The average person's view of public education is this: stupid people are a liability to society, they become lazy, useless hobos who will be dependent on welfare. So let's make them useful and teach them what they'll need to know to be a secretary or a pizza delivery person, be able to balance the checkbook, be an average citizen of this great country. It's the idea of taking something oblong and ragged around the edges and producing the finished product; making bricks from straw and clay.

Yes, the mainstream view of the school system is that of a brick factory. Once the brick is complete and up to the standards of the institution, a document is awarded announcing this, as an assurance to the next institution that this brick will fit in satisfactorily to their wall.

Politicians always announce their grandiose plans to make better bricks. The solution? Check at the end of every year, and if the brick isn't coming out the way you intended, threaten to pull the rug out from under them until the bricks come out the way you want them to.

My friends, this is not education.

The public schooling system has no hope of getting better until people start thinking about it differently. Education is not a hurdle, a simple prerequisite to having a job. Education is not free daycare. Most importantly, education is not a means to an end, but an end in itself.

My brother is in sixth grade this year. He's obsessed with bragging about how the school has labeled him as reading at the 8th or 9th grade level, I can never remember which. He reads books because he's proud of how long they are. He has a terribly annoying habit of beginning sentences with "I bet I'm better than you at..." School has taught him that the most important thing is to try to be better than everyone else, which I suppose will make him an ideal capitalist.

I wish schools would stop worrying about the fucking bubble sheets and ask the kid what they think. I look back on 13 years in public school and ask what I have to show for it. I feel lucky that my love for learning survived.

I stand by my original premise, though I think I could have expressed it somewhat better.

Orange Julius: How long do you think your teachers are going to have the liberty to express non-traditional opinions on things or take week-long tangents on issues not explicitly in the course description once comprehensive testing is mandatory, every year of your public school life? Both presidential candidates spout off this idea as the greatest plan for enhancing public education, and no one bothers to question whether it's such a good idea. And I'm afraid we're not talking critical thinking, essay tests; think lots of bubbles. Think taking Iowas on every course you take for all of your public school career.

It sounds as though your public school was fantastic, that's wonderful! I'm afraid schools like that are few and far between, and the direction politics is going, it will become increasingly difficult for schools to operate in that way. It's all about the district requirements and the state requirements. It's about sports teams and pep assemblies. I had a few fantastic teachers in high school, but oddly enough, the best teachers were always the ones who had the most gripes with the administration.

How glad I am I'm in college now, and I've left that all behind...