Friday, July 27, 2012

The Bumbling Brontosaur of School Bureaucracy

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy: "In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely."

When I was in sixth grade one of the teachers informed us of what we had to do in middle school. The girls, we were told, had to take Home Economics. The boys had to take Shop.

Being somewhat of a class clown (it was from boredom) I raised my hand and asked, “Do the boys have to take Home Economics?” The class roared, and the teacher smiled and said, “No, Bobby, the boys don’t have to take Home Economics.”

I had to take two classes in Shop in middle school. I would have rather taken Home Economics. I probably would have learned more. More than how to make a metal ashtray or a wooden candleholder, neither of which were very good. Actually, the candleholder didn’t work at all, since when I put a candle in it and lit it, the candleholder basically caught on fire.

The boys had to take Shop because the school administration assumed all of us were going to go to work at the local steel mill after we graduated. How they thought I was going to work there is beyond me. It was very good money, but occasionally guys got killed there by being electrocuted or squished by machinery. That didn’t particularly scare me, but the boredom of the work sure did. It scared me more than the idea of being killed.

Fortunately, things in my local schools have changed these days. They are catching up with the changing times, but they are still behind. Way behind. It’s still very slow going for them.

It’s bureaucracy, of course.

All “public” (real socialized) institutions end up ossified by bureaucracy. They’re nearly impossible to change. They’re like one of those dinosaurs that when it had a tyrannosaur chewing on its tail didn’t get the message to its brain until 20 years later.

The true purpose of school bureaucracy is to make sure school teachers have secure jobs even if they’re incompetent. Educating the students is secondary, maybe even tertiary. If schools were really interested in educating students, people with Ph.D.s in Mathematics could teach in the public schools – which they cannot, because they’re not “qualified” because they don’t have Education degrees.

It’s very hard to get an incompetent teacher fired. One of my friends saw a “master teacher” (that’s what she was called) write “cherrie’s” on the blackboard (he said it’s a memory he will never forget). A “teacher” like that shouldn’t be allowed in a school.

Competition is the only thing that will make schools better. The bad schools will go out of business and the good schools will get all the students.

I don’t even believe in Education degrees, which I consider worthless. I graduated from a university that was the biggest producer of teachers in a very populous state. I met only one smart Education major, and he ended up leaving the field after a few years. All the rest had IQs that should have kept them out of college.

The high school drop-out rate is 50%. The bureaucratic mindset says, “It’s not our fault. We need more money. It’s the parents’ fault. It’s somebody’s fault. Who, maybe we’re not exactly sure. But it’s not ours.”

Competition always makes things better, not worse. I once had a Chevy Cavalier that had 488,000 miles on it when I sent it to the junkyard. Competition with other car companies was what made that Cavalier such a great car.

But there is no competition among schools. Students are sent to the closest school, unless they’re unfortunate enough to fall into one of those desegregation programs where they’re bussed to some ghetto school five miles away.

If I had my way I’d close the public schools down and have everyone compete to open up schools. Anyone should be allowed up open a school. And Education degrees should be abolished.

Then you’d see some real education. And it wouldn’t include making ashtrays in Shop classes.

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