Obstructing Techniques Foil Education Questions

[Continuing to add to the list of Obstacles that prevent education responsiveness and reform, I attach my letter to the Editor published in the North Shore News, July 29, 1999.]

Dear Sir:

Parents have been moaning for decades about the unresponsive education system. They are so frustrated that in fact they are often more eager to “graduate” than their kids! 

The fact that now a politician is moaning (“Education system is unresponsive” July 16) shows just how much of a closed shop it is. Students complain, but get nowhere (“Teachers should know their subject”. June 30) and citizens want accountability (“Take more care with school funds.” July 14).

 The school system seems to be run for the convenience of the operators, not the customers. Even conscientious teachers, I hear, dare not rock the boat.

 My forty years of involvement shows the system uses these cagey responses to criticism:
  1. Freeze – Ignore, evade, or generally give the silent treatment.
  2. Pander – Isolate the complainer and co-opt the new-found “darling” into the system.
  3. Delay – Insist on due process, proper channels, and chains of command.
  4. Grandstand – The ultimate delaying tactic is to stage an inquiry or public hearing.
  5. Disempower and Mystify – Make parents feel inadequate and students feel juvenile. Stress that only professionals know best.
  6. Hijack – State in no uncertain terms that democracy is at work. Trustees are elected from the public to look after the general interest. Forget that trustees are the mouthpieces for the system: petty politicians using the system as a stepping stone for higher political aspirations. They are useful democratic window-dressing.
 There are many theories about why the system is so defensive and impenetrable. It would take a book to try and sort out the excuses and the agendas at play.

Whatever….I do know that any system which is said to have a 40% failure rate and which spins off numerous side industries such as math and phonics remediation programs probably does have something to hide.

I think this counter-productive, wasteful, anti-family, government monopoly is long over-due for radical change. Calling for more parent, politician or student involvement is not going to do it. More alternatives and loosening the hoops for starting independent schools might give some relief.

Tunya Audain


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