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The trouble with public education is that it is free.
Now before you say, no it’s not — I pay taxes — I want to stop you there. Public education is not failing in middle class or wealthy neighborhoods. It is failing in poor neighborhoods. Specifically, it fails in neighborhoods that are funded with Title One money, where the families are considered to be in poverty.
These families receive welfare as their main source of income. Therefore, they do not pay taxes. Thus, they have no reason to be vested in their child’s education. They send their children to falling down schools and only stop by the class when the teacher calls with a threat. They see education as a right that their child is required to receive because they are Americans.
Is that really how it is though?
If education is a right, how do we define learning? Perhaps as Americans we feel everyone has the right to sit in a room and have a chance to learn. But how can a teacher teach when the children do not come to school with pencils, paper, or notebooks? It’s not about being fed or clothed, it is about being prepared to learn. The children in our inner cities have no reason to be prepared. They look at the world and wonder why get an education when they can get a paycheck for having babies? Why stress when they can be at home watching their “stories”?
Education didn’t used to be a right in America. Rather, it was a privilege and, like all privileges, it was desirable. Everyone wanted one and they were willing to pay a lot of money to have one.
Once we began making it free, though, it became less desirable and less needed. When our grandparents grew up, a high school education got you a decent job, middle class life, and even a pension. When the baby boomers came around, you needed a four-year college degree to set you apart. They were the generation in which K-12 became free.
So what started to matter more? College — the elite opportunity that you had to pay for.
Once loans became easily available, college became less important and it was the Masters’ degree and continuing education that were front and center. The reality of the world is whether you subscribe to socialism (which free education is based on) or capitalism, people always try to find a way to separate themselves from the masses. The masses have a K-12 education. Thus, it is no longer valuable.
I tell my students education matters, but I wonder if that is true? What really matters is having money because that gives you the power to separate yourself from the masses. Money is the one thing everyone wants and no one has enough of. Education used to be the route to money, but that is becoming less and less the case.
Today, it is your skill set. Do you have a skill that nobody else has? Everyone can read, write and perform math problems, but not everyone is an electrician or a plumber or an investor.
Whether we want to admit it or not, public education has failed because the incentive to get an education disappeared when we made it free. If you don’t believe me, come drive around in our poor neighborhoods and watch kids on Kindles and fancy phones walk into a school without a book bag, pencil, or notebook. Then ask yourself: what do they expect to get out of the day?
Anna Domzalski is a staff writer for the Financial Bin. Anna will soon begin her role as Dean of Financial Bin University and will conduct online budgeting classes beginning in February 2012. She can be reached via email at [email protected].
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