Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Campaign To Drive Down Confidence In Public Schools A Success

The headline in the PDK/Gallup poll released yesterday was how much support Common Core has lost with both the general public and parents of children of school age.

But we shouldn't lose sight of these poll findings either:

The wide-ranging survey also showed that trust in the nation’s public school system has evaporated, as a consistent majority of Americans approve of charter schools that operate independently of state regulations.


Survey participants said that the top issue facing public schools is a lack of financial support, while concern about discipline issues or crime in schools is dropping.

Respondents also said that they placed more trust in their local school boards when it comes to educational policy issues than in the federal government. The survey showed the Obama administration influence waning as many Americans believe that the federal government should play a smaller role in public education.

On average, respondents said they thought highly of their neighborhood schools. But the poll showed that close to 80 percent of Americans disapprove of the nation’s public schools at large.

So the usual contradictory mess - Americans think highly of the public schools in their own communities but more than three-quarters disapprove of public schools at large.

How does this disconnect occur?

Well, if every time you turn on the TV you see television news and television programs that denigrate the quality of public schools and public school teachers and every time you open the newspaper or go on the Internet you see stories denigrating public schools and public school teachers and this occurs for, I dunno, say thirty+ years, kicking off with a Reagan administration report that declares the "nation at risk" because of the quality of the schools and continuing from there, I'd imagine you'd be convinced that the school system and the people working in it suck too.

And Americans seem to hold this belief even though, when many of these same Americans come into contact with actual public schools and public school teachers (i.e., the ones in their communities), they like and respect both.

Almost every institution in American life (e.g., government, the office of the president, the Congress, Wall Street, Big Business, churches, the press, media companies) has seen a sharp decrease in public esteem over the last thirty years, so in one sense, this huge disapproval rating for schools at large is just a part of that same devolution in public esteem for so many other American institutions and entities.

But on the other hand, it's also a consequence of the powerful and wealthy interests who have spent the last thirty years+ attacking public schools and public school teachers in the media.

The campaign to destroy public schools has been quite successful - at least when Americans think about the system as a whole.

As for their own schools, well, a lot of Americans still like those.

Therein lies the way to pushback on some of this.

Just as people tended to like Common Core when they heard about it in the abstract but hated it when they came in contact with it, people overwhelmingly disapprove of schools in the abstract but kinda like their own.

This is because experience changes perceptions and when people see what their own schools are dealing with, how their own teachers are performing, they see that the stories they hear about on the TV and in the news aren't true about their own schools and school teachers.

Now comes the trick of it - taking that experience and getting people to say, "Well, if that's true of the schools and teachers in my community, maybe it's true of school and teachers at large too?"

Hard to do when there's a well-funded, concerted effort to drive down the esteem people have for schools and teachers funded by some very wealthy business interests.

But this is I where think we must go if we want to see public education survive.

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