In the United States, the public school system has been on a slow decline for quite some time. While the top students are coming out of school better prepared than ever, overall, test scores have been plummeting, literacy has been declining, and graduation rates have been dropping. In the state of California, that decline has been especially noted. Public sentiment has demanded that the trend be reversed, because this is simply not acceptable in the country that brought the world into the Information Age, and is especially not acceptable in a state where information technology is a major industry.
The first solution was money, and so the voters of California, already sick to death of some of the highest taxes in the country, aquiesced to yet more taxes for the building of new schools, and the utilisation of new technologies to use in the classroom. Then the state, in spite of protests from the powerful gaming lobbies of Nevada, approved gambling in the form of a state lottery. One-third of all funds generated by the lottery were earmarked for the schools. Now California spends more money per student than almost all other states. But the money failed to arrest, nor even slow, the decline.
This upsets Californians, who see their money being wasted on an education system that is failing. In order to wake the public school system up, Californians voted on a proposition on the 2000 ballot on the subject of school vouchers. For those who are unfamiliar with this plan, what the proponents of vouchers intend to do is take the money that would be spent on the child, and place it in the hands of the parents. The parents could then shop around for a school, public or private, and give that voucher to whatever school they accept. Under the plan that was on the ballots in California, only half the money that would be spent on the student in a particular year, $4000, would be available for the parent. Any private school costs above that would be paid by the parent. The remaining $4000 would be retained by the child's local public school, the idea being that there would still be money left in the public school system to compete with the private schools.
There are serious problems posed by this plan, so it can be seen as a sign of the utter disgust Californians feel for the current state of affairs that this proposition was rejected by a fairly slim margin. Still, the fact that it was on the ballots, and that it nearly passed, has been hoped to be seen as a wake-up call to administrators in the public school system. And boy, has it ever.
One of the reasons Californians decided to give the public schools one more chance is that we were told that reform measures were already being moved into place, and that it would be prudent to wait and see what effect those measures had before doing anything drastic. The results aren't in yet, because they've only recently been implemented, but I believe a bit of examination and extrapolation can tell us exactly where we're headed.
With flagging test scores, my local school district has taken the following measures. They've redirected funds from the arts to focus on the three R's (reading, writing, and arithmetic), so much so that the principal of one middle school has done away with Art. It no longer exists. In addition, that same principal has gone on record saying:
'Music is not a priority. PE (physical education) is not a priority.'
That principal has strongly recommended to music and PE teachers that they acquire a credential to teach another subject.
The three R's are to be worked into every class. In other words, evey teacher is supposed to give out reading and writing assignments, and some sort of math is supposed to be worked into the curriculum, as well. While that makes perfect sense in such electives as drama (they could write a script), debate (read transcripts from famous debates and write an evaluation), or electronics (calculate circuit values from Ohm's Law), it makes absolutely NO sense in a performance music class, an art class (not that they have them anyway), or a shop class. And even in those other classes where certain things do work... how do you work mathematics into a debate class? What would you write for electronics? And the best question of all... why should you bother??
It has been a sign of every great civilization that they have had the resources to devote to the arts. Are we, then, civilized no longer? Are we to usher in a dark age, where everyone can read and multiply, but nobody can carry a tune or catch a ball? Even if we tried, the answer is, we won't. Kids fail to graduate from school largely because of lack of interest. Now we're going to take all of the interesting classes, and either eliminate them, or make them unbearably dull. Is this going to reverse the trend, or exacerbate it?
And if that weren't enough to make you scream, there's more. The public schools have entered the completely hopeless War On Drugs. They cannot force students to take mandatory drug tests, because that would be unconstitutional. However, if the students volunteer to be a part of extracurricular activities, then when they acquiesce to be a part of that activity, they technically acquiesce to drug testing. So the communists that make up the School Board have decided that anyone who participates in any such activity must volunteer for testing.
HEY, STUPID!! The kids who are in sports, plays, marching bands, debate teams, drill teams, cheerleader squads, choirs, academic decathlons, and so forth... they're the good kids!! We WANT kids to participate in after-school activities, so they feel good about themselves, so they have something to do with their spare time, so they develop confidence, purpose, and a sense of community. SO THEY DON'T TAKE DRUGS!!! And yet the brain trust is going to subject them to the humiliation and privacy invasion of drug screening. The simple fact that drug testing is done at all is likely to turn off students who never took a drug stronger than Tylenol in their lives. And as the numbers in those electives dwindle, it will be all that much easier to eliminate them. Welcome to the Dark Ages... and if you thought popular music was bad now, wait until this crop gets its chance at the spotlight...