The rule is that I will not get into the personalities on the New Paltz school board. I repeat that rule because it is surely the most tempting rule to violate. But the truth is that I don’t have the whole career that would be needed to do justice to that singular enterprise, and I don’t think that taking the occasional shot at any of those individuals would do anything for the problems I see with public education locally in New Paltz (bad and an expensive con job), in New York State (horrifying), or generally, in America (calamitous).
The problems with American education, as a whole, are inter-generational, with an ever more rapidly compounding interest of awfulness. American children are bright, very bright, and American education is stupefying, and gets progressively worse at each succeeding level.
Whoever, for instance, had the idea that throwing hundreds of teenagers together in the same place at the same time for hours a day, five days a week, ten months out of the year, should be credited with the worst idea of the last thousand years. See what I mean by an inter-generational problem? Some adults can’t help but be nostalgic for that dreadful experience even as they watch their own children disappear into the malignant imitative peer cultures of America’s teenworld. As I wrote the other day, that’s not socialization, it’s institutionalization.
It would be pointless to point at the hapless individuals on the local school board in an ocean of a problem that is that broad and that deep.
I don’t think that even private schools, while having the potential to be better, are that much of an improvement on public schools. Though I note that the Obamas, who would never do anything but tighten the chains of public education, send their two kids to private schools.
Smart parents, with a great deal of attention, can manage to get their kids through public schools with less damage relative to the herd. But it’s never a sure bet. The imitative idiocies of the teenworld culture in America are just astounding in their variety and allure. Some parents, little more than superannuated teenagers themselves, are fully complicit in the “fun.”
Smarter parents turn to homeschooling, where their kids can be more carefully monitored and given more proportional exposure to kids their age (and older and younger) and to adults and to people who know things. Cyberspace is the great facilitator of homeschooling. But one needs, of course, to appreciate the jealous eye of the state and the interests that control public education. The state and those interests have ready access to all sorts of compulsion and regulation to make serious parents insane.