The Model Public School

BookEducationby FJ Rocca7/9/15
There was a time in America when, if one graduated from an ordinary high school, he got a very substantial education in the process. He could read, write research papers, do fairly advanced math, and clearly communicate with others. His opportunities expanded among potential employers and, if he was able to go on to higher education, with college professors. But that era is gone.

Now, the public schools in the US, especially in the inner city, are in real trouble. My wife is a high school English Literature teacher in an urban public school. Many of her students cannot read on a fourth grade level, much less write comprehensible sentences. And constructing logical, cogent paragraphs is mostly beyond them. My wife is an extraordinary teacher and has managed to teach some of them to construct a persuasive essay, but this has been an arduous task taking months.

Yet, teachers are vilified in the media so that their strength, which lies in teaching students, has been seriously and negatively impacted by political correctness and a litigious mindset among parents and the public in general. The fix for this undesirable situation does not lie in Dewey-modeled “education reforms” of the sort proposed by the so-called experts whose idea is to dumb down education or to advocate radically increased standardized testing to support fictitious statistics and keep their overgrown budgets.[pullquote]The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate, a power too easily abused by politicians on every level. It must be kept in the control of teachers, local administrators and parents immediately concerned with local school issues. [/pullquote]

In the pernicious interests of Political Correctness, practices are imposed on teachers which strangle their initiative and motivation But they are threatened not to have high failing rates, lest their paychecks suffer — all this as though it were the fault of the teachers that students fail. In the system where my wife teaches, it is common practice to give students a minimum average grade of 50% even if they rarely show up to class or have real grades of 15% or even 0% as in the case of one student.

Teachers are told that, if attacked physically by a student, they are not allowed to defend themselves on pain of losing their jobs. Instead, they are told they will receive large benefits for the abuse they tolerate. If we are to restore sanity to the classroom, we must:

1. Get the big money out of education.

2. Get the Federal Government out of education.

3. Get rid of most of useless and expensive bureaucracy.

4. Get rid of Political Correctness and replace it with order and civility.

These changes will not be made by the existing establishment who, like the Federal and State bureaucracies themselves, continue to feed off the carcass of a dying system until it is nothing but bare bones. Then where will the hope of our children’s education lie?

Changes must come from a cooperative network of teachers, parents, and students who want a future — a universal movement among teaching professionals and other parties in support of the restoration of traditional American public education along the following principles.

First, public education should be essentially not-for-profit. While private enterprise may provide textbooks, technology and other educational media, no authority, including control of content, may be exerted by any private organization, corporation or other such entity in public education.

Second, all public education must remain local. No national or state entity may control either the standards or content of material taught in the classroom. This must remain in the control of local authorities, including local school boards, PTAs and like organizations whose sole interest is in providing quality education to public school students. The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate, a power too easily abused by politicians on every level. It must be kept in the control of teachers, local administrators and parents immediately concerned with local school issues. Teachers should take an integral part in executing such authority. There must be no national curriculum, the content of which is controlled on any level by government.

Third, the public education should be Teacher-Student-Parent centered. The process of Education is a 200% relationship of teacher to student, each putting in 100% effort, dedication, and commitment. The student seeks learning; the teacher offers the tools to learn. In this regard, the teacher is the incontrovertible core of the learning relationship. Administrators must be secondary, always acting to support the Teacher-Student unit. Outside consultants, educational philosophers, and those seeking grant money to write about education, especially when they have had no direct classroom experience, should be entirely excluded. Ideas are always welcome, but they must support the concept of traditional education, which has proven for centuries to be the most workable system.

This is based on the assumption that teachers are committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest principles in the delivery of educational methods and practices. We recognize that there will be situations in which a teacher may deviate from strict adherence to traditional practice, but the purpose of any and all lessons must be to educate students toward the highest levels of knowledge, ethics and morality. Students are not experiments or laboratory creatures.

Fourth, we must recognize and encourage the role of parents and taxpayers in all phases of education, providing that role does not interfere with the traditional process of educating students, but instead ensures adherence to the established guidelines. When parents fail to take an active role with their students and teachers, they should be called to account. We must reject and abhor the practice of litigating grades. Grades must be based entirely on the performance of the student as he/she follows the study plans provided to him in the classroom by the teacher.

Fifth, it must be recognized that the classroom is not a democracy. The teacher must be in authority at all times and students must be respectful of that authority.  Too often the teacher is unprotected in adversary discussions with parents and other agents. The job of the principal and other administrative staff should always be to protect the teacher from unfair treatment. Likewise, the principle or agents of the principle must also safeguard the interests of the student and to maintain fairness in dealings between teachers and students or parents.

Order must be restored to the classroom in the form of civility, common courtesy, and classroom etiquette. Rules for conduct must be clearly established from the outset and students must be held to standards of behavior. Those students who do not comply with established standards should be disciplined without exception. Where applicable, school dress codes must be considered part of the rules.

We must return to teaching and imparting the basics: basic civility, core knowledge, and core facts about America, including American Exceptionalism, thus restoring traditional American values to American education.

Sixth, we must return to a vertical plan that is developed by teachers and includes realistic goals at all grade levels. These goals should include Standard English grammar and composition, basic arithmetic and mathematics, fact-based world and American history (not politically correct or interpreted versions in which facts are ignored and bias introduced to create false narratives), and factual rather than “consensus” science. This vertical plan may be universal, but not federally mandated, controlled or influenced.

Last, we must recognize that teaching is equally a calling and a profession. An effort must be made to restore respect and dignity to the profession of teaching, thus encouraging once again a desire to enter that profession which we consider so noble.


FJ Rocca was born the day after Pearl Harbor in the same hometown as Johnny Appleseed. He is a trained classical musician, a published illustrator and a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction. His website is candiddiscourse.com. • (1088 views)

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FJ Rocca

About FJ Rocca

FJ Rocca was born the day after Pearl Harbor in the same hometown as Johnny Appleseed. He is a trained classical musician, a published illustrator and a prolific writer of fiction and non-fiction. His website is candiddiscourse.com.

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9 Responses to The Model Public School

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    FJ, I agree with much of this. But there’s an elephant in the living room that wasn’t mention: Breaking up the stranglehold of teacher’s unions which, in combination with the Democrat Party, resists holding teachers to high standards. I’ve heard over and over again that it is next to impossible these days to get rid of a poor teacher.

    Your scenario is very teacher-student oriented, with the bureaucrats and intellectuals (meddlers, both) out of the equations. I couldn’t agree more. But given this scenario is very much dependent upon quality teachers, I think you need to address the issue of teacher unions. Unless I’m mistaken about the mess that they are.

    • That was my response, too. None of these noble goals can be reached as long as the unions run education. I worked in the public schools for nearly 30 years, but never joined the union — I could write a book on the abuses of such a system.

      And FJ — I so agree that teaching is both calling and profession — it is in fact a fine art and the more it is treated like a science experiment or a political football the worse things will get.

      • FJ Rocca says:

        Amen to that. I didn’t mention teachers unions because I thought it was more of a political than an educational or philosophic issue, but you and Brad are right in saying unions interfere. My sense, though, was that they really don’t give a damn what material is taught, only that they get paid. Pearson Education, on the other had, while it is private enterprise, is now operating as a monopolistic trust by taking over not only curriculum (Common Core) but also all testing, including the SATs). My wife, who is a teacher, will be dealing with those issues in several articles based on talks she has given on the subject.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Reports I’ve seen on NEA conventions indicate that they’re pretty left-wing. The teachers may not care so much, but the union leaders certainly do, and undoubtedly support the modern politicization of education.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    No matter who is fault (and there are probably many guilty parties), public education in America has become (all too often) a fraud — taken money from the taxpayers on the false pretense of educating children. Teachers can’t be exonerated from this; many are poor teachers (and protected by the unions), and many of the rest fail to do anything about it. But the bureaucracy is indeed a major problem, and that includes custodial staff in some cases (I’ve read that in NYC they have better salaries than the teachers due to a more effective union, or perhaps a union more interested in money than in power games at the expense of members).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      On the other side, public education is doing a splendid job at three very important things:

      1) Babysitting the kids
      2) Creating jobs for government employees
      3) Indoctrinating kids into the cult of Progressivism.

      What’s not to like if you’re on the Left?

  3. Steve Lancaster says:

    If all around you is falling apart, there is no control, people are frightened and running in all directions and you remain calm; then perhaps you don’t understand the true nature of the problem.
    Old Marine axiom

    The application is, I believe, apt. Our schools are more and more crisis zones that we pretend are offering education, while in fact they only serve as guarded facilities to keep the ungifted off the streets for 6-8 hours a day M-F. I seem to recall that the Baltimore school system spends over $10,000 per student per year and many other school districts spend as much or more. So a class with 25 students represents $250,000 in taxpayer spending. What the hell happened!

    Conservatives and Libertarians have been asking that question for years now and except for a few half hearted efforts to fund charter schools and sort-of vouchers in some areas the influence of teacher unions, janitor unions, administrator unions have turned public schools into the economic equal of Greece. Politicians talk about it, but lack the political will to do anything but pass the buck.

    IMHO, the only answer, given the cultural bent in favor public funding for education. Is a voucher system that follows the student. No if and or buts, parochial to atheist come one come all. Repeal all so called standards, and leave the decision on education up to the parents and local school boards.

    Oh, and shutter the Dept. of Education, fire the bureaucrats that run it and turn the budgeted funds back to the states.

    Public schools have become the sewer of our culture, and we only get out of it what we put into it.

  4. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    I believe you have a formula for success. It seems like I remember being educated in such a situation. I know I should not feel this way but I believe that my public school education was far superior to many of those delivered since 1963. I have a grandson that has been so blessed of mind that he has been taking courses for gifted children since late junior high years. He is smart in many things above my learning but he has a serious vacuum concerning many practical things. I often ask him if he knows the meaning of a word and often times he does not. Socially he is learned, politically he is far from finished. I try to encourage him to talk to me about the political things that are going on and while his answers are for the most part OK his interest in such things are minimal. I explain to him he needs to pay attention to news and form reasoned opinions of what is going on. It is he and many others that must take up the business of local, state and national interest as us oldsters pass from control. As it is now, we will be handing off a wreck of a nation to them. In some ways this wreck may be my fault but when you consider that when a man is working his end off to keep a place to stay, food, clothing and transportation for his family it doesn’t leave much time for steering the government. (I forgot to add that I was keeping a whole other family as well to do as my own on my taxes.) I did all I could with my vote but I can say without reserve that my vote did not change one candidates results in any election that I ever participated. Machines have made dullards of our kids. If they don’t have the smart phone with them they cannot tell you what 7 times 9 is to save their lives. Estimating is a lost art, as well. I will spare you the rest of my thoughts, this is enough.

  5. FJ Rocca says:

    You wax eloquent and should not give up your thoughts. Keep talking. Everything you say resonates with me. I have two stepdaughters who have been so indoctrinated by their schooling that they have difficulty understand my worldview. It does manage to pique their curiosity, but beyond that, nothing.

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