How equal should schools be?

Posted by & filed under Politics.

Given that I didn’t go through local school system, I am quite ignorant about it, and some of what I see seem to be… bizarre. If not worse.
For example, a set of extremely dumb and inflexible rules usually prepended with “zero tolerance” or an incessant desire to make all schools “equal”.

Intellectually I understand why people want something like that: the desire to help someone less fortunate (preferably at the cost that bears someone else, and all the glory comes to that “helping” person) and an attempt to pull down those who are higher up the ladder of life. The easiest way to do it, is to try to modify the environment so everyone would be “equal”. Such utopia has nothing to do with reality, of course.

In real life you do have someone who works as a rocket scientist and gets a lot of money and perks, and someone who does a back-breaking minimum-wage job. Injustice! The better off rocket scientist has to share (involuntarily, if he’s an evil capitalist) the spoils of his luck with the world. That is done via taxes (with not much success at the moment, but that’s a different story).

But if both worker’s children go to a public school (okay, so not such a super-rich scientist, if he/she can’t afford a private school) then their children will be forced to be equal. More specifically, in Albany, California, slightly fancier school where the rocket scientist lives will not be allowed to have some sort of extra equipment/classes/instructors as long as all other schools don’t have exactly the same.
This prohibition pretty much floored me. When thinking about equal school opportunity, I always thought that it means “basic service”. In other words all schools teach kids some basic stuff, which is financed by the state/public money, and has a single program, standard etc.

Beyond that you will have parents try to do everything they can to help their child learn better. Given that regular class is probably dumbed down to the lowest common denominator (among the latest ideas is “Fs are not allowed” and no holding back) they will try to get extra classes. In this case, x-nayed are school-day art, music and chess, because (oh horrors) other elementary schools didn’t have the same funding as two “rich” schools, Marin and Cornell. That particular incident got resolved, because extra money were found for poorer schools to “match” the parent funded extras but this whole thing just doesn’t make any sense.

Life is not equal. It will never be, until we turn into some absolutely identical energy blobs or cloned entities with the same identical mind. Someone will always have a bit (or a lot) more than you do (members of the richest people in the world lists probably are excluded) and trying to shield children from this reality is not going to help them, just make that shock of going into the real world afterwards that much more severe.

If parents managed to get some money for an extra class that can be put into schedule without disrupting “regular programming” then be it. Otherwise you force them to pay for it two or more times — for their kids, then extra taxes to do the same for someone else. You want to teach your kid music? Well then you have to teach all the other kids music too or you are not allowed to do it. I’d think it just adds to bitterness. There’s a chance to make at least some kids better educated, but it will be denied because “it’s not fair”. Would you rather have three kids out of ten get “A”s in art, or have everyone get a “C”?

I hope that if this problem re-appears (due to funding shortage) then parents will simply separate out the “extra” program. I mean nothing prevents them from having those instructors do the teaching in someone’s home after regular school, right? They will loose a bunch of time, but school will preserve the illusion of equality.

Illusion, because at home kids will not be equal, depending on how wealthy parents are. And those who have more money probably will have better books, more fun things to do, private tutoring, instructors etc. But hey, as long as the district can close eyes and pretend that world beyond school buildings doesn’t exist, or is filled with identical entities living among rainbows, all is well…

And I hope they won’t try to reach even further, and start having inspections of homes where kids that attend public school live. So, if kids have extra books not in educational plan, that will be confiscated, sold off and money split between all other kids, because that’s an unfair advantage. Parents earn more and dared to give the offspring a better future.

By the way, California is not alone. In Texas there’s a Robin Hood law that also re-distributes funding from fancy areas into poorer districts. Because when people say “think of the children” they really mean “think of disadvantaged children”. And there are always kids that are in the worse situation than yours. Because the poorest school in here is probably a hundred times richer than schools in third world countries. Would you like your school to be stripped from the ‘extra’ funds and those sent to disadvantaged children? Why only in state? Are you trying to say that kids in Africa are less worthy of local taxpayer dollars than kids living in another school district? Allow districts to merge then.
Otherwise, for all practical purposes, other district should be the same as Africa to yours. Because as soon as you step outside of the very local borders of the smallest organizational unit, you can expand until the whole world is your school district. And that wouldn’t do any good, as in this universe situation where everything is equal is the thermal death, when everything is as cold as possible.

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