While public education has many flaws, I hardly think any of them could be classified as "fatal". If you want to me to point out a flaw in the American public school system, it's that they're grossly underfunded because most people are too nearsighted to realize that education is a panacea to most of what's wrong in the country today. There's an old saying about teaching someone how to fish. And it's one of the truest sayings you'll ever find. But I digress.

klash, I fail to see the problem with any school teaching kids to be better than everyone else. Shit, isn't that what everyone should be doing every day? Striving to be better people? Let's say you're a poet. And you're writing all of these poems. And one day you see someone whose poems just blow yours out of the water. So what should you do? Just sigh and wallow at how good you'll never be, or bust your ass and try to do better? God, I hope it's the second one.

What I wish schools would do MORE of is just what you're upset about. Don't tell kids, "Stay within yourself", or "That's a little too tough -- maybe you should try this." Tell them, "Fuck yeah, you can be whatever you want to be in life, and don't let anybody tell you otherwise." Then help them on their way.

Maybe I'm high on public education because I'm a product of what I think was a great public school system. For my 13 years, I was encouraged to think outside of the box. I had a history teacher who was convinced that the Egyptians didn't build the Pyramids (and this was long before Stargate came out). English teachers asked students which books to read. My geometry teacher took a week's worth of class time on Non-Euclidean Geometry because someone was upset that the parallel postulate hadn't been proved and wanted to see the ramifications of it. If this wasn't your experience in public school, I wish you could have come to mine.

Superunknown_GP assumes that all American public schools are "untracked" -- that all students are lumped together regardless of learning rate. This is untrue. My high school, for instance, had at least five separate tracks -- honors, advanced, college prep, basic, and remedial -- for all major subjects. There were also AP classes and independent studies for those with an accelerated learning curve, and special help available for those who had a hard time. My high school also had a wide range of vocational programs, too. The question was never "Am I going to learn anything today?". It was "What am I going to learn today?"

When you arrived at high school, you were tracked based on a combination of teacher's recommendation and tests taken the year before. Maybe not the best system, but it worked fairly effectively. Kids were encouraged to bust their asses and move up the tracks. If they didn't it was their own fault. And when graduation day came, you could see the results. Kids in higher tracks were heading to upper echelon schools, kids in college prep classes were heading to average colleges, and kids below that were going to community colleges, trade schools, or straight to work.

- Note that there's a difference between trying to better oneself and telling everyone else that you're better. There's a lot to be said for humility. And that's partly why Deion Sanders is almost universally hated, and Nomar Garciaparra is almost universally well-liked.

Oh, well, another response. First off, why is comprehensive testing a bad thing? It might actually catch kids before they graduate at a fourth grade reading level or without the ability to do long division. While I'm leary of comprehensive testing, because I'm afraid we'll end up with tests like the S.A.T., there's something to be said for required testing.

But even though I'm open to the idea, I have no fear of it every becoming a reality. The MCAS was instituted here in Massachusetts, and the plan was that by 2002, high schoolers would be required to pass it in order to graduate. Well, guess what? Students are walking out in protest. Parents are getting together and lobbying schoolboards. And schoolboards are voting unanimously to refuse the requirement, or scrap the plan altogether.

People are concerned that comprehensive tests concern themselves only with the final answer and not how the final answer was arrived at. Well, that's true. We should teach people to think freely and go about problem solving in their own way. But let's be honest -- in the real world, it doesn't matter how the fuck you arrive at the answer, as long as it's correct. Lawyers don't say, "Well, Bob, you lost that multi-million dollar case, but the way your defense approach was just brilliant, radical thinking. Good job." And chief engineers don't say, "Hey, Chris, that code you wrote corrupted our customer's database. But the way you coded that algorithm - HOT DAMN!" The real world rarely doles out partial credit.

I suppose this whole thing should go into a node on standardized testing or whatnot, but the whole point is... I expect teachers from my old school system to continue to teach the same way they did before for a long time to come.