Ban Public Schools, Not Guns.
Reality Check (Dec. 31, 2012)
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Newtown. What do they have in common? They are shorthand for "tax-funded schools where mass murderers plied their trade." The murderers all were students in, or graduates of the tax-funded, state-run educational system in the United States.
The murderers were enrolled students at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
The killers at Columbine and Virginia Tech were on personality-altering drugs. They had become drug users as students. These drugs are legal when prescribed by physicians who have been certified by the state as reliable. These drugs cause side effects. What is a side effect? It is an effect that is widely considered as bad.
School administrators let these mind-altered students into their schools. You can read about this here:
Public schools are shelters for drugged students. Sometimes the drugs are legal: "by prescription only." Sometimes the drugs are illegal: "for currency only." Public schools are the nation's largest and most cost-effective retail drug emporiums. They bring drug buyers and drug sellers together every school day. Transportation costs are borne by the school districts. If the various civil governments -- federal, state, and local -- really wanted to win the war on drugs, they would close the public schools. I wrote on this over a decade ago: http://www.lewrockwell.com/north/north31.html.
Critics of mass murder need to pay attention to underlying cause and effect. The liberal critics of mass murder argue that guns cause mass murder. I argue that mass murderers do. Critics of mass murder say that we need to ban guns in order to protect defenseless children. I argue that we should not send defenseless children into harm's way.
If public schools really are where mass murders occur most often, and if you want to reduce the number of mass murders, then eliminate the cause. The problem is not gun ownership. The problem is an educational system which produces mass murderers and then provides them with victims.
When was the last time you read about a mass murderer invading a Christian day school to shoot students? I can think of only one -- where the teachers were unarmed by religious requirement.
When was the last time you saw an evening news report on a mass murderer shooting students at a homeschool field trip?
The media liberals and a few liberal politicians call for bans against guns as a way to stop school shootings. The better way is to pass laws banning tax-funded education. Just stop the funding.
Skeptics will say this. "The government needs tax-funded education. The government needs public schools to educate children in good citizenship." What is good citizenship? Good citizenship involves the acceptance of a system which taxes your money by force in order to place your children on a yellow bus which takes them to a drug emporium where they are taught that they are descendents of wild animals, and where drug-dependent psychotics can walk into a classroom and shoot them.
If you don't approve of such a system, you are publicly designated as an imbecilic Christian fundamentalist or a dangerous anarchist or both. Important people say things like this:
"And it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Still, I do not want to appear utopian. Nobody wants to be out of touch. Forcing minority ideological citizens to pay taxes in order to teach their children ideas that they don't approve of, which are taught in schools that are staffed by state-certified bureaucrats, is as beloved an idea as mom and apple pie.
Some experts think that heroin addicts should go cold turkey. Others say that methadone is the answer -- tax-funded methadone. So, to all you ideological heroin addicts, I offer a methadone solution: online public schooling.
ONLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
All across the United States, school districts are quietly substituting online classes for classroom classes. This is becoming widespread in rural districts. A generation ago, high school students were taught in tiny local schools which played six-man football. Then school districts consolidated. This was recommended by state-salaried educational bureaucrats. They said consolidation would be more efficient. It was sold to rural Texans with this promise: "Your sons can play 12-man football."
So, students ride 90 minutes each way to attend high school. It is expensive to operate the bus system. So, rural districts are switching to online courses. There are lots of articles online about this.
It turns out that one teacher can easily teach 100 or 1,000 students, as long as the exams are graded by software programs. A program can decide the programmed answer in true/false exams and multiple-choice exams. Since the SAT and ACT exams are graded this way, there is no reason for high schools not to adopt this kind of educational tool. SAT and ACT exams screen high school graduates for college. Then there are CLEP exams: Collage Level Examination Program. There are AP exams: Advanced Placement. These exams let students get full college credit. They are graded by computers. So, why not screen all high school students this way? If it's good enough for college, it's good enough for high school.
This means that a high school needs exactly one teacher for each course. It does not need half a dozen algebra teachers to teach algebra. It hires just one math teacher to teach in front of a $90 Kodak Playtouch pocket camcorder, which is placed on a $20 tripod and focused on a whiteboard, plus a $20 Audio Technica ATR 3350 microphone. Edit the videos with $50 Sony Movie Studio editing software. The videos will be posted on YouTube.
Can this work? It is working for the Khan Academy, which has over 3,000 free videos. This site will teach all academic high school courses within a few years, plus many college-level courses.
It is working for Harvard, MIT, and the University of Texas. It is working for 33 major universities that are part of the Coursera online program.
This approach would be fabulously cost-effective. Here is why.
High schools can fire all but one teacher per academic field.
They can fire the coaches.
They can sell the campuses.
They can fire the maintenance staff.
They can sell the school buses.
They can fire 90% of the administrators.
This assumes that they want to pay any teachers. They could simply create an online campus based on free videos produced by Khan and other educational entrepreneurs.
Within one academic year -- two at the most -- local school districts could implement this system.
But would my reform work academically? Of course. It is already working for rural school districts. But the teachers union does not want publicity for this. Neither do school administrators.
Students need hands-on training here. Fine. The district pays local businesses to take on apprentices. The students learn from successful businessmen how to ply their trade.
Alternatively, the district uses the money made by selling the high school campuses to build well-stocked shops. The district then offers retired professionals free rent and free apprentices: charter schools. They keep any money made through making repairs or building things. If necessary, the district pays them a fee per student, such as $1,000 for a 9-month year.
Students work four hours a day, either morning or afternoon. They take online video classes for their academic work.
There is no good reason to hire a shop instructor who could not run a business and who got a teaching certificate instead. Use the money saved by firing all of them to subsidize charter school programs run by successful practitioners with high school diplomas.
Shop classes are expensive to run. Students who have few intellectual aspirations are the most expensive to educate. That is reality. Each district should face up to it. It should let voters know how much it costs to keep these students in school.
Want to improve education? Close the campuses. Want to cut costs by 95%? Close the campuses. Want to eliminate mass murders on campus? Close the campuses.
Sadly, this reform will be resisted by voters. Why not? No more football. No more pom-pom girls. No more boola-boola.
Public high schools are free day care centers for parents of teenagers. Parents like the subsidy during their children's "difficult years." This benefit is summarized in this phrase: "Here. You take 'em."
If you are teenager, public high schools are all about sex, drugs, and sports. It's hard to compete against this trifecta of tax-funded education.