Our Grade School and Higher Education Disparity

Saw the above video on how Americans drop out of engineering. One young man talks about how he took lots of math and science in high school, including calculus, but he was somehow unprepared for science and engineering at the college level. He had interest in the subject but was not adequately prepared.

What is crazy and makes little sense is that America has one of the best systems of higher education in the world, and yet we have one of the worst systems of grade school education.

I had a debate with a public school social worker friend just a month or so ago. He argued that public schools are much better at education than private schools because they were versed in dealing with a wider variety of students. While he’s right that they deal with a wider variety of students–you’ll find more crack heads and gang bangers in public school than in private school, and public school teachers have to deal with that–he’s completely wrong on the education thing. Private schools are MUCH better at actual teaching–partly because teachers don’t have to deal with crack heads and gang bangers. Plus, they have more parental involvement and parental control. This is why politicians and rich people, including those who appoint and fire public school administrators, usually send their kids to private schools. If you’re a crappy and lazy teacher in public school, they keep you around and give you a comfortable pension that could potentially pay millions. If you’re a crappy and lazy teacher in a private school, they have a board of trustees to deal with people like you. Private schools have job security, but only for good teachers. As conservative talk show host Michael Berry correctly points out, private schools usually pay their teachers much less than public schools, and yet teachers clamor for these jobs.

In Oregon, we have one of the worst teacher-student ratios in the country, along with one of the shortest school years. What makes it particularly difficult is that there are so many different views on this subject. Lots of the problems probably start at home–parents who don’t encourage education–but we need to get serious about education in this country. It’s a travesty that our public grade schools and high schools are not preparing our young people to meet the standards of our colleges. A good public education ought to be a right.

17 thoughts on “Our Grade School and Higher Education Disparity

  1. Utah spends about $6k per pupil and the kids, academically speaking, do far, far better than kids in D.C. schools, where over $30k is spent per pupil. 😐

  2. Of course, when a lot of Asians & Whites talk about ‘public’ schools it is oftentimes just a code word for those stacked with NAM’s (non-Asian minorities). It goes without saying that liberal SWPL Asians and Whites tend to avoid these schools like the plague.

    Teachers have a difficult time controlling a lot of these children and as you point out BW a lot of them are in gangs. Just what is it like to teach Black students? Christopher Jackson, shares his story:

    [deleted because of copyright]

  3. Well, there’s several things to consider here… but I’ll take this question in the “What can be done improve our public schools?” approach and ignore the other factors.

    Look back to my experience in High School, we had a defacto tracking of classes. There’s the Honors and AP classes and then there’s the CP (College Preparatory) and Standard classes (eliminated shortly after I graduated).

    I was in mostly Honors and AP, but I had some CP classes. It’s night and day. Honors and AP is fast paced – get into class and get working and when we had discussions, it was pretty thoughtful and stimulating. The CP classes was a mess. Not at the fault of the teacher, though some was able to take control faster. Half the class wants to learn. The other half consistently managed to disrupt half the class time.

    So my first thought is if the crack heads, gang bangers and other who don’t want to learn, well let them. Allow the half of the CP class who do care as its own class. The ones who don’t care, separate them.

    I guess Honors and AP already does some of that, but not every subject have it. Also, via the example of half the CP class, there are some who was willing to learn or least have some discipline, but didn’t make the mark to be recommended for Honors. My school wasn’t even inner inner city school, it was an urban school and diverse, but those schools have only a few honors/AP classes. So, I suggest an “honors” class for every subject, started in earlier grades, and -most importantly- voluntary so those who are hard working but have troubling grades can enjoy it too. Just advertise the honors is for anyone who want to learn more and the class will filter itself out as the disruptive ones would not volunteer to join the class.

    While we still have the crack head problem, at least the one who aren’t don’t have to lose half the class time as the teacher argue them them.

  4. Fun,

    I edited your comment. I don’t think we’re allowed to post whole articles here–copyright. (I’m not a lawyer, but that was what I was told.) That Chris Jackson dude probably spent hours writing about how bad black students are, and the since it looks like he might not be such a competent teacher, you might want to link him, rather than repost him, just so he makes some money off his journalistic endeavors.

  5. Dreamer,

    Good points.

    The issue, I think, is funding. It’s expensive to have two classes–or three, really, if you need separate spaces for geniuses, normal people, and crack headed gangbangers.

    I think the first step is to cut entitlements. Public schools, like many government entities, are highly bureaucratic, and there needs to be a way to pay for not just teachers, but administrators and support staff too. I imagine that in the end, public schools will always cost more than private schools to run, but there must be a way to streamline it and make it more manageable.

  6. Well Dreamer, as we all know tracking is racist. How do we know it is racist? Simple, there are disparate outcomes. You know what the NAACP is going to say when NAM’s are in all the smart kid classes, don’t you?

  7. Fun,

    How did this become all about black people? Sure, the guy in the video is black–as are the asst. engineering dean and the other two engineering students working in the lab–but what does this have to do with race?

    I mentioned in the OP that our school year is the shortest, but we don’t have a high percentage of black people in Portland. Are you saying that public schools where students are White don’t have problems? Or that the education in these schools is good?

    Last I checked, black people are only around 14% of the population. Our public schools are suffering in general, not only in predominantly black schools.

  8. Well, black people do perform most poorly of all groups. Especially the inner city schools. But my proposal is written in mind for improving schools in general as BigWowo said, schools in general are doing poorly too versus the rest of the world

    I’m missing what you said about NAACP comment. I can imagine someone can yell racism if the honor track is all while while the standard is all black, but you just said all NAMs in the honors class?

    Well, part of the problem I see is caused by kids who do nothing but disrupt the class. My idea of a voluntary “honors” class is the ones sign up means he or she would be at least minimally motivated if they bother to do so. I can’t see how it is racism if the ones left behind are free to still sign up if they wish.

    Ah writing that now, I think I get what you saying, you suspect that there would still be a disparity of grades within the volunteer classes. Motivated doesn’t necessarily translate to competitive grades. If that’s what you are pointing out, then it is because I left out some major details. There would still be an Honors/AP system with the grade requirement and/or teacher recommendation. The genius types would be put into those classes in the upper grades, so they won’t be crushing all the kids who sign up for the “honors” class. At least, this will separate crackheads out of the class. Grades competitive with the best of the best, that’s different.

  9. I’m not so sure a lot of our public schools are suffering. It’s really just those with a lot of NAMs in them for the most part.

    “I’m missing what you said about NAACP comment. I can imagine someone can yell racism if the honor track is all while while the standard is all black, but you just said all NAMs in the honors class?” Meant to say Asians & Whites not NAMs there.

  10. Aside from the fact that many young Americans not including Asians, whether bright or otherwise, want insant gratification and monetary rewards with less effort to conform with our cultural norms, studying engineering would be an unforgiving endeavor.

    All I can say from the video is that Alina chick is hot for an engineering student, maybe she can start a new trend.

  11. Fun wrote: “I’m not so sure a lot of our public schools are suffering. It’s really just those with a lot of NAMs in them for the most part. ”

    Then you’d be wrong. Our schools are suffering in Oregon, especially Portland–short school years, budget problems, kids not learning–and there aren’t as many non-Asian minorities as other places.

  12. AM/AF couple:

    Great story! I think the “structured intervention” thing is helpful.

    I wish they’d say something about the other big issues here: big class sizes and short school years. But I have a feeling the answer would be higher property taxes–which isn’t a bad thing, as long as there’s some financial oversight to make sure the money is spent wisely.

  13. Pingback: Why private school teachers work for less pay, and why “throwing money at it” doesn’t always work | bigWOWO

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