to Fix the U.S. Educational System For Good
always going on and on about how to fix the U.S. education
system. The teachers want to get students to work harder
and score higher on tests. Meanwhile, kids hate going
to school and complain about how boring it is. Here's
my solution: Pay the students.
That's right. Because most of the problem here is that
these kids are being asked to work their asses off without
any compensation. And working without pay sucks. Every
minute you're working for free is one spent sinking into
the quagmire of debt and defeat. You're just that much
farther away from those happy places we call record stores.
Think school isn't work? You and I must have gone to different
schools. All I remember is being forced out the door under
threat of punishment, the dreary 15 minute walks in the
rain, then the seemingly endless series of inane, 45-minute
Lectures! Let's set aside for a moment the matter of a
few teachers being, let's face it, people who weren't
clever enough to become doctors or entertaining enough
to become game show hosts. Let's just focus on the matter
of lectures. Lectures suck, and yet we expect our children
to sit in hilariously uncomfortable wooden chairs and
endure lectures smilingly, without pay.
"Nobody likes being lectured." I'll bet that
in all the arguments you've ever had with your wife, boss,
barber or state-mandated therapist, you've said that at
least once. You spoke the truth. The fact is, people abhor
being lectured so much that, outside of school, the lecture
doesn't exist as a learning tool. PBS is "educational."
But how often do you see a guy just standing there on
the television talking in front of a blackboard, yammering
I'm a journalist. And what I don't know could fill a library.
Dozens of them, in fact. Just about every day, somebody
has to teach me something. Never once has somebody said,
"Do you mind if I lecture you on this?" And
what about you? Have you ever gone to your local bookstore
and dashed excitedly past the literature and new nonfiction
and personal health sections to see what was new in the
Yes, the necessary evil of the schoolroom lecture seems
to be here with us to stay. But let's recognize it for
the horror that it is. One definition of a job is anything
that you wouldn't agree to do without being paid, and
almost nobody is willing to pay for a lecture. Oh sure,
a lot of people pay to go to college. And some people
take a few classes after they've graduated, learn a thing
or two about pottery or finger-picking guitar or even
medieval history. But have you ever noticed how people
tend only to sign up for classes in subjects that actually
interest them or that they think will lead to higher-paying
jobs? Bad enough the subject is boring or useless in the
marketplace, but add the burden of having to have it presented
in lecture form. Ugh!
So how would paying students work? It could be simple.
Every kid would get paid, with high-scoring kids getting
higher salaries. No more after-school jobs, so more time
for homework, family, hockey and violin lessons. Kids
who weren't book-smart wouldn't be left behind: They could
earn small bonuses for staying out of detention, serving
on student council and joining the Key Club. (By the way,
there's be no pay for sports. Sports are fun. Key Club,
student council and good behavior aren't.)
Don't think we can afford it? Fine, revert to a more draconian
system, where low-scoring kids are forced to pay fines
and those go to fund the salaries of the high-scoring
kids. That would be a revenue-neutral system. Or better
yet, use the revenues from the forced-labor goods made
in prisons to pay off all the kids going to high school.
Because let's face it, right now it's the other way around:
Schools feel like a forced-labor prisons and turn out
to many bored, unlearned kids. No wonder so many of them
end up in real prisons, where nobody gets paid but everybody
spends a lot of time making cheap furniture or license
plates or watching television, reading and lifting weights.
Which brings up another idea: Maybe the way to keep people
out of prison is to lecture them all day.
Finch is a volunteer staff writer for 2 Walls Webzine)