Should we ditch public education?

Published 9:05 am Saturday, May 17, 2014

I must first disclose that I have no children, and the chances are astronomically slim that will ever change. No need to thank me. I’m just following God’s will.

But being single doesn’t preclude me from putting in my two cents worth on public education. If anything, I’m invested and not just because of the taxes that I pay for the school buildings, teachers, supplies, etc. Like you, I’m counting on those bright young things we call graduates to seek out careers that will somehow continue to put food on our tables, make repairs to our homes or cars, build and maintain the roads, uphold the rules and laws of the land, and take care of us when we’re sick or dead.

What threatens that continuity is when school systems anywhere are visibly failing, and I don’t mean just because of the administrators or teachers.

As we have seen and so often reported locally, the level of apathy on the part of the parents and students is breathtaking. Since children look to their parents for guidance, I think it follows that indifferent fathers and mothers are the chief culprits. If they’re not concerned about their own children’s education, why should the offspring care about learning?

Never mind trying to make these irresponsible parents genuinely care or take action. That’s like leading cattle to water and expecting them to drink. You could try some gentle coaxing or outright threatening, but that can only go so far.

Perhaps taking away public education could be a useful tactic.

I suggest we close the schools to students whose grades consistently stay at C (maybe D) or below, coupled with documented misbehavior. Sure, there will be some exceptions, but that would be on a case-by-case basis. As for those shut out, let the parents figure out how they’ll take care of their own brood. That’s really their responsibility anyway, isn’t it?

But if we must, then set aside a school building and corral the children — can’t call them students anymore, can we — and let them tough it out without any adult supervision. It would be interesting to see who realizes their predicament and begs to return to civilization.

Now you might be thinking one of two things:

1. That’s a really good idea, Stephen.

2. What a horrible thing to write. What kind of person you are you?

First, you’re welcome.

Second, I’m like many of you. I’m a person who shouldn’t be expected to wait for incompetent parents to grow up and do their jobs of rearing children responsibly.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer for The Tidewater News. He can be contacted at 562-3187 or via email at