Mission Creep in Public Schooling

In a comment on this post, Brendon Rolfs had this to say:

Parents now expect schools to do most everything for them. One of the largest costs within a school district’s budget is transportation, something that has no direct effect on education. What would eliminating busing do to help our district budgets? If discontinued across the state/country parents would be forced to come up with their own solutions to getting thier child(ren) to school (pay to bus, private busing, carpool, etc). That would be something for each couple to consider when having children – will I be able to take care of them. Seems like a logical question for someone considering parenthood, huh? Employers would be forced to allow for such a change as well. Busing is just one example.

How much money could be saved from state budgets by eliminating busing? I don’t know, but consider the reasoning that guides public schools today:

Children can’t learn unless they go to school, so let’s have a bus system

Children can’t learn if they’re hungry, so let’s have a lunch program.

Children can’t learn if they show up to school hungry so let’s have a breakfast program.

Children can’t learn unless their parents prepare them, so let’s start a program to teach parents how to be parents.

Children can’t learn unless they come to school already knowing skills X, Y, and Z, so let’s have a preschool program.

Children can’t learn if they have learning disabilities that impair the abilities to communicate (speech, hearing) or process information, so let’s hire professionals to deliver those services.

Children won’t stay in school unless they have non-academic stuff to interest them, so let’s have sports teams and social clubs.

Over the years, schools have been drawn upon to deliver not only skills and knowledge, but to inculcate various attitudes: American Patriotism,  Protestant Christian virtues, racial tolerance, religious tolerance, multiculturalism, Afrocentrism, and environmentalism, to name a few.

And on and on it goes. Now, many of these programs and efforts have some value. But are they educational? Should they be part of a school budget?

Sometimes schools have been given a task as part of a perceived greater social mission, such as assimilating Catholic immigrants into a Protestant northern European culture. Sometimes they’ve taken on extra tasks because people inside and outside the education industry were not happy with X, Y, or Z about society at large, so they’ve dumped more responsibilities on schools.

Maybe it’s time to pull back, and give schools more autonomy.

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