Regimentation, methodization, systematization, standardization, organization, coordination, disciplined arrangements, conformity -- these things are at the very heart of our national state policies, and are the poison that has killed our families and left individual survivors in a numbed, angry, nearly hysterical condition.
The principal reason that districts within states often differ markedly in per-pupil expenditures is that school funding is almost always tied to property taxes, which are in turn a direct function of local wealth. Having school funding depend on local wealth creates a situation in which poor districts must tax themselves far more heavily than wealthy ones, yet still may not be able to generate adequate income. For example, Baltimore City is one of the poorest jurisdictions in Maryland, and the Baltimore City Public Schools have the lowest per-pupil instructional expenses of any of Maryland's 24 districts. Yet Baltimore's property tax rate is twice that of the next highest jurisdiction.(FN2) Before the funding equity decision in New Jersey, the impoverished East Orange district had one of the highest tax rates in the state, but spent only $3,000 per pupil, one of the lowest per-pupil expenditures in the state.(FN3) A similar story could be told in almost any state in the U.S.(FN4) Funding formulas work systematically against children who happen to be located in high-poverty districts, but also reflect idiosyncratic local circumstances. For example, a factory closing can bankrupt a small school district. What sense does it make for children's education to suffer based on local accidents of geography or economics? To my knowledge, the U.S. is the only nation to fund elementary and secondary education based on local wealth. Other developed countries either equalize funding or provide extra funding for individuals or groups felt to need it. In the Netherlands, for example, national funding is provided to all schools based on the number of pupils enrolled, but for every guilder allocated to a middle-class Dutch child, 1.25 guilders are allocated for a lower-class child and 1.9 guilders for a minority child, exactly the opposite of the situation in the U.S. where lower-class and minority children typically receive less than middle-class white children.(FN5) Regional differences in per-pupil costs may exist in other countries, but the situation in which underfunded urban or rural districts exist in close proximity to wealthy suburban districts is probably uniquely American. Of course, even equality in per-pupil costs in no way ensures equality in educational services. Not only do poor districts typically have fewer funds, they also have greater needs.
In brief, the teaching process, as commonly observed, has nothing to do with the investigation and establishment of facts, assuming that actual facts may ever be determined. Its sole purpose is to cram the pupils, as rapidly and as painlessly as possible, with the largest conceivable outfit of current axioms, in all departments of human thought—to make the pupil a good citizen, which is to say, a citizen differing as little as possible, in positive knowledge and habits of mind, from all other citizens. In other words, it is the mission of the pedagogue, not to make his pupils think, but to make them think right, and the more nearly his own mind pulsates with the great ebbs and flows of popular delusion and emotion, the more admirably he performs his function. He may be an ass, but this is surely no demerit in a man paid to make asses of his customers.
I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam -- good people, yes, but any religion based on a single, well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system.
I grow more intolerant of fools as the years roll on. If I had a son, I was saying, I would take him from school at the age of fourteen, not a moment later, and put him for two years in a commercial house. Wake him up; make an English citizen of him. Teach him how to deal with men as men, to write a straightforward business letter, manage his own money and gain some respect for those industrial movements which control the world. Next, two years in some wilder part of the world, where his own countrymen and equals by birth are settled under primitive conditions, and have formed their rough codes of society. The intercourse with such people would be a capital invested for life. The next two years should be spent in the great towns of Europe, in order to remove awkwardness of manner, prejudices of race and feeling, and to get the outward forms of a European citizen. All this would sharpen his wits, give him more interest in life, more keys to knowledge. It would widen his horizon. Then, and not a minute sooner, to the University, where he would go not as a child but a man capable of enjoying its real advantages, attend lectures with profit, acquire manners instead of mannerisms and a University tone instead of a University taint.