“Free and Universal Education”

Here’s a good read from Walter Williams: Tragic School Stories. In it, he writes about a book written by public high school teacher Linda Ball, called 185 Days: School Stories.

Williams references a couple of Ball’s days in school:

On Day 167, Mrs. Ball ordered a student to the in-school discipline room for disruption and being in her class without permission. When the student finally decided to leave the room, he told her, “F— you,” and then he swatted her on the head with some papers. In her Day 10 section, there’s a brief story about how respect is earned. Wesley, a student with an IQ of 140, did an outstanding job on a paper about the Enlightenment but completed only half his assignment and earned an F. Jake, a student repeating her class, told Wesley, “I have new found respect for you today.” Failure earns respect.

One theme Williams writes about: Not enough resources for education is not the problem. The problems are that some people do not value education, teachers have no power to hold students accountable for learning (or for maintaining safe and respectable behavior in the classroom) and students can get diplomas without earning them.

Another theme: What are often seen as racial disparities in society are really educational disparities, and not disparities in the education that was provided, but in the education that the person chose to receive.

In other words, is it surprising that a person who has mastered the 12th grade is more desirable of an employee than one who earned respect from peers in school by failing to do the assignments?

Something strikes me as odd though. Near the end, Williams wrote:

The bottom line is that if nothing is done to affect the home life and cultural values that produce the non-learning attitudes and climate that are the subject of Linda Ball’s “185 Days: School Stories,” there’s little that can be done to improve black education. The best that politicians can do is to give parents and children who are serious about education a mechanism to opt out of rotten schools. That option is something the education establishment fights tooth and nail against.

I wonder why that is. Why is it that a teacher’s union that has its members in situations that Linda Ball describes in her book isn’t more open to changing the system too allow them more power to hold students accountable and award degrees only to those who earned them.


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