As was relayed to me by my history professor, William Gregory Monahan, the Roman Empire fell due to forces from the inside, and the outside. Its internal policies and practices led it to excesses that its host (the lands and peoples it had subjugated) could not sustain. Its threat to its neighbors caused for them to attack it when it was weak, and could not bring the might of the legions against them as it had done in the past….
Public schooling is falling apart from within. While most teachers and administrators are capable and effective people, the system that they have been reared in, and continue to attempt to sustain, is not sustainable. Financially, costs for salaries and benefits continue to soar each year, while funding often remains flat at the state and local level. New funding initiaitives from the federal government do bring additional funds, but few if any of these spill over into the overcrowded classrooms. Schools continue to operate much as they did 50 years ago – with learning in boxed classrooms, subjects separated in one hour time chunks that allow for limited connectiveness to the community (from which partnerships that could help to sustain the school might arise). The same disconnectedness exists for many students to the subjects offered, as the digital world can give them any information they need in a moment’s notice, as well as entertainment. The last thing a teenager from any time needs is a dialy download of information from an adult. What they do need is guidance and mentoring, which the traditional schooling model makes very difficult, as teachers face 6 groups of 30 to 35 studetns each day for an hour – a schedule that drives a conveyor-assembly line approach to learning, and by default, human relationships.
It is a lack of open and honest relationships between publics and schools that is eroding the support and belief that public schooling is a necessary rite of passage into American adulthood. If the subject matter is not engaging students, and the schedule does not allow for teachers to mentor students, and the school remains safe (temporarily) behind its ivory tower door, it is something to be tolerated until something better comes along…..
The internet and cell phones have allowed for the acceleration of the demise of public schooling, as it will not adapt itself to the new world order of instant information, unlimited choice, and the growing need for positive human connectedness. Many schools, and teachers, are attempting valiantly to build the human connections every day, yet it is like trying to swim upstream against the structure of factory inspired curriculum, scheduling, and culture that has become schooling. When the culture hires administrators, it often gets just that…those who would administrate, conserve, and protect the system as it is. Those who would in turn hire and retain staff that will go to their assigned portion of the factory, and quietly deliver curriculum while maintaining order. Why is it that half of new teachers leave the profession within three years???? It is due to a jarring reality check that they find they cannot stay true to themselves and give in to the culture of schooling as it now exists?
Yes, we have rebuilt Rome, and as every new online, charter, and private school flourishes, as home-school numbers continue to swell, we vilify and demonize those parents who can and do exercise choice for their children, we simultaneously lament that the kids showing up at the door every day are from broken homes, and we go back to the factory floor to make sure that the conveyor belts are humming, the widgets that come in defective are labeled as such, and that we move them all out on time. The sad truth is that most of the enemies of public schooling are of our own creation, and that we continue to provide them with the means to dismantle the enterprise….