Americans have a completely unrealistic notion of what the public school system is and what can be expected from it .
Social engineers see it as a gigantic laboratory in which to conduct experiments in shaping the thinking and behavior of millions of future citizens.
Politicians see it as the ideal campaign issue that never grows stale and always stirs emotions.
Manufacturers use it to nurture brand loyalty.
Special interest groups strive, often successfully, to manipulate curriculum and policies to serve their private goals at the expense of the general good.
Criminal organizations use it as both marketplace and recruitment center.
The general public see it as a free child-care facility staffed by public servants who are alternately viewed as greedy, lazy layabouts or superhuman miracle workers.
What’s the reality?
The public school system exists to produce a population of citizens literate enough to make informed political decisions and moral enough to refrain from preying upon their neighbors. Anything beyond these goals that the public schools can achieve is icing on the cake.
Although politicians talk as if they should be or could be, not all public schools are equal. They never can be. Some have bigger libraries, more up-to-date facilities, and better-prepared, more creative teachers and administrators. Some are located in population centers that offer public transportation and cultural amenities. Others are located in depressed areas with little cultural stimulation.
Nevertheless, the poorest public school in the United States offers more opportunities to children than exist in many other places in the world. The poorest U.S. public school is capable of providing children the basic skills of literacy that will enable them to continue their education on their own.
In some countries, only the children of the wealthy can attend school. In many places, education is limited to male children. In Pakistan in 2012, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by men who were offended that a girl would dare wish to be educated.
In the United States, every child, boy or girl, rich or poor may attend a public school until grade 12 without charge. Yet in the United States, millions of children fail to get an education because they don’t appreciate what they are being given. That’s where parents or other caring adults come in.
The American English Doctor offers general tips and specific advice to parents who are committed to monitoring their children’s academic progress in the public schools.