There's a new TV show called Dream School. It's so offensive that I normally wouldn't even think twice about it. But it's on the Sundance Channel, and the people involved with it are remarkable: Suze Orman, Steven Spielberg, 50 Cent.
Here's the problem, though: The assumption is that if you take kids who are failing in the system and give them inspirational teachers, then they'll somehow turn themselves around.
These are kids who suffer from circumstances largely beyond their control – they are bullied, they have marginalized parents, etc. The idea that school can solve these problems is absurd. For example, there are no bullies if there is no school. And marginalized parents affect the kids no matter how many hours you put the kids in school.
To say that great teachers will make these kids "do better" implies that the kids are lacking some motivation. Of course all kids are motivated to learn and do what interests them. It's part of being human. They don't need to be lectured by people who have no teaching credentials. They need someone to give them tools to explore. Like: safety, predictability, and food.
Spare me the sunshine from rich, famous people. Poor kids don't need that. They already shine, all by themselves. But if we admitted that each kid is a smart, curious, person waiting to explore the world, then we'd have to blame the system, not the teachers.
Then we'd stop pretending to fix things by bringing in new teachers. We'd have to admit that the real Dream School is not lectures in a classroom but exploring in a forest.
Here's an idea: Let's stop paying for public school and start paying for parenting classes in exchange for food and rent. If you want to get money for food and rent, you go to parenting classes.
That's it. There's no school. We start trusting kids to teach themselves, and we start trusting parents to be parents. If parents want to raise their hand and say they need help, then we can help them to create an environment where the kids can learn.
This would mean a lot of parents would have to stop working to stay home with a kid. That seems fine. There is no fundamental right to pass off your kid to someone else for eight hours a day. I'd much rather give money to families to keep them together than give money to schools to pull families apart.