The Liberal Art of Public Education

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Well, we're
barely two months into the new school year, and our public schools
haven't wasted any time demonstrating for taxpayers how much they're
already shortchanging our children.

What does
a cool ten grand per student get you nowadays in a public school?
If you happen to have a kid at Poplar Tree Elementary School in
Chantilly, Va., there's a good chance it will help to buy her
a lesson in the virtues of communism.

Teachers
at Poplar Tree in Fairfax County have been known to collect students'
personal school supplies at the beginning of the year and put
them into a "community box," from which they dispense
the supplies for the remainder of the year to all students as
their needs arise. Sound familiar? It should. Poplar Tree is hardly
the only school where this absurd practice has taken place.

One of the
most exciting times of the year for kids who actually like going
to school used to be picking out all those brand new supplies
at the end of summer vacation. But what's the point when your
teachers don't even let you keep the pencils, crayons, and notebooks
you've purchased for yourself? One of the first lessons students
are apt to learn in today's public schools is that it's just fine
for someone else to pilfer their belongings, so long as it takes
place under the guise of "compassion," "equality,"
and "sharing." So much for your kid learning the value
and importance of private property rights.

Of course,
this really shouldn't be too surprising. For years now public
schools have championed the merits of "cooperative learning,"
where students are grouped into mini-communes of four or five.
The idea here is to encourage cooperation between peers, where
the brighter students in the group are expected to facilitate
the learning of those less academically adroit.

Aside from
the sheer foolishness of expecting any individual student to be
responsible for the learning of anyone but himself, "cooperative"
methods of learning discourage independent thinking in addition
to encouraging misbehavior and cheating. Indeed, these instructional
methods are invented by the very same teachers who believe grading
papers with red ink is "pretty frightening" for kids,
at least according to Sharon
Carlson
, a health and physical education teacher at JFK Middle
School in Northampton, Mass.

Looking
for some high school hijinks? The Washington
Post
has reported that a geometry teacher at Oxon Hill
High School in Prince George's County, Md., has been removed from
instructional duty for administering a math test containing word
problems referencing drugs and weapons. A sample from the "joke"
exam: “Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine. If he sells an 8 ball to
Antonio for $320 and 2 grams to Juan for $85 per gram, what is
the street value of the rest of his hold?” The Post also stated
that the unnamed teacher even asked students to write their "gang
name" on the test.

Thankfully,
the school district had the presence of mind to reassign this
teacher. But what are we to make of a district that hasn't summoned
the moral fiber to fire a teacher who deems it appropriate to
inflame racial stereotypes at a school with an 85% black population?
Don't be surprised when the "Bloods" and "Crips"
start to displace the "Bluebirds" and "Robins"
reading groups of yesteryear.

Perhaps most
outrageous, Shiba Pillai-Diaz, a middle school teacher at Crossroads
South Middle School in Monmouth Junction, N.J., was recently ordered
out of her school by her principal for hanging a photo of President
and Mrs. Bush on a bulletin board next to other U.S. presidents.
According to WABC
news
, "Pillai-Diaz ultimately removed the entire bulletin
board and [said] School Principal Jim Warfel told her she disrupted
the school with her u2018inflammatory politics'" before being
shown the door.

Each of these
illustrations really demonstrates all you need to know about the
mentality proliferated in today's public schools. Administrators
and teachers are so consumed by left-liberal notions of absolute
"equality" that they find nothing wrong with confiscating
your kid's property – unless it means preventing students from
disrupting lectures. The New York Times has written that
public schools have practically given up on attempting to enforce
rules prohibiting students from having cell phones in class. (The
jury's still out on whether or not schools will continue to try
to prevent kids from having oral sex in stairwells.)

Moreover,
government schools are so committed to "non-judgmentalism"
that they can barely bring themselves to reprimand unprofessional
teachers – unless, of course, those teachers are guilty of recognizing
the one man responsible for dumping billions of dollars into public
school coffers. Figure that one out.

In short,
whereas a demagogue like Jim Warfel purports to proclaim fairness
in the classroom by preventing teachers from displaying a poster
of a Republican president unless his Democrat challenger accompanies
it, he merely reveals the agenda of the liberal education populace
– the only "inflammatory politics" allowed in public
schools these days are those that appeal to the left.

It goes without
saying that there are many good public schools in this country.
The problem is, there are far too many bad ones. Again, we're
only two months into the school year. Stay tuned for more lunacy.

October
22, 2004

Trevor
Bothwell [send him
mail
] is editor of The
Right Report.com
and is a Townhall.com book reviewer.

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