It is budget time here in New Mexico and once again the state is facing the problem of how to fund public education. Somehow, most of the discussion about the welfare of our students is lost somewhere in the muddle about teacher retirement. Education in New Mexico, where you can find it, is on life support.
For the last week, prospective new students of Enema U have been touring the campus, usually with their parents in tow. I think it is a bad sign when the parents look very interested, while the prospective students are clustered in the back of the group, looking about as interested as my sons did when I dragged them to every history museum in London.
So far, after talking to a few of these prospective students, I’m underwhelmed. These are not bad kids, but they don’t appear to be ready, academically or emotionally, to attend a good high school. And while I firmly believe that we could catch better students with a tiger pit, we will have to dig that hole some place other than New Mexico. I’m not exactly sure where, for I fear that many states’ education programs are in as bad a shape as ours is.
I have a cure for all this. I want to change public education for middle and high schools. I have no idea what to do at elementary schools, and since all I really think we need to do is keep the little rug rats out of the road until they learn to read, I will restrict my suggestions to the changes we need in secondary education:
1. Schools breed administrators like cockroaches, and in pretty much the same kinds of places. Here at Enema U, I have long thought that, if we could print up a guide to the Administration, (sort of like the program you buy at a baseball game) it might be easier to keep track of the game. High schools and school districts are no different. Line up all staff members who make over $50,000 a year, then fire everyone in that line who does not teach at least one class a semester.
2. School teachers learn how to become school teachers by getting a degree in education from other school teachers. In Biology, they call this inbreeding. If you did this with children, within a few generations, Little Johnny would sit in the corner licking his eyebrows. Come to think of it, this pretty well describes a lot of administrators. Eliminate the degree in education and require a content degree to teach every subject. In other words, if you are teaching history, get a degree in history. Qualifications for teaching at the elementary school level should be a one year certification after your BA. This kind of course could be taught in a community college.
3. Flying Flaming Bat Shit! Do we ever waste money on the wrong things in education! We need a new constitutional amendment: No school, college, or university can spend more on athletics than it spends on Math. If we want to compete in the world wide economy, it might be beneficial if our kids were better at math than at catching a ball.
4. No one who has ever committed ‘Coach’ should serve in any administrative job in education. Even if his parole is over. How many of you went to a high school where the principal or vice principal had once been a football coach? Why would you turn the school over to a person who, in all likelihood, is less well-educated than the school janitor? Athletic Directors should be treated exactly like pedophiles: Registered and required to stay 5 miles from any child.
5. No athletic facility should be built until the librarian at the school certifies that the library does not need any more space/books.
6. To graduate from high school, the student must show the ability to play a musical instrument. Suggesting that a student march with any musical instrument is a crime punishable by no fewer than 5 years serving on the PTA. Just what jackass decided that the highest form of music could be learned by marching? This must have been a coach… Quick, name three great marching symphonies.
7. Every high school student should be required to learn a new language. I don’t think it really matters which language, as long as it is something new to the student. Learning a new language stretches the brain, and our students need a challenge other than figuring out the latest TV remote.
8. Close the damn campus. The high school that my sons went to allowed students to leave the campus for lunch. This generally meant that from about 10:30 in the morning to about 2:00 in the afternoon, students could be found eating massive amounts of junk food while slowly wandering up and down the streets within a mile radius of the school. I would be willing to bet that a sizeable percentage of those students never returned to the school. What exactly is the purpose of this policy? Is the high school some form of economic subsidy for Taco Bell?
9. While we are at it, get rid of school crossing zones. Instead of lowering the speed limit, raise it. Let the students run for it: it will be educational and good exercise. Those who can’t figure out how to cross the road probably aren’t needed inside those classrooms, anyway. For the rest of them, it can help substitute for the smaller sports program.
I know these are modest changes to education, but I truly believe that if we don’t start with slow improvements like these, the public will probably never accept the big changes we will have to implement later.