Classrooms as profit centers

Rights and Privileges

Only the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) saw fit to report on recent goings-on in the Douglas County School District, described as “a suburban district south of Denver… one of the most affluent in the U.S., with household income nearly double the national median, [with k-12] schools ranked among the best in Colorado.”

The WSJ piece makes only tangential references to the usual criticism of such programs, that they skim off the better students and leave the remainder with fewer proficiency-seeking classmates to emulate, but it does note that “…most private schools won’t accept disabled or struggling students…” and leaves the obvious conclusion to readers.

As befits an opinion column, here’s your Humble Scribe’s opinion: the Douglas County School District educrats wouldn’t make “proficient” in their foray into capitalism, because they’ve mistaken a short-term profit for a longer-term loss.

They’d have done better to provide a few of the intellectual goodies their better students are hungry and are leaving for—because, if their supposed goal is proficiency-for-all, the worst route to that end is the one of exporting the best scholars and leaving the Students Who Won’t Learn (SWWL)- dominated remainder to sit in classrooms where they never get to observe and emulate their better-motivated peers at the chalkboard.

As this column has attempted to illustrate in recent presentations, the literature increasingly recognizes that almost all students can master the material if they want to, and when some SWWL don’t, it’s because they don’t want to.

Advocates of socio-economic-status “integration” in the classroom make precisely this point: that better students, in the real world of peer pressure, are the key element in motivating their inadequately motivated seatmates. When they’re gone, they’re gone.

Douglas County, Colo., should be figuring out how to keep the intellectually ambitious at home, not selling them for the Biblical (Josephian) 20 pieces of silver. They should be recalling the best parts of the magnet-school concept, aimed precisely at preventing middle-class flight, white and black, from urban districts, and not the ineptness-of-management reasons for its widespread failure.

Former Vermonter Martin Harris lives in Tennessee.

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