Wednesday, July 7, 2010

PJ O'Rourke gets Stupid

So PJ O'Rourke, who used to be funny, has deflated into a wizened, cranky conservative who's drunk the anti-public Koolaid. He has forgotten his basic economics, his basic statistics and his basic humanity.

Oh Well.

"What’s been learned is that it costs a fortune to send kids to school. Figures in the Statistical Abstract of the United States show that we are spending $11,749 per pupil per year in the U.S. public schools, grades pre-K through 12. That’s an average. And you, like me, don’t have average children. So we pay the $11,749 in school taxes for the children who are average and then we pay private school tuition for our own outstanding children or we move to a suburb we can’t afford and pay even more property taxes for schools in the belief that this makes every child outstanding."
"Close all the public schools. Send the kids home. Fire the teachers. Sell the buildings. Raze the U.S. Department of Education, leaving not one brick standing upon another and plow the land where it stood with salt."
Opinion: End Them, Don’t Mend Them: It’s time to shutter America’s bloated schools, by P.J. O’Rourke, The Weekly Standard, June 21, 2010
Okay, let's take a few of these:
We all pay between $1000 and $5000 towards education every year, kids or not. That tax money covers the tuition for any child or dependent, for twelve years, maybe thirteen. PJ seems to think that the entire cost of a single kid's education comes out of his pocket and therefore should go back into his pocket. Frankly, PJ, you're getting a deal but you're too stupid and you insist on getting your little moppet into Miss Porters. Too bad.

Very funny, the jibe about teachers only working part-time. I have no answer to that except to feel good that I work for much more of the year than a columnist does. What does PJ get in exchange for writing 10 inches, 100 times per year? Much more than I do and he works a grand total of four days a year.

Yep, PJ you're right that scores on AEP haven't risen much. What's your point? That kids should be getting more and more intelligent? Try this on for size, PJ. New England prep schools have identical results as their in-town Public competitors on SATs and ACTs when you look just at those who are taking college-prep and AP courses. In fact, more millionaires' kids in Mass go to public schools than to private ones.

Teacher:student ratios - well, you got me there. 15:1 is the average. Of course, a basic statistics course will also tell you that for every class of 10 there's a class of 20 and for every one-on-one, there's a group of 30. Trust me, there are a lot of 1-1s.

PJ doesn't like 1-1 teaching. Those kids who need specialized help are apparently trash to be thrown out, according to his scheme. "A yearly benefit of $26,000 should provide some tutoring and therapy—or a pocket full of Ritalin." Maybe, but that's not an education and it falls far short of what a private school would charge for a disabled student.

What public education does, unfortunately for the conservative blowhards, is provide a good education for a majority of its students. Parents know that. That's why they continue to send their kids there. That's why school budgets (in Vermont at least) have a 98% record of being passed by their towns. It's also why there are very few private schools - and the ones that are here are having terrible enrollments.

Capitalism at work?

Don't tell PJ.

1 comment:

  1. I did my own blog review on this article a while back. Honestly, he does have a point. If you look at the dollars going to administration versus actual student education, there is definitely an issue. Furthermore, he goes on to say in the article that we need to get back to local control of the schools. Another point I agree with.
    I recently did research on the number of kids not in public schools and am surprised at how high the number was. I think more people would take their kids out of public schools and send them to private schools or even homeschool if they could afford it. Perhaps Vermont is the exception to that, and I say great that things are working in Vermont! However, I see little confidence in the public school system in my area and in many others at this time.
    But the question is, how do we rebuild a system that is already out of control that has a network in place to keep the administrators in power and leaves the teachers and the students without the things they need?