More Radishes (i.e. Radical Ideas)

Education is not so much the planting of new information as the weeding out of old, deeply-rooted misinformation.

When I first heard this statement, I didn’t fully believe it. I was in college then, and determined to suck up as much information about everything as I could. I wanted to be smart, have informed opinions, express myself in a way that people would take me seriously. Education was all about information as far as I was concerned.

Having spent much of my adult life as a teacher, I now believe that misinformation is a much bigger problem than lack of information. Once we believe something, we tend to ignore information that contradicts our ‘facts.’ This is why schools will never be completely replaced by e-schools. A kid sitting in front of a computer can find lots of information, but he can’t be persuaded to believe something new if he’s already acquired wrong ideas.

My job is secure; I won’t be replaced by a software program anytime soon, if ever.
The other reason I don’t worry about my job is that I am cheaper than the alternatives. I am not complaining about how much I get paid; as many of my colleagues say, “If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn’t have become a teacher.”

But people seem to be looking at the alternatives a lot these days. Why must learning occur inside a school building? Why can’t children learn in different settings?

Some numbers:

A student receives over 1000 hours of instruction during a year in school. In my state that costs on an average $5732 per child per year, or about $5.73 an hour.
The average teacher salary in my state is $28,000 for new teachers; $50,000 is the average for all teachers.

A babysitter costs between $5 and $15 dollars an hour.

If each of the 100 students I see during the day were to pay me just $5 (less that I would receive for babysitting) each day, I would make $500 a day, $90,000 a year. Teachers with the maximum of 150 students would receive $750 for their day of teaching, $135,000 for a year.

Professional tutors and tutoring centers range between $25-50 dollars an hour. 1000 hours of tutoring would cost a parent $25,000 to $50,000 for each child.

If the parents of my 100 students paid me the lowest rate for a tutor’s time ($25,000 x 100 students = $2,500,000), I would already be retired.

Schools and teachers are cheap. In addition, most teachers spend more time than they are contractually paid for, and spend their own money on their students.

But you get what you pay for.

A lot of people think they know how to fix education and who to blame for the sorry state of our schools. They base their opinion on twelve years of schooling acquired between the ages of five and eighteen. Much of what they think they know is wrong.

Schools are not wasting gobs of money. Not on me, anyway. Nor on the building where I teach. My room is on the second floor of a building with no air-conditioning. In May-June and August-September the temperature in my room at 7:00 am may be 80 degrees. We have not had new computers or text books in ten years. Mice live in my room. Occasionally pieces of the ceiling fall on us. The blower in my room makes so much noise (while it is doing little to lower the temperature) that it is often hard to hear.

If any of the people complaining that schools are wasting money were to walk into a lawyer’s or doctor’s office that was not air-condiitoned, had ceiling tiles missing and mice running across the floor, they would find another lawyer or doctor.

Why do kids have to learn in an environment that most adults would consider unacceptable?

Education costs. Buildings have to be kept up, people have to be paid for their time. Get rid of schools and teachers, if you think we are the problem.

But what will you replace us with?


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