Victor Davis Hanson on the public schools:
The K-12 public education system is essentially wrecked. No longer can any professor expect an incoming college freshman to know what Okinawa, John Quincy Adams, Shiloh, the Parthenon, the Reformation, John Locke, the Second Amendment, or the Pythagorean Theorem is. An entire American culture, the West itself, its ideas and experiences, have simply vanished on the altar of therapy. This upcoming generation knows instead not to judge anyone by absolute standards (but not why so); to remember to say that its own Western culture is no different from, or indeed far worse than, the alternatives; that race, class, and gender are, well, important in some vague sense; that global warming is manmade and very soon will kill us all; that we must have hope and change of some undefined sort; that AIDs is no more a homosexual- than a heterosexual-prone disease; and that the following things and people for some reason must be bad, or at least must in public company be said to be bad (in no particular order): Wal-Mart, cowboys, the Vietnam War, oil companies, coal plants, nuclear power, George Bush, chemicals, leather, guns, states like Utah and Kansas, Sarah Palin, vans and SUVs.
He's absolutely right. During a discussion immediately after 9/11, my college students weren't able to articulate how we were any different from the Islamic terrorists. Another student couldn't distinguish between the rights of humans and the "rights" of animals. A little girl recently told my teen daughter that "Christopher Columbus was a very bad man", and another little boy was overheard saying, "The earth is ugly and getting uglier!!!" Just a few off-the-cuff examples; I'm sure you can provide many more of your own.
Another paragraph from the same article on what would help save the public schools:
Four years of high-school Latin would dramatically arrest the decline in American education. In particular, such instruction would do more for minority youths than all the ‘role model’ diversity sermons on Harriet Tubman, Malcolm X, Montezuma, and Caesar Chavez put together. Nothing so enriches the vocabulary, so instructs about English grammar and syntax, so creates a discipline of the mind, an elegance of expression, and serves as a gateway to the thinking and values of Western civilization as mastery of a page of Virgil or Livy (except perhaps Sophocles’s Antigone in Greek or Thucydides’ dialogue at Melos). After some 20 years of teaching mostly minority youth Greek, Latin, and ancient history and literature in translation (1984-2004), I came to the unfortunate conclusion that ethnic studies, women studies—indeed, anything “studies”— were perhaps the fruits of some evil plot dreamed up by illiberal white separatists to ensure that poor minority students in the public schools and universities were offered only a third-rate education. [Emphasis added.]
I agree. Virtually all of the homeschoolers I know teach their children Latin. It's a touchstone to the past, to the foundations of our civilization. Besides that, it's the language of our Church.
So, again: It's not the teachers who are the problem in public schools (with the exception of the lousy ones, but you find that in all professions). It's the curriculum.
Previous posts on this topic:
11/05: "Today" (initial comments)11/19: "Public Schools: 'Take your kids out immediately'"
11/19: "Public Schools: Part II"
11/23: "Public Schools: Part III"