Here's a part I really liked:
And while we are on the theme of choice, let’s tackle a related strand of thought. In these difficult times, many citizens express anger about attempts to protect our schools from cuts. They say, in effect, “I’ve had to take big cuts and the schools should have to also.” It is a very emotionally compelling argument, but it does not stand up to close scrutiny. If your family’s income falls 20%, say, do you cut all your expenditures equally by 20%? Twenty percent from the entertainment budget, 20% from the food budget, 20% from the medicine budget, and so on? No family I know does this. Instead, we prioritize: we cut back on the things we can do without in order to make sure we protect the things most important to us – the well-being of our family.Norton then goes on to tackle what he calls "planted assumptions." Planted assumptions are
arguments that aren’t really arguments. People who use this method simply assume certain things are true on their way to making a separate argument. These planted assumptions come in a wide variety of flavors... [for example] If school officials can’t live within their budget, we should find new ones who can. (Assumes that the budget problems are the fault of school leaders.)One point where I think I disagree with him--
Our schools haven’t even tried to fix X by doing Y. (Assumes that just because someone does not know the details of a district’s efforts to solve some problem, those efforts must therefore not exist. Schools have been singularly ineffective at communicating what it is they do, largely because educators are trained to do it rather than talk about it.) (Emphasis added.)I do agree that this is a planted assumption. I don't believe, however, that schools have been ineffective at communicating because educators are trained to educate rather than talk about educating. First--it's not teachers, it's administrators, who are responsible for communication. I believe that schools have been ineffective at communicating because (choose any or all of these):
a) Administrators don't really want to share the decision-making with the public--they would rather operate privately. Who has the locus of control?
b) Administrators haven't asked people what the public wants to know, and when they are told they often don't take time to listen, so the administrators consistently communicate the wrong information.
c) Administrators think the information is too complicated to explain to many people.
d) Administrators don't want to take the time.
e) Administrators and school boards haven't made changes they should have made years ago, so when questions (inevitably) get asked, they are put on the hot seat.
f) Administrators don't know what to tell people without blaming someone else, even if the blame truly belongs elsewhere. [This is ticklish, even though sometimes the blame clearly belongs on someone else--for instance, it is no school administrator's fault that the state budget wasn't set until well into the school year.]
f) Administrators are defensive.
Bottom line: Good administrators DO communicate. So let's not give those who don't a pass.
None of this takes away from Steve Norton's main point, which is:
We as a community need to be honest about our expectations for our schools, and then we need to be honest about what resources are required to provide the services we expect rather than engage in wishful thinking.Bottom line: (This is me editorializing here) Education is expensive. Human services are expensive. Anything where people require time and attention is going to be expensive. But aren't our kids worth it?