Brian's Waste of Time

Fri, 15 Dec 2006


Just found Steve's How the Public School System Crushes Souls via Reddit. I wrote a long response, but have since deleted it. It amounts to more or less what he expressed, just different details. As I imagine a majority of the folks who will bother to read this did, I learned the system well enough to work it and come out smelling like roses on paper, at least.

After all this, before changing careers into programmery stuff, I actually took the idealistic teacher route. Sadly, teachers are beaten down in a very similar manner to the students. Fresh out of grad school, with absurd student loan debt and a $10 or $12 per hour teaching job (when you take a North Carolina teacher's salary against actual hours worked), administrative support verging on antagonistic, and explicit instructions that my sole goal was to teach the five paragraph essay (10th grade's mandatory test) I concluded that I had to get the hell out. It is easier to leave the system as a teacher though, which most folks with any talent eventually do. You feel a bit guilty, administrators and other teachers definitely play the "you shouldn't care about the money, you are serving a higher purpose" card. Again, you don't need another hellish description of what teaching is like, there are plenty out there on the intertron.

There are innumerable reasons and explanations for the craptastic state of the mandatory system of daycare and conditioning we call education. My favorite, and probably one of the more accurate, is that it is a purposeful design dating back to Plato. I don't exactly agree with John Gatto's assertions, but he does trace a reasonable history. For whatever reason, I think we can, and should, achieve more.

The practical side of me thinks there is a lot of wealth to be created in providing a better education. The legal and political climate in the US makes this a somewhat unattractive market, but that might be able to be worked into a viable barrier to entry for competition. Who knows. An interesting approach would be company schools. For someone like GOOG, with a bumper crop of smart thirty-somethings who can retire as their kids approach the school years, access to a good education becomes a very powerful employee retention policy. Heck, it also lets them start recruiting amongst a fertile pool of talent very early, but that might be too long a plan for a publicly traded company to commit resources to. Actually, there is a business plan here...

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