The argument for public education is that it is good for society as a whole to have its children educated so that they can successfully take their place in it, contribute to it and so on. This has historically been understood to mean that we expect our children to learn the 3Rs, get some sort of idea of history/culture and then study something that helps them get a decent job and thence a house, spouse and 2.2 children. The logic behind public provision of it is that this levels the playing field and that it helps most the poorest children whose families otherwise could not afford it. Given that in the modern world there isn’t a single job that doesn’t require some literacy/numeracy the logic that says that education is a public good is quite plausible because uneducated people won’t be able to get a job and thus can’t pay taxes etc. (not to mention that in a democracy where everyone has the franchise, everyone should be able to make an informed choice).
You can now compare that theory with the actual result.
The majority of students do in fact learn to read at some minimal level. Some learn to read more, some learn to do sums in their head, but neither is guaranteed. That seems to be about it for useful results and even that minimal level is pretty poor, particularly for minorities:
On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
They’re all Rich White Kids, and they’ll do just fine, NOT!”
On the 5-2 Madison School Board No (Cole, Hughes, Moss, Passman, Silveira) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Vote (Howard, Mathiak voted Yes)
Madison’s long term, disastrous reading results.