The Land of Opportunity and Our Three-Tier Public Education System

Public education is a three tier system. 

The top tier of public education provides a top-flight education that feeds its students royal jelly. Kids from these schools are expected to go on to the top tier universities.

Diplomas from top tier universities are tickets to entry into a distant ruling class that sends other Americans’ children to wars it doesn’t fight, passes laws that destroy other people’s lives and creates social mores that undercut the institutions by which their “lessors” create community. 

Board meeting room

How many members of powerful boards went to the same schools?

The middle tier of public education provides a so-so, mid-level state university education to suburban students. They are slotted for workman type jobs that will provide a comfortable life for them, but will not allow them access to the decision-making levers of our society.

Middle tier public education inculcates the social mores of those who inhabit the top tier, encouraging the students to drink a bit of social arsenic along with their education. If they drink too deeply, their children will inevitably end up in the bottom tier.

Occasionally, a student from one of these schools will, by dent of massive work and high intelligence, hit a bell-ringing test score that gives them the option of attending a ticket-punching top tier university. However, since these students don’t usually fit the “profile” of politically-correct desirability, they are often blocked at this juncture by money, including the money for clothes, entertainment, meals and all the rest of what it takes to fit in at a top tier university.

Added to that is the fact that they are from a different social strata with different mores and beliefs, and you have a recipe for misery if they do accept the call to a top tier school. Everything they are, including the people know and love is, lies outside the world they will enter. The choice is painful. Turn down the offer and stay on the lower tiers of society, or accept it and condemn yourself to a chameleon life. 

Prison

How many kids from bottom tier schools end up in prison?

The bottom tier of public education is designed for what people seem to love to call “throw-away kids.” The schools themselves are throw-away schools. They are usually ugly, institutional-looking edifices that make one think of a prison. They are also usually over-crowded, with huge class sizes, as well as dirty and in need of paint and repairs.

Students at these schools usually encounter two kinds of teachers: Incredibly dedicated teachers with a mission, and the failures of the educational system who were parked here to serve out their time until retirement. 

I’ve known teachers from bottom tier public schools who care deeply and passionately about the students they teach. On the other hand, I’ve known teachers in these schools who have contempt for their students, the students’ parents and the whole school. They can’t understand what someone as wonderful as them is doing here in this slum.

A student who gets a series of the missionary teachers has a chance at life. But a child who goes through a long string of the bitter bad ones is pretty much doomed. Unlike in other schools, it’s all in the luck of the draw. 

Supplies 0007

How many families from bottom tier schools can afford to buy school supplies?

Students in bottom tier schools don’t have enough textbooks. They also do not have the money to buy supplies, or lunches or even to dress well for school. 

Every destructive social experiment you can imagine is dumped on these kids. Their families are systematically shut out of the process. Educational professionals will deny this, but I have seen first-hand the dismissive, insulting way that parents are ignored and patronized in these schools. 

Children who attend top tier schools are being groomed to rule. Children who attend middle tier schools are being groomed to work. But those in the bottom tier are being groomed to fall through the cracks and die young. These bottom tier schools are the places where we recruit our soldiers to use as cannon fodder in unnecessary wars that are being fought to enhance the bottom line of those at the top.

0122

How many graduates of top tier schools fight and die in our endless wars?

Those who graduate from top tier universities populate the board rooms, the senate offices, sound stages and courtrooms where decisions are made. Most of them have never had meaningful contact with people from the bottom tier in their entire lives. They create wars, sell them through their media, and then send other people’s children to fight and die in them. 

I have sat in a roomful of a young people and listened while an army recruiter said to them: It would be better for you to go to Iraq and die a death with honor, than to stay here and die on the streets for no reason.

I am here to tell you that this statement resonated with those young people. In its own way, it resonated with me, too. Is this the new recruiting slogan? Is it the new way America fights its wars, by offering up young people from the lower tiers as living sacrifices to the “way of life” of those in the upper tier?

Public education was once an opportunity. But in our brave new world it has become a gatekeeper. 

  • vox borealis

    Education would be greatly improved if there were more legitimate educational options, both public and private, for parents to choose from. real options, with respect to learning styles and curricular emphasis and cost. Regarding the last, education would benefit, I believe, from a robust system of affordable private schools. The near monopoly that public schooling has—a monopoly that grows as more and more parochial schools close shop, a monopoly increasingly avoided only by the super elite who send their kid(s) to super elite and expensive schools—is a major obstacle to improving education.

    • hamiltonr

      I think you may be right.

  • Rick Connor

    I want for this not to be true, but I think it is. I live in the mid-west, in an area where 6 mid-sized cities run together. One of the Cities has a high number of Doctors, lawyers, corporate professionals and excellent schools–the best in the state and among the best int he nation. Another city has a high number of low-income single mothers and minorities and one of the highest drop-out and crime rates in the state.

    The schools attended by doctor’s children are newer, aesthetically attractive, have well paid teachers, and all students have computers provided by the school. The low income schools were built in the late 1800s to about 1930. They are not air conditioned, and there there are not enough texts for students. Texts must be left at school and cannot be taken home.

    It is the income tax collected in each school district that determines how good the school is. If you live in the area with doctors, lawyers and professions, you’ll have top notch schools and your children have magnificent opportunities. If you live in the area dominated by minorities and low-income single mothers, your school will suck and opportunities are limited.

    • Rebecca Fuentes

      And listen to people squawk if you suggest a “Robin Hood” law that allocates funds equally per student to schools–ensuring that the lower-income areas get as much money per student as the high-income areas.

      I’ve taught without textbooks because my district wouldn’t purchase even a classroom set for me. It wasn’t lack of funds, though, but lack of funds that wasn’t earmarked for something else. It can be done in some subjects, but it isn’t easy, and I’m not sure it’s best practice.

  • Dave

    This even bothers me about Catholic schools. Many of our Catholic high schools, especially, are affordable only to the elite. Sure, they might let in a few token high-achievers that come from lower or middle class families, but in general, it’s for the rich. I love schools like Chesterton Academy that are trying to change this.

    As far as public schools go, you nailed it…though to be fair, a lot of the disparity has to do with family stability and values. Public schools are going to continue to decline, of that much I am almost sure. As with college, the problem isn’t primarily money, it’s how the money is used, and the institutional culture.

  • CathyLouise

    I wish we still had good old fashioned trade schools. We have Adult Continuing Education here in California, but not the robust Trade schools we need.
    Sometimes I think we should have 2 years of mandatory service to our country; not necessarily military, although that could be one of the options. The other could be something like the old VISTA program. The social tiers would then have some exposure to, some interaction with, each other.
    By the way, Rabbi David J. Wolpe in his book _Why Faith Matters_ says this is one of the good things about faith communities. They are one of the few places where there is interaction between various classes. Well, at least the potential of interaction exists.

    • Casey Voce

      I agree with your comment about trade schools. I graduated with an associates from a technical college, and I have a drafting job which provides me with an actual living. With the decline of manufacturing, these are the working class jobs of today. I wonder if Rep. Hamilton is on to something in that the top tier, the “decision makers”, don’t think of these schools as “real colleges”, and are less likely to fund them than 4 year schools. These tech and trade schools help people get “real” jobs, however. Have you seen how much a Master Plumber makes? (According to the USBLS, 19$ to 30$ an hour.)

  • Michael Seagriff

    Interesting. Will have to spend some time mining this piece. Thanks for sharing it.

    • hamiltonr

      You’re welcome.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Middle Tier schools are also quite common not just in suburbia, but in rural areas.

    I have long been convinced that democracy in the United States is largely a farce, due to this tier system, and that an aristocracy has taken over.

  • hotboogers

    This is true, but I don’t think the positive response is to make everyone “like the elite.” I wouldn’t want my children to enter the ruling class. I wouldn’t want them poisoned with that culture. They would lose their souls. I want better for them.
    In my peoples’ culture, productive work is a virtue. Ora et labora. So my math genius son is on the path to some kind of brainiac job using physics or suchlike, attending a flagship state university. And daughter wants to style hair, so cosmetology school for her … and maybe college later, if she decides to get business education to help her run a shop(s). They’re going to be good solid people who will not mortgage their souls away for elite social or material status. They don’t need no stinkin’ elite/Ivy education. We’ll all end up happy in Heaven with the Lord and each other, thanks be to God. And that’s what really matters.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Actually, I think the crisis of education is civilization-wide. I don’t think there is one western country that is satisfied with its own educational system, or that has any reason to be.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I think there’s an element of truth to what you say here, but I think you’re over exaggerating the circumstances. I think plenty of elite people come from middle and lower tier stratus. Of course statistics would be in order to justify my claim, but you don’t provide any to justify your claim either. Off the top of my head, Bill clinton came from humble background, as did Clarence Thomas, Ronald Reagan, and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.

    • hamiltonr

      Manny, every person you cite grew up decades ago in a different school system. Having said that, entrepreneurs and politics are two ways that people can rise above the curve in spite of bad schools. However, I think that as things tighten it will become less so in the future.

      Sports is another way for people to climb out of the gutter, and that may continue to be so for quite a while into the future. However, sports does not place people in decision-making positions in our country. There’s a line from North Dallas Forty, “We were never their equals. We were their entertainment,” that about sums it up.

      As for statistics, I have them around here. It will take a while to get to pulling them up for you. However, are you seriously maintaining that these three tiers in our schools don’t exist, or that they don’t track kids into their futures?

      It’s a hard pill to swallow, what our country is becoming. But I think it’s necessary if we have a hope of changing it. That’s what I’m trying to do you know. I want to people to demand a better way.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        Are you saying the current school system has changed? I can’t speak to current events. It won’t take much to convince me our public school system is a failure. I’d be interested in seeing the statistics though.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Yes, it has. Drastically. Started happening back in the 1970s.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Got anybody under the age of 70?

      I think many decades ago this may have been true. But not since Nixon cut the deal with China to cheat the middle class in America out of any opportunity whatsoever.

    • hamiltonr

      Manny I think I let my mouth overload me. See the comment I made to John below. I will try to get the information in a usable format, but it may take me a while.

      • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

        No problem Rebecca. Whenever.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Anybody else look at that prison picture and see a Cathedral?

    • faustinaagatha

      At first I thought it was a large gothic study hall from an Ivy League U.

  • hamiltonr

    I have data, but I haven’t had time to pull it together into something combox-sized. In truth — and I don’t mean this to be in any way insulting — I’m guessing that people who think they need data just haven’t been in many inner city schools lately. The prison-like atmosphere, the peeling paint and the begging requests for enough textbooks are ubiquitous, as is the 60% dropout rate and wandering young people through the neighborhoods with no hope and no future. Since I graduated from and represent schools like this — and have been shot down by the education establishment at every turn in attempts to get more resources for them — it’s pretty obvious to me. Everything I wrote about in this post comes from first-hand experience.

  • hamiltonr

    I think you’re right John that there is an abysmal lack of empathy for the kids in lower tier schools. A three tier school system creates a stratified society in which those who make the decisions don’t encounter, understand or care about those who are in the lower tiers. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  • hamiltonr

    John, I need to apologize to both you and Manny. The information I have is in government reports that run to hundreds of pages. It’s not usable or even comprehensible unless you want to spend days going over it and are willing to pull odds and ends together from various sources.

    I thought there would be links I could put here, but I haven’t come up with one. I tried googling and couldn’t find anything that would be pertinent. I did discover that at least a handful of Harvard Law School graduates have served in Iraq and that some of the top tier schools are beginning to allow ROTC on their campuses.

    I’ll try to keep looking as I have time. If nothing else, I may have to try to boil this info down into a separate post. Of course, it would be so boring no one, including me, would read it.

    I am going to go another route to try to find something accessible. It may take a few days.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      Rebecca, I wasn’t challenging your analysis. As I said, my gut tells me it’s more true than not. But when I see commentary like this, my first response is to be skeptical. As I’m sure you’re aware, in the political arena SO much opinion is presented as fact, accepted by those who agree and derided by those who don’t, without ever questioning whether its foundations are solid and its conclusions are rational.

      If you can find data, that would certainly strengthen your argument, at least among those who choose to think rather than simply react.

      I’m more concerned with what we do about this situation. The stock answers of the Right and the Left aren’t helpful.

      • hamiltonr

        I didn’t feel that you were. It just bugs me that I said I would do something and am having trouble following through with it. As for what we should do about this, I think that you are correct that the stock answers are not helpful. Most of them don’t even address the problem.

        I’m going to try to get the data out there, but it’s a huge task, boiling down so many disparate bits of information into a simple enough format for a blog.

        Thanks for this comment, btw.


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