by ALISTAIR BOMPHRAY
What ever happened to “education is the key to success” and all that hopeful American bootstrapping? The state of California–proud owner of the 8th largest economy in the WORLD–is proposing a three billion dollar cut to public education. Nearly 27,000 California teachers received pink slips this school year alone (Why pink, btw? Pink is Cheer Bear and breast cancer awareness and a wickedly subversive pop singer from the early 2000’s. If we’ve let them have pink, haven’t we lost already?). School districts statewide are scrambling to adjust their annual budgets, asking difficult questions like, “Does every student really need their own desk?” and “How ’bout cutting music? Oh, right, we already did.”
And lest you think this is just a California issue—New York, Michigan, Nebraska, and a gaggle of other states are doing their own spot-on impressions of a Civil War surgeon. That terrible sawing sound? The sound of the sky falling down. Or is it?
As Richard Gere probably said when that story about the gerbil broke, “From great crisis arises great opportunity,” or something like that. It’s in this spirit that I propose to you, fellow taxpayers, that we do something entirely unprecedented in the history of education in America. We get rid of it… completely.
This “cut a little here, cut a little there” approach simply is not working. I’ve seen band-aids on bullet wounds have better results (um, when I was in a gang, okay?).
So why not get rid of the whole damn thing? Ok, you’re right—maybe that’s a little rash. Elementary school is pretty important actually. That’s where you learn how to read and write and make fun of the fat, slow kid. And middle school—that’s basically glorified juvie, and Lord knows I don’t want those maniacs running around. So let’s keep middle school, too.
Which leaves us with high school. Did any of you really learn anything in high school that you couldn’t have learned more efficiently from the school of hard knocks? Besides, what’s more important (and potentially very lucrative), learning how to use supporting evidence, or learning how to hide the evidence?
This is my modest proposal: No high school for five years. We save all the money we would’ve spent, distribute a percentage of it to our elementary and middle schools (so they don’t have to make any cuts), and in five years, we bring it all back. Five years—that’s all. If America can’t survive that, how great are we really?
Sure, those kids’ll miss out on some stuff—I wouldn’t trade those memories of skipping school to joyride my friend’s dad’s Ferrari for the world (oh wait—those aren’t my memories). But it’s not a lose-lose either—there’s a silver lining to this worst-case scenario.
Like maybe they could get a job. Not a good job, probably. But an old-fashioned salt of the earth character building job. The kind of job where on the first day the leathery foreman says to you, “A little wet behind the ears, ain’t ya, sonny?” And then over time you prove yourself to him, by God. And along the way—no less of a miracle—you prove yourself to yourself. That, or you get your hand lopped off by a bandsaw.
The informed amongst you might say, “Hey, wait a minute, isn’t there already a high unemployment rate? You wanna add to that?” That’s easy. Get rid of illegal immigrants, duh. People are always complaining about how those no-good, banda-blasting illegal immigrants are taking our jobs. Yeah, well, who else is gonna pick your freakin’ strawberries, man? And clean the vomit out of your motel sheets? And pimp out your truck so it can barely clear a soda can? Oh, I know, fifteen-year olds.
Of course, I’m not so naive as to think every honorably discharged high schooler is going to run out and find themselves an honest job. As much as it pains me to say this, some may turn to a life of crime. Fortunately, here in California at least, one thing we do pride ourselves on is our state of the art prison system. Hell, we already spend more on prisons than public universities. And when those babies fill up with pimply-faced shoplifters, I’m sure we can spring for a couple more, right? If Schwarzenegger has to close a state park or two to make that happen, so be it.
And what a boon this would be for the private school industry. Any family with some money to their name is going to want to send their kid to a private school. I foresee a vanguard of pretentious, new private schools springing up all over this fair land, from sea to shining to sea. And who better to serve as custodians and lunch staff to our future statesmen and CEOs than our brave, young lambs who have so generously sacrificed their own education for the greater good of the country? It’s kind of beautiful, isn’t it?
Now don’t worry your pretty heads even a minute over the predicament of all of those laid-off high school teachers. This is their second chance, their fresh start, their Michael Vick moment. After so many years of enduring unspeakable nicknames (Mr. Shitty Breath, for example), they are now free to do whatever it is they really wanted to do in the first place, which, let’s face it, was probably a lot cooler than dragging thirty-five cranky, hormonal teenagers through The Old Man and the Sea.
And, then, in five short years—a blip really—it all goes back to the way it was. And we can gaze upon this messed-up American experiment with fresh eyes. Like back in college when you would set aside that hard-to-write paper just long enough to get really drunk and have sex with a stranger, and then come back to it the next day with renewed vigor and a bunch of great ideas. Think of it as a vacation. God knows we could use one.
Alistair teaches English and Journalism (at a high school) in Hayward, CA.