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What If?

If The World Were Like the Public Education System
by Kevin C. Killion


If the computer industry were like public education:

You (and everyone else) would pay a huge tax in order to fund Microsoft, regardless of whether you owned five, one, or no computers. You would have no control over what gets sent to you from Microsoft, how it works, or even whether it works. The Microsoft programmers would be protected by lifetime jobs, whether they are competent or not, and they would be encouraged to add experimental features to your software even if they caused your system to crash.

If you weren't happy with this arrangement, you would be free to buy some other computer system, but you'd get no support for that, and you'd still have to pay the tax to pay for the computer you're not using.

If food stores were like public education:

Your state would be divided into Food Districts, each staffed by a series of highly paid administrators who would write memos to each other about what foods they thought people in their district should eat. At no time would anyone actually study what foods people liked, or if it did them any good.

These administrators would then decide what foods you would be assigned, and how much you must pay for them. If you complain that every meal on every day is loaded with mint and you don't like mint, they will send you copies of memos they've written to each other about why you need more mint. If you object that you are allergic to rice but that every meal they supply has rice, they might suggest that you need a special counselor to deal with your attitude about your rice, but you still get rice because it's important for your cultural awareness. You will not get any meat at any time, because it's been decided that it's bad for you.

You are free to buy food from other sources if you can find any, but if you do, you won't get any food at all from the official store. And you still have to pay for all the mint and rice that you're not using.

You could move to a neighboring Food District. But it's entirely possible that you'll discover that while this other district doesn't share the same enthusiasm about mint and rice, they do have a thing about using lots and lots of walnuts. And they don't offer any meat either.

If a school administrator ran a Rotary club

  • There would only be a single club you would be allowed to join.
  • There would be many fund-raisers for various causes, but there would be no discussion about whether these causes have any accomplishments.
  • Charities that have been around the longest get the most money, regardless of whether than accomplish anything more than newer charities.
  • A great deal of money would go to building lavish new offices for charities.
  • There is no choice in the meal you are served at meetings. You get the same meal at every meeting, though different people get different things. What you get depends on your home street address.
  • If you don't like your meal, you can send it back to the kitchen, but you get no replacement.
  • If you quit the club, you still have to pay dues -- forever.
  • If the highway system were like public education

    There would be only one highway, and it would only have one destination.

    The highway board wouldn't want to inequitably favor drivers that want to go faster, nor would they want to make drivers of slower cars feel bad, so therefore there would only be one lane, and the speed limit would be 30 mph, no faster and no slower. Since some cars may not be able to attain even that speed, there would be lots of exit ramps -- they don't really need to go to the destination.

    There would be many curves, switchbacks and loops so that you can be exposed to higher-order driving skills. As a result, a linear distance of ten miles would take about 50 miles of driving. However, everyone would be equipped with CB radios so they can discuss everything, even though no one has a clue about where all the curves are going.

    There would be no maps or guidebooks, since the highway board has decided everything for you. The roadside would be decorated with huge, animated, DayGlo color, flashing billboards every 150 feet reminding you to stay focused on the road. If you failed to stay focused despite all the helpful reminders, you would be given regular doses of a stimulant.

    This one highway would be a tollway, and there would be periodic tollbooths to collect a huge fee. You can choose to use another road if you can find one, but then you have to mail in the toll to pay for the official road.

    If soccer were like public education

    To ensure that all members of all teams feel successful, no scores will be kept and no winners will be announced. It is more important that the team learn the process, and finish the game at the skill level determined by the coach, than to win. Everyone should play to their highest potential, as long as that does not exceed the coaches' pre-determination.

    To make sure everyone meets all the outcomes, skill-challenged players must be given more practice time and coaching. During games, anyone who becomes goal-deficient, goes offside, fouls, or displays an uncooperative attitude toward the process, will be remediated during time-outs. The skill-enriched players must sit on the bench, helping to coach the others until they demonstrate the right moves, or engage in enrichment activities such as playing tag. Naturally, all this takes much more time, so a 10 am game might go on into the evening.

    All teams will complete exactly 12 games and will receive the same recognition. No records will be kept, no statistics will be needed, nor will there be any need for play-offs, all-star teams, or recognition banquets. Trophies will be meaningless, but every player and coach will get one, and they will all be identical.

    Psycho-behavioral soccer experts feel that this will increase the self-esteem of every player, who will feel great about his or her accomplishments. Playing any games against teams that don't have the same regulations is discouraged. It would be unfair competition to play against teams that emphasize excellence and winning. In any case, the peer pressure of not being part of our league will be sufficient motivation to cause the "traditional" team to conform to the Outcome-Based Soccer Model.




    Same Idea, Other Writers



  • Bad Apples and Public Schools by Terence Jeffrey, November 29, 2006. "Suppose there were a law that forced you to pay a government agency for apples you were supposed to feed your children. The government didn't care if you grew your own apples or if your neighbor grew apples you liked better than the government's brand -- the law compelled you to pay for the state's product whether you wanted it for your children or not. Now, suppose many people who actually fed their children public apples discovered something wrong with them. Some apples were bitter, others mushy and others rotten to the core. When they complained to the public-apple agencies, agency bureaucrats and their union would say: "Excuse me, the bad apples are not our fault. You need to give us more money so we can build better apple storage facilities, and so we can pay better wages to apple handlers." So the government forced everybody to pay more for its apples. Now, the public-apple agencies built beautiful new apple storage facilities. They paid their apple handlers handsomely. Still, a disturbing number of apples remained bitter, mushy or rotten to the core."




    Centralized Cappuccino by Andrew J. Coulson, American Spectator, November 13, 2006. "Imagine what would happen if coffee shops were run like schools. Let's say that state and local officials granted Starbucks a 'public coffee' franchise, paying it $10,000 annually per customer (about what the public schools spend per pupil) to keep us all in caffeinated bliss. ... the decision to let Starbucks give its product away for free would drive most other suppliers out of business. ... But that would be just the beginning. Once Starbucks had a guaranteed source of tax revenue, customer satisfaction would fall by the wayside as a motivating principle of its business. ... Another cost-saving move that Starbucks might adopt would be to eliminate customers' ability to choose even from among its own shops ... After all, if customer satisfaction doesn't affect your bottom line, why allow customers to gallivant all over the city? Much more efficient to assign customers to a single shop, whether they like it or not."






    "What if Research Really Mattered?" by Diane Ravitch, Education Week, December 16, 1998. Excerpt:
          "I went to the emergency room of the local hospital ... I had a sudden insight: I was deeply grateful that my treatment was based on medical research, and not education research."




    Home Eating a Threat to Public Kitchens? State Allows Growing Trend of Eating At Home by Angela Paul




    Balanced Golf Instruction by Dr Kerry Hempenstall, RMIT University. Excerpt:
          "We know intuitively that golf is an irreducibly holistic experience best learned by authentic experiences. We enter all our novices in the US Open because that's authentic golf. The teacher's role is that of motivator/facilitator - we empower our students to grow in golf while experiencing a sense of enchantment . We do not teach skills, of course, even though some emerging golfers may naively request help with their swing. We explain that swing is only a sub-skill of golf, and to emphasise it out of the context of authentic golf is time-wasting, or even developmentally inappropriate."




    If School Districts Sold Cars, from CRAFT, Citizens for Reasonable and Fair Taxes.




    "Imagine that the production of washing machines had become the exclusive province of the government." by David M. Brown




    "If the teachers unions ran the NFL, all players would be paid according to their years in the league. If the team needed a quarterback and a great rookie prospect were available, the team would have to pay him less than a third-string defensive lineman."
    -- Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas, September 14, 2003




    If "Mainstream" Educators Trained Olympic Athletes: "U.S. Olympic Committee met for its annual retreat to learn the latest findings from advanced research in education, and to determine if some of the new, groundbreaking education ideas, developed in the country's most prestigious education schools, might be appropriate to their own training needs."


  • New Course Proposal:
    In the True Spirit of Restructuring

    (Written by Martha and Richard Schwartz)

    We have noticed that very few students really do all that well at sports, and only a few elite bodies get to play varsity football. Change is obviously needed. Announcing SPORTS ONE! for all students. (Where this has been tried before, there has been a big increase in students taking up professional hockey as upperclassmen.)

    Eleven Principles for Principals

    1. Use cooperative learning strategies. No team may score more points than the weakest member.
    2. Structure activities around the "great themes" of sports. For example, the first unit might concentrate on activities involving water, another on ones in which balls move up and down a field or court, and a third on those requiring heavy duty safety equipment. Do something entirely different each day to keep the students engaged.
    3. All classes must do the same activity concurrently. If this puts a heavy demand on diving boards, so be it.
    4. Take things slowly, so no student is required to confront his or her strengths and weaknesses. (Someone might lose self-esteem!) One day, for example, everyone could kick a football once, then stand around, or perhaps color their sports posters.
    5. Make all coaches teach all sports. The football coach will really love teaching synchronized swimming.
    6. Avoid rule books and such, if at all possible. (We don't want to encourage reading and lecturing!) In a pinch, photocopy stray pages and hand them out to other coaches. Provide these "plans" proudly to other schools, ignoring copyright laws whenever necessary.
    7. Teaching loads in sports may inadvertently increase. If so, enlist science teachers as part-time coaches. The level is so low, anyone can handle it.
    8. Put all the kids on the same team. If someone complains about the short, slow, clumsy, uninterested kids on the basketball squad, cry "racist!"
    9. Make up new rules as necessary. The traditional ones may be too complicated, and you may not know them, anyway. And certainly don't require, or give, the dreaded "test" on any sports principles or skills (or anything else.) There are other ways to assess learning. I suggest the sportsfolio.
    10. Give coaches very little warning and two weeks in the summer for planning.
    11. Wonder why the parents vote for "voucher sports camps."





    The article below appears in a slighty different form at What If Supermarkets Were Run Like Schools?


    Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph

    What if Supermarkets Were Run Like Schools?
    Luckily for us, groceries are not considered essential

    By Mark Harrison

    Imagine if we ran our supermarkets the way we run our schools.

    Due to the importance of equality of opportunity to buy groceries and to protect children from starvation due to negligent and ignorant parents buying the wrong groceries, we would have government-provided supermarkets, financed by taxes, at which shoppers could get their groceries for free.

    Under the new arrangement, customers are forced to shop at the supermarket in their suburb, and they are able to change to another government supermarket only with permission and subject to room at that supermarket. Private supermarkets exist, but customers have to pay for their groceries at them.

    The public supermarkets in each area are run by huge supermarket boards. Pay, staffing and working conditions are centrally determined via negotiations with the unions. The number of staff in each position is strictly regulated. And although the public supermarkets would seem to be overmanned, particularly when compared to the private sector, checkout queues are much longer and the shelves frequently are empty. Cuts in the equipment budget mean that shopping trolleys are very old, most with three or four wobbly wheels.

    There are many laments about the quality of public supermarkets. The opposition parties, for example, make strident demands for more spending on public supermarkets. Bans on private supermarkets are proposed periodically so that the rich will use their political influence to keep the quality of public supermarkets high. Many politicians, bureaucrats and public supermarket employees do their own shopping at the private markets however.

    Media reporting of supermarket issues is usually based on "facts" supplied by the well-organized public supermarket lobby group.

    The products stocked on public supermarket shelves are a controversial political issue, subject to much special interest pressure. Public supermarkets stock Canadian goods only, and no cigarettes or alcohol. A campaign has been mounted for a national shelf-stocking policy outlawing all fatty foods and environmentally-unfriendly products.

    Managers are appointed by a local board of trustees on which the Supermarket Employees' Union has substantial representation. All hiring is done through the central department. High school leavers who want to be checkout operators have to do a special course in the faculty of shopping at a local community college. Subjects studied include the sociology of shopping.

    Pay depends mainly on seniority, and promotion is limited to those who show support for the government's social justice aims.

    Although there is much academic research into appropriate shelf-stocking policies, optimal supermarket size and various measures of supermarket productivity, very little of the research is used by those operating supermarkets. Despite the lack of evidence that lower staff-customer ratios are related to better results, for example. there is much pressure to decrease them.

    Proposals that supermarkets be open weekends, public holidays and after 5:00 pm, like some private supermarkets, are quashed by industry representatives, claiming that most consumers do not want to shop at these times. Instead, more "customer-free" days are proposed, so that staff from different supermarkets can liaise and discuss product selection.

    If economists proposed that:

    • supermarkets be allowed to organize themselves;
    • new supermarkets be free to open;
    • customers be given the right to choose which supermarket to shop at; and that
    • supermarkets be accountable to customers rather than the central bureaucracy;

    ...producer interests would come out strongly against the proposals, arguing that untrained customers couldn't possibly judge what is an appropriately stocked shelf and that the poor would suffer the most.

    We should be thankful that politicians consider running shops trivial enough to leave to the private sector. Or is it too important to be left to the government?






    Pilot Training Schools

    (Author unknown)

      Those of us who have been involved with pilot training for the major airlines all these years have finally realized that the "drill and kill" methods we have been using in our classes in navigation, flight controls, radio procedures, safety procedures, and so on, have probably killed the natural love of flying in too many of our graduates. When airline pilots get into the cockpit, why should they be so focused on the flight plan, the fuel load, the number of passengers, the weight of the aircraft, the altimeter reading, and all of that, to the exclusion of the joy of soaring into the clouds, flexing their wings, as it were, and just having Fun with flying?

      Those conservatives will probably say that any change might result in more mid-air collisions, passenger fatalities, and all that, but that is just typical of the whole "teach to the test" crowd who are trying to drive all the pleasure out of our flying schools and out of flying itself.

      We are thinking of changing our courses to give our candidates more chances to write about how flying makes them feel, how being the captain of a 777 benefits their self-esteem and their feeling of being important to others. By doing away with grades, we can increase the actual enjoyment candidates can have in talking about flying stories and the fun they expect to have in flying. We don't want anyone to get a bad grade, as that may negatively affect their attitudes when in the cockpit, and might make them feel unworthy of flying 300 people or so from place to place.

      To those who say that if we don't Drill in our flying school, then our graduates will probably Kill, we just remind them that school should be a time of Joy, not of Anxiety, and only those whose time is Up are likely to die anyway...

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