A friend of ours stopped by the other day to talk about homeschooling. Her 5-year-old daughter who just started kindergarten has been "targeted". She wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but it was a bad kind of targeted. At work today, two older women were discussing how schools were just in sad terrible shape, and no amount of funding that you poor (oops, pour) into something that doesn't work will make it better.
A study released here http://www.springfield.il.us/Education/StudentAchievementReport.pdf says that our schools are failing Springfield's African American youth. Whether teachers motivations and expectations are so low, whether parents (often single parents or grandparents) are working as they are mandated & don't have enough time to spend with their kids, or whether these kids just don't buy into the so-called promised future of a nice job & are not motivated enough by the reward of good grades, I don't know. I don't know why it's so bad, but it is.
I have heard that talented and successful African Americans have to leave Springfield to find any future in a good job, law enforcement, or society in general. These would be people who buy into the system, and who also happen to be African American. They leave, because they have no access to a life like that here.
I ride the bus all the time with black folks going to work. One or two work for the state. Most have uniforms with logos and name tags, and hats. Minimum wage is the future for a lot of people who do not do well in school, and actually, also for a lot who do okay in school. Why do schools fail kids? Why does our society fail kids? John Holt wrote a book about it: why children fail.
What goes in on school doesn't seem to have much to do with what goes on in real life. It seems like a substitute for real life, a lot like working is. (I am not an actor, but I play one at work. It's another layer of substitution!) It's a lot of busy work, shutting up & taking any humiliation, and not having the ability to say no. It's good training, in other words, for the future to come for many: work, jail. I can see why kids are not valuing this experience enough to consider it valid, and real. They have lost faith in the institution, and it is fading away before our very eyes.
Who stops learning when they get out of school? Well, a lot of kids, who hated being forced to do something they were disinterested in (sound like work?). If you wanted an uneducated populace, I don't know what you could do to encourage it more but build more bland apathy-inducing concrete bunkers.
What would a real education look like? I like to think I am living it. I am not talking about educating only children, but all of us who love learning. Those of us who didn't get all that curiosity and passion for life squished out of them in school, or found it again after they got away from it. Kids, adults, old folks, everybody, living together, learning & taking care of each other, an education worth having. Sounds an awful lot like a community.
I wonder why we learn things in school, like Revolutionary War dates, algebraic equations, the periodic table, names of all the bones, diagramming sentences, etc. Does anyone remember that stuff anymore? Chances are you only do if you were really interested in the subject when it came around in school, or maybe even read about it on your own. (I know I am not the only geek who enjoys reading the encyclopedia.)
There are things I think are even more important than the multiplication tables, like being able to build a decent shelter, acquire and cook our own food, learning to live with people without drama, how to live a daily life without destroying just a bit more of our habitat & making a few more species extinct. These things are important too, and school doesn't seem to be a place where important stuff like this is being taught.