted) education of their students.

    A much larger number are not comfortable with teaching evolutionary theory according to the article in Science, which inadvertently gives legitimacy to creationist claims. Clearly, these folks are operating without someone saying you should not be teaching biology without adequate training in biology, which includes a thorough understanding of evolution. And without the appropriate funding in the K-12 or the teacher training system, those teachers will never be provided what they need to teach evolutionary biology and give their students and adequate education.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink
  18. Mad Hatter wrote:

    “If you are not learning one of the most fundamental pieces of what the modern world considers basic knowledge (like biological evolution), you are incapable of contributing to any conversation on, much less making decisions about, any science based issue.” (Starluna)

    This is going to sound very elitist…but I do think a citizen should be able to pass a simple knowledge test before being allowed to vote in elections. You don’t need to understand Fourier Transforms or Maxwell’s Equations but you should at least have a basic understanding of math, science and civics for crying out loud. I know I’m going to get beat up over this comment.

    “Educate and inform the whole mass of the people…they are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” (Thomas Jefferson)

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink
  19. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Awe don’t get into the knowledge to vote thing it takes us back to pre french revolution time when only the wealthy and educated could vote. Thats why there is an electoral college, in case you forgot, so the illiterate masses don’t inadvertantly get fooled by fancy speech and vote for te wrong guy.

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Permalink
  20. starluna wrote:

    PatriotSgt – I almost snorted my wine out my nose on that one. Ha ha!

    Monday, January 31, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Permalink
  21. Mad Hatter wrote:

    Actually, in Mad Hatter’s world the wealthy wouldn’t get a vote either (and Mad Hatter determines the net worth cut off). The illiterate masses getting fooled by fancy speech (political ads and lies) is exactly the issue we’re facing. Illiterates are getting voted into positions of power and influence. The electoral college doesn’t help to keep morons out of the U.S. Congress, state or local governments (or Boards of Education). I’m not a history major but did France have an elective government before the revolution….?

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink
  22. PatriotSGT wrote:

    No MH, I just wanted to make Starluna laugh. I happen to agree with you on the bumbling idiots in local gov and congress. It seems to only take personality and luck then skill and experience in many cases to be elected.
    If the president has to show a birth cert to run for office then all the other elected officials should be required to show at least a HS diploma and a college degree with a min 3.5 which is what many Fed jobs require when applicants lack experience.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink
  23. Mad Hatter wrote:

    I think we’re on the same page…..

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  24. Michael wrote:

    OK, I think that original dose of caffeine has worn off now. Here are some quick follow-ups (too many good topics brought up in this thread!):

    Regarding K-12 school funding, 42.8% comes from local sources, 48.7% comes from the states, and 8.5% comes from federal (I never said they didn’t contribute anything…just that most comes from local sources). [Source: National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Dept of Education (http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/pubs/npefs03/tables.asp)] So I was wrong in one sense, as the states provide a slightly bigger chunk than local. However, if you dig into those numbers (I don’t have the time or energy to), I am willing to bet that you will find the state revenues are distributed much more evenly than local revenues.

    As for everyone paying, even if they do not have kids in public school, the rationale for such an arrangement is very clear: Education benefits everyone, not just the individual students. By providing all children with free (i.e., they are not paying tuition) education, we are providing them the foundation for future success. No, not all children will go on to become doctors finding cures for horrible diseases, or engineers developing clean energy technologies, or Supreme Court justices. But some will. And we have no way of knowing, in advance, who those children will be. So our best hope, as a society, is to provide as many children the best opportunities as possible. Even if you don’t have kids in public schools, you are still a “consumer” of the educational system.

    As for federal involvement, it is not the case that, by contributing money, the government somehow becomes vested in the process. It goes beyond just funding. Rather, the very foundation of democracy rests on an educated populace. If a citizen does not understand economics, how can he distinguish between the fiscal platforms of candidates? If he does not understand the scientific underpinnings of evolution, how can he discern whether a candidate’s intention to gut funding from scientific research will affect medical advances? While, yes, the states must bear the largest brunt of this responsibility, we are the UNITED States, not the Confederate States. We, as citizens of this country, have a vested interest in ensuring that all citizens have adequate opportunities, regardless of the state in which they reside. For better or for worse, the federal government is the entity that is in the best position to make that happen.

    Regarding the racket of textbook publishers, I’m right there with you. I know people who have written textbooks. I’ve even contributed to one. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that some contracts mandate the authors provide an update every few years, even if there is no need for it.

    BTN, you mentioned parental whining when students are punished for cheating. It’s even worse than that. Many in the current generation (i.e., the “Millenials”) that are going through college feel entitled to a 4.0 GPA, regardless of their ability. I’ve only seen very minor cases of this attitude, but I’ve heard stories of *parents* complaining to professors because their college-aged child did not get an A. It never occurs to them that the grade is a reflection on both effort and ability.

    The more prescient piece of history relevant to the knowledge test in order to vote is the history of vote suppression in the south. Literacy tests and poll taxes were very common disenfranchisement techniques until they were banned in the ’60s.

    Last point (I promise)… The “illiterate masses getting fooled by fancy speech” is a crass way of describing a very real problem, and this goes back to earlier discussions we’ve had regarding the media. The convergence of news with entertainment has contributed to a political environment in which real debate is virtually impossible. People are more drawn into catchy phrases like “death panels” than they are into length discussions of the merits of end-of-life planning. It’s not a question of people being illiterate. It’s that image and marketing are vastly more important to the political process than reason and debate. As another example, going back to the original discussion of education, it’s why soda and fast food companies spend a bajillion dollars on cutesy mascots and advertising in school hallways (yes, this happens). Marketing works. And if you can hook the child, you’ve got a customer for life. It’s not a question of being illiterate, it’s a matter of our everything-must-be-entertaining culture.

    Hmm…maybe one of these days I’ll learn how to write a short comment… ;-)

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  25. Mad Hatter wrote:

    “The more prescient piece of history relevant to the knowledge test in order to vote is the history of vote suppression in the south. Literacy tests and poll taxes were very common disenfranchisement techniques until they were banned in the ’60s.”

    This is why I felt I’d get beat up for my comment….it is disenfranchising and it just didn’t feel good coming out of my mouth. However, if something doesn’t change we could be headed down a very rocky road indeed. Several years ago my “conspiracy alarm” was activated a little when I saw how effectively politicians (more on the right than the left) are able to tell people what and how to think and then promoting policy to eviscerate the public education system in order to “dumb down” our nation even further. Conspiracy or not, it seems like those people are winning.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 10:59 am | Permalink
  26. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Very comprehensive response Michael, thanks. Under the funding model you reported for states the states will have more say then local, say county or town, in deciding curriculum. This would mostly eliminate the fringe teachings as was discussed earlier. It would be much harder to brainwash a state then a local community.
    On the fed funding, they are not vested with money, but they continue to mandate to those that are. In a sense overruling them. NCLB required teaching to the lowest common denominator. For example, my sons began their school career in public school. Nice suburban blue collar neighborhood. My wife’s degree is in early childhood ed., so she naturally taught them to read very young, I taught them math ver young. When the school could not challenge them the principle admitted the majority of funding is for struggling students because if they don’t improve them they can loose funding. That only left enough funding for accelrated students to have one 30 min visit with a GT teacher per week. Then when a 3rd grade teacher told my oldest son to “tell his parents to stop teaching him so much, because she couldn’t teach him anything”, we decided it was time to look for an independant school.
    Had they continued, the high school they would have to attend sends only 5% of its students to college. The is compared to their current school which sends 100% to college. I understand that independants seem to cherry pick students, but the success is more about parental involvement and a learning atmosphere then anything. At their school if a kid gets out of line (very rare), the parents are called in immediately. Peers put pressure by pointing out the undesirable behavior. The problem gets solved or the child has to find another school. In the public schools in the large city fairly close to us, 1/3 of the students never return for more then a few days after spring break, yet they still pass. Why, statistics driven graduation rates.
    In most public school systems (at lest my area) they recieve almost the same dollar amount as the private schools charge for tuition. Yet they still fail. In the case of parochial schools the public schools get 15-19k per student compared to 8-10k tuition charged. I’d say throwing more money at the problem won’t solve a thing. Give the power back to teachers who can’t discipline a child for fear of law suit. THey can’t even break up a fight or they get sued, yet not a parent would ever say johnny was the problem. Education starts with reeducating the parents, the teachers and then the kids.

    Whew sorry about going on and on and on….

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  27. Michael wrote:

    MH, I know exactly where you’re coming from. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve thought every voter should be required to pass a course in economics, civics, and scientific literacy. So I didn’t want to beat you up on it. I don’t really have a solution, because my (naive) attempt would be to say that we have to change the culture of our entire population. And I just don’t see how you can do that.

    Patriotsgt, you make a number of great points. Historically, the states have done a good job of keeping the fringe elements in education in check. That’s why the big cases (Cobb County, GA and Dover, PA) involved overreach by the LOCAL school boards. When the Kansas state school board tried to pull the same stunt, those board members were immediately voted out in the next election. Texas has been slower to respond. But I find the trend of small groups making a concerted effort to take over school boards, both local and state, in order to push an overtly partisan view point to be very disturbing.

    And you’re not going to get any argument from me in defense of NCLB. That legislation was a piece of crap.

    I can very strongly relate to your children’s experience. I grew up in a blue-collar midwestern suburb. My graduating class had 150 students, 130 of which graduated. About 15-20 of us went to college, and about 10 of us graduated. We had almost 30 people in calculus my senior year; only 12 of us in that class actually planned to go to college. Needless to say, the class was horrible. I bombed the AP exam for it (scored a 2 out of 5). (I have since gone on to get a degree in math, have taught math at the college level, and am about to get a PhD in a field where very advanced math is a big part of my work. So I can understand the plight of the GT.) For a long time, I was very bitter and wondered how much better I would be doing if I had gone to a better school. I’m now in a much better place and am thankful for the breaks that I have had.

    As for public vs. private, especially in regard to funding, there are a number of complicating factors that make comparison hard. Yes, as you point out, parental involvement and the expectations of your peers are much better influences in private schools. But just comparing the 15-19k vs. 8-10k is probably missing some important points. First, private schools are not run exclusively by tuition payments. Alumni donations also provide a substantial chunk of operating costs. (I know…my wife and her sisters went to a private Jesuit college prep school, and they all donate regularly.) If the school is religiously affiliated, there is also money coming from the church itself. Second, public schools often have higher operating costs, as the money also goes to transportation and subsidizing lunches for low income students. Third, because of the parental involvement and higher standards, private school students tend to take better care of supplies.

    The better statistic for comparing schools is the ratio of students to teachers. If you want to give more power to the teachers to manage the classroom experience, one of the best ways to do it is to cap class sizes at 25 students. Beyond that, there is too much going on for the teacher to provide adequate individualized attention. While I understand your view that just throwing money won’t solve the problem, providing enough money to attract quality teachers *and* hiring enough of them is a very important piece of the solution. I started off as a math education major. And, frankly, one of the reasons I switched was that the starting salary for teaching was less than half what I got for going into a technical position.

    But as for the need to re-educate the parents, yeah, I’m right there with you. And feel free to go on and on. I’ve very much enjoyed the discussion.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink
  28. PatriotSGT wrote:

    Michael – absolutely teachers should be paid according to their ability. However, with unions it kind of diminishes the administrators ability. Younger/newer teachers (a freind who teaches in pub sch)are often frustrated by “tenured” established teachers that are tired of putting in the effort, but can’t be removed. Hence another benefit of private school concerning teachers is no union. So if they hire a talented/experienced educator their salary is negotiable and confidential. Almost every teacher in my sons’ school has a min of a masters and a full 40% are PHD level. Many of the teachers stay at the school for 20-30 years and provide inspriation and mentorship to newer employees. They have graduate students interested in education that do internships as well. Their salaries are probably not that far above public school teacher salaries (my wife was offered a position starting at 38k, but it also included free tuition for our children after 3 years of service. Teachers’ avg salary is 50-65k (again for mostly graduate level educators).
    I don’t know what the avg public school teacher makes, and I’m sure it varies by location, and I would guess it doesn’t lag too far behind.

    Your point on donations is well taken. I get hit up every year, which is fine. A good portion of the donations in our school go toward tuition assistance for families that otherwise could not afford the cost.

    The thing I would assume eats up a significant portion of public school budgets is the middle (local ), upper (state), and federal levels of management, which don’t exist in private schools. For example ours has a board of trustees, that are non paid positions, but thats it.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink
  29. BTN wrote:

    PSGT, I was just going to mention the administrative costs of public schools eat the money. It’s a pyramid magnified because administrators get paid more than teachers. I wouldn’t be surprised if the combined salaries of non-teachers was more than the teachers in some of the larger school districts.

    I also agree that teacher unions can be a big problem. I have no problem with a group banding together for more benefits, but any system in which a person’s salary is based more on seniority than skill, competance, attitude, etc., is bound to crumble and decay. What’s truly remarkable is that PTA’s have allowed this system to go on for so long.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Permalink
  30. Iron Knee wrote:

    Great discussion!

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 4:22 am | Permalink
  31. PatriotSGT wrote:

    BTN – I agree. I’m not opposed to unions lobbying for better working conditions, benefits and a fair wage, it’s when they don’t manage their ranks to the detriment of the entity they are supporting that I am against.

    I sy lets trim the layred fat from the system and give local school systems all the money and power to tailor an education program that benefits their students. Feds should supply money not policy to local schools. States should provide the guidelines for local education and money.

    To backup your claim about the administrative costs, here are some links. 1 in particular talks about a 1 million dollar retirement package, and our kids can’t get an education.
    http://www.xerraireart.com/blog/2011/01/28/school-superintendent-1-million-dollar-retirement/

    This 2nd one is a county school system in my state:
    http://www.newamerica.net/publications/articles/2006/america_s_million_dollar_superintendents_4526

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink
  32. BTN wrote:

    The whole of the DC suburban are is indirectly heavily Federally subsidized. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a government owrker or contractor. That’s why the salaries are so high.

    Here’s what happens -> Treasury rates spike -> US forced to tighten its belt -> public employee benefits slashed and workers fired -> no city hit worse than DC

    Might take a while, but this will happen in our lifetime (5-20 years is my guess).

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink
  33. Bert wrote:

    You call them government owkers because when you hit them with that rock they go “OW”?

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink
  34. PatriotSGT wrote:

    No Bert, owrkers is southern for Orks, you know, Saurons crew from Mordor.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Permalink
  35. BTN wrote:

    That was unintentional; I don’t spellcheck my posts. If I *was* going to make up a name, I can think of better ones…

    Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  36. starluna wrote:

    PatriotSgt & Bert – you guys are going to make me have to buy a spit guard for my laptop.

    Friday, February 4, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink