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School Parents – Not “Experts” – Take on Blue Education

A few months ago, Via Meadia commented on a story developing out in Adelanto, California, one of the newest battlefields where the blue model finds itself under attack. The parents of students at Desert Trails Elementary are seeking to invoke a “trigger law” allowing them to take direct control of the school.

Desert Trails has posted dismal test scores for years, lacks essential support staff like a guidance counselor or nurse, and struggles to keep students in school.

Fifty years ago, if a school could not prove it had provided students with a quality education, the public would call in the experts. External professionals would be hired to provide guidance, and steer the school down a better road.

Now the story is different: the public, the people, the parents want to be in charge, and they increasingly call for the experts and professionals to get out of the way and let the people do it themselves. This is what’s killing the blue model: not crazed right wing Tea Party activists, not evil corporate conspiracies hatched by the Koch brothers, but a change in how ordinary Americans across the country think their problems can best be solved.

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  • Luke Lea

    I propose web cameras in all public school class rooms. They are public schools after all, payed for by the public, so why shouldn’t the public have a right to see what it is paying for. But even if you disagree with that, there is still a case to be made. Right now it is almost impossible to document in ways that will hold up in court either student misbehavior or teacher incompetence. Even if restricted to school officials and the police such records would be valuable.

  • Luke Lea

    I should have written “even if restricted to school officials, PARENTS, and the police.” Surely parents have a right to know.

  • Kenny

    Change will come only when these parents turn on the Democratic Party which is the enable of the disgrace that public education has become. Fact.

  • Silverfiddle

    The real world is a results-based place. The Blue Model proponents just don’t get it.

  • gooch mango

    “This is what’s killing the blue model: not crazed right wing Tea Party activists, not evil corporate conspiracies hatched by the Koch brothers, but a change in how ordinary Americans across the country think their problems can best be solved.”

    Those who “think” the experts have let us down are correct… that is the difference between yesterday and today.

    The experts have designed a system organized around moral hazard that routinely fails, and that failure is then covered up with another round of debt, another layer of pointless bureaucratic rule changes and vapid new mission statements.

    The educrats are amongst the worst offenders in this fraudocracy of distraction, deception and extend-and-pretend. The technocracy has permanently turned negative; the costs of centralized command-and-control far outweigh the benefits. Collapse it all and start over… its not worth saving.

  • Tom Richards

    Interesting that a guidance counselor is regarded as unquestionably “essential”. I attended a leading fee-paying school in England recently enough to have still been studying there this millenium, and I’m pretty sure we didn’t have any such thing. I’m quite prepared to believe this is a bad school, and it may very well be that employing a full time pastoral care worker is a better approach than distributing pastoral responsibilities across the teaching staff (in my school the formal first points of contact would have been a house tutor responsible for around 20-30 students or a housemaster responsible for 70-80, and this was not a boarding school). However, I would not take it as a given that this is the case.

  • Fred

    There’s no denying that the blue model is sclerotic or that the “experts” often aren’t. This is particularly true of education, where the motto is “To hell with facts, political correctness _uber alles_.” Nonetheless, the thought of the Booboisie taking complete control of something they have absolutely no real knowledge of is at least as frightening to me. We’ll go from sclerosis to anarchy.

  • WigWag

    Via Meadia is always interested in scientific evidence as we can tell from looking at the post that went up this morning on video games. This leads to the question of just what the evidence is that increasing parental control over the schools will make things better instead of worse. If Via Meadia has compelling evidence then Professor Mead and his mod squad should present it. Failing that, this post is little more than mendacious nonsense.

    Perhaps before turning their attention to fixing the public schools these parents should turn their attention to being better at their primary job; serving their kids as dads and moms.

    Public schools nearly always thrive in communities where parents provide a safe, secure and enriched home life for their kids. Public schools nearly always fail in communities where parents do a bad job parenting.

    If you don’t believe it, read Charles Murray’s new book about the failures of the white working class. By the way, it is entirely reasonable to speculate that the failures Murray documents apply to minority communities as well.

    Personally I am highly skeptical that parents who do a bad job at home can be counted on to do a good job running schools.

  • WigWag

    It is also worth noting that it’s not like parental control over public schools hasn’t been tried before; it has and unsurprisingly it failed.

    In the mid 1960s “community control” of schools was the mantra regularly chanted by the most left wing black “activists”. In 1968 there was a famous teachers strike led by teachers union chief Albert Shanker over the issue of parental control. A large percentage of New York public school teachers were Jewish and the activists demanding parental control were mostly black. The animosity between the two communities which fought over this issue lasted for decades.

    The activists demanding parental control insisted that parents should have the right to hire and fire teachers and supervisers, that parents should control school budgets and that parental control should extend to the curriculum and the selection of textbooks. One goal of the activist community was to install an “Afro-centric” curriculum in schools where most students were black.

    The strike ended in a compromise. Union protections for hiring and firing teachers were maintained but community school boards elected by parents were empowered to make most other educational decisions.

    After community control was implemented it soon became obvious that parental control was disasterous. Nepotism became rampant, corruption increased and whatever new-fangled trend struck the majority of parents as innovative ruled the day. Teaching “black” English even to white and Latino kids as an alternative language became the rage.

    With parental control the New York City schools became far worse not far better. The system of parental control was finally discarded under the Bloomberg Administration in part at the urging of conservative educators like Diane Ravitch and conservative think tanks like the Manhattan Institute.

    The only difference between now and the 1960s is that then parental control was an idea beloved by radical leftists; now its an idea that the right wing loves.

    There is no compelling evidence that experts do a better job running schools and there is no evidence that parents are up to the job.

    The one thing that does help is if parents do their jobs properly.

    Unless they do it doesn’t make any difference who runs the schools.

  • Mick The Reactionary

    Best of luck to the brave concerned parents. External factors are a humongous barrier for them to overcome.

    From wikipedia:

    “1. The median income for a family was $35,254. About 24.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.0% of those under age 18.

    2. The racial makeup of Adelanto was 20.5% African American, Hispanic or Latino of any race were 58.3%.”

    25% is below poverty line and almost 80% is minority.

    Is there a school district in America that is doing well in such environment?
    Even one?

    May be it is possible, but a real-life example or two would be nice.

  • Mick The Reactionary


    “Desert Trails … lacks essential support staff like a guidance counselor or nurse”

    Wow, how things change.

    Two thirds of my high school class (40+ years ago) have PhD, MD, JD, MBA or Masters. No one heard of guidance counselor – aren’t teachers could be doing that?

    Nurses were available in a clinic a mile away, no one thought a school had to have a nurse.

    Money is limited. For Middle and High School instead of guidance flake and redundant nurse I would hire two auto repair instructors, one electrician and one plumber.

    For elementary school 2-3 additional English teachers would a be hoot instead of those two.

  • Kris


    If we are to see better educational outcomes, parents will have to take responsibility and do a better job with their children, instead of offloading them on a government bureaucracy.

    As the preceding statement seems to be the essence of both our host’s posts and your comments, don’t you think that your statement “This post is little more than mendacious nonsense” is somewhat off the mark?

  • WigWag

    I think you are misinterpreting our gracious host, Kris.

    One of Professor Mead’s constant themes is that the value of both expertise and credentials are frequently exaggerated and that the common-sense intuition of average Americans who eschew counter-intuitive or overly complicated policy prescriptions is to be celebrated.

    I think that the point Via Meadia is making is precisely what the headline of this post suggests; that putting parents in charge of schools will be an improvement.

    I disagree. I think that there is little to no compelling evidence that empowering parents as Via Meadia suggests will lead to improved outcomes and, if the evidence exists. I’ve asked Professor Mead to provide it.

    I have also provided at least one example of an attempt to foster parental control of schools that made things much worse not much better. Finally, I’ve given my opinion that who “controls” the schools is dramatically less important than what happens at home. Children coming from stable and enriched home environments usually do well; children coming from homes with a paucity of educational focus do poorly no matter what.

    What does parental control really mean? Do you think urban school children in Newark will be better educated if the parents in Newark, New Jersey decide that “back english” is a real languages that should be cherished instead of discouraged? Will children in Los Angeles receive a better education if bilingual education is preferred to focusing on English language instruction? What about if the parents in a particular public school want to reject English instruction all together and have their children taught exclusively in Spanish?

    Will children in Horry County, South Carolina be better educated if their parents conclude that they should learn “creation science” or even the biblical version of creation in the place of Charles Darwin? What about if parents in Waco, Texas decide that their children should be taught that the American Southwest rightly belongs to Mexico instead of an ideology that they might find noxious; the Monroe Doctrine comes to mind. Will that improve the public schools in Waco?

    Suppose that parents in Dearborn, Michigan conclude that it is much more important for their kids to study the history of the ancient Muslim world as part of their world history curriculum instead of European history; will they be helping or hurting their kids education? Would we be better off letting the parents in Dearborn decide or would we better off relying on the “experts” that Professor Mead reviles?

    Like left wing ideologues, right wing ideologues have little genuine interest in what is and isn’t good for children. Their main goal is grinding their ideological ax.

    For the most part they haven’t even thought through the ramifications of policies that they purport to think are good for children.

  • Kris


    There are many lousy parents out there, but can we expect them to improve without giving them responsibility? Sure, some of them won’t improve, but you yourself seem to admit that their children are most likely out of luck no matter what happens in their school.

    I certainly don’t think parental control will be easy, nor that it will be a magical 100% cure. (Nor that this is our host’s position, but he is welcome to clarify.) But I think that the onus is on the “bureaucratic” side to make the case that its overhead and usurpation is worthwhile. (It goes without saying that the situation is not as purely binary as described.)

  • Sam L.

    The people are a lot smarter than they are given credit for. And yes, they can be a lot dumber than we think.

    BUT: These parents are concerned about their children. Concerned, involved parents are most likely better by far than those beholden to the teachers’ union.

  • Bruno Behrend

    Data for WigWag…

    Policy initiatives that empower parents are likely to increase parental involvement and satisfaction and raise student achievement by inviting parents into the process. In a study of 22 parent-empowering programs, Stanford University’s Barbara Goodson and Robert Hess found they all produced significant achievement gains and that it was the empowerment itself, rather than the content of the programs, that was responsible for the gains.

    There is a difference between empowering parents to force improvement, and having parents “take over” a school.

    I wish I had the time to discuss all the things right and wrong with Wig Wag’s analysis, but it would require inviting him to record a podcast and ask Professor Mead to post it.

    The fact remains that the proper introduction of parental empowerment has, and will, yield positive results for most systems.

    It is far too easy to defend the status quo by arguing that “someone, somewhere, will be a bad parent, so let’s keep things the way they are.”

    I’m serious about the podcast idea, BTW. Some one needs to separate the WigWag’s wheat from his chaff and lay it all out. Dis-empowering the existing district model, and draining failing districts of schools, children, and (through digital options) courses, is imperative.

    The current system has failed too many for too long at too high a price for it to be left intact. While the “trigger” is not perfect, it will be an improvement for the majority of those who exercise it.

  • Bruno Behrend

    Mick asked:

    Is there a school district in America that is doing well in such environment?
    Even one?


    Good question, but why do we tolerate the insanity of a “school district?” It is an entity to employ deadwood, not to educate children. This is why we need to dismantle, and eventually devolve, districts into oblivion.

    Money needs to follow the child to a vast new array of education options that fits the child’s needs, not the need of some useless bureaucracy.

    The best answer to your question, therefore, is to ignore “districts” and look to individual and independent schools. While it is true that many charters are imperfect, the fact is that the charter movement has proven it can educate kids in this environment.

    Rather than fret about districts, therefore, we ought to rapidly create charters in these areas, using funds currently used to employ bureaucrats to instead start now models and employ teachers who want to teach.

    Where there is existing infrastructure (parochial schools), simply give the children in failing schools a voucher, and let them leave.

  • PacRim Jim

    This is much more convenient for the Left.
    It saves them the pain and expense of pregnancy, yet they end up owning your child.

  • Kris

    Bruno@16: I am imagining a VM panel discussion with the major commenters. It could certainly be edifying, but (how surprising!) my mind turns to the comic possibilities.

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