In response to Are Teachers To Blame For Economic Illiteracy? I received more emails than on anything else I have ever written.

I expected a lot of hate mail from teachers but that was not the case. Most were positive or at least neutral. Many of them are worth printing and indeed I will do bigger sampling later.

Here is an email from Canada that offered a concrete suggestion on one particular problem.

A Canadian Teacher Writes:

Hi Mish,

I teach and class size has not been shrinking everywhere. In British Columbia, the student to teacher ratio has increased 10%. Smaller class size provisions were completely stripped and teachers were left with a huge workload and pay falling much faster behind the cost of living than other public sector workers.

The biggest waste of taxpayer’s money is inclusion.

When we were growing up students were held back if they did not meet academic requirements and students that you find in a classroom today were in special programs. For example, I have a 16-year-old girl with about grade 1 skills and nothing will ever change that.

Given a pile of coins, it takes her 5 minutes to figure out which coins add up to $1.38. She is also more like an 8-year-old then a 16-year-old and highly disruptive. The education system truly is never going to do anything for her. Unfortunately, she puts a huge stress on the class everyday and is required to be there. I have another with about grade 3 skills.

These kids will never graduate with a high school diploma, but they will get a leaving certificate.

Instead they should be in a completely separate program that does not worry so much about academics for them. This grade 1 ability girl is never going to be independent and she knows she cannot do math and it absolutely kills her self esteem and it is awful for her to be there daily.

Inclusion has truly increased a teacher’s workload at the same time reduced the overall quality of education. A lot of what teachers were fighting for with smaller classes was to deal with the much larger range of student ability in a classroom.

It seems to me that it was more economical to not have these kids in a regular school program and to require students to repeat or go to summer school if they are not keeping up academically.

Teachers have lost a lot of control over kids who now understand there is no summer school consequence for just deciding they don’t feel like doing their work. They get passed ahead regardless of academic ability because inclusion says keep them with their grade level peers.

Thanks “Canadian Teacher”.

I could not use her name out of fear of reprisal. Teachers are just not allowed to say anything against administration or school board decisions. Clearly this is a failed policy decision.

Is this a result of “No Child Left Behind” kinds of programs like we have here in the US?

Such policies ensure that in any class with such disruptive students, all children (in that class) will be left behind. No doubt the parents of such kids think their students deserve $million programs to help their kids catch up.

Sorry folks. We need some rules.

Proposed Rules

  • Kids should be required to keep up, and if they cannot keep up (within a one grade window), then those kids need to repeat a grade.
  • Repeat a grade twice and you are out.
  • Repetitive class disruption and you are out.
  • No sports or extracurricular activities for kids in the bottom 15% of the class.
  • Teachers rigging grades to keep someone on the team will be fired.
  • Merit pay for teachers
  • Combat pay for good teachers willing to teach in troubled inner-city schools

Teachers should be more than baby sitters, and students who are disruptive and hopelessly behind should be kicked out of school. “No Child Left Behind” programs that push kids along whether they are ready or not, really means “All Children Left Behind”.

Keeping hopeless teachers in the system does the same thing. It is high time for merit pay for teachers as well as “combat pay” for exceptional teachers willing to teach in troubled inner-city schools. Unions are against both those ideas.


There are a few good responses to this post already.


No Child Left Behind = No Child Gets Ahead

Tin Hat:

A teacher friend of mine claims that a class can only learn as much as the slowest student.

In these cases, the brilliant are marginalized in favor of those who, through no fault of their own, can not learn. This kind of setting is not only bad for the gifted and the average, it’s bad for the challenged. Every one loses.

Society has a very serious problem of playing pretend. Pretend deficits don’t matter, pretend the challenged can keep up, pretend the smart aren’t dumbed down, pretend rewarding failure creates success, pretend globalism works, pretend banks are solvent, pretend jobs don’t matter, pretend unemployment is under 10%, pretend the market is sound, pretend Capital Hill listens to their constituents, pretend campaign donations aren’t bribes, pretend the US hasn’t gone corporatist, pretend the economy has recovered…pretend, pretend, pretend.


Social engineers refuse to recognize the difference between stupidity and ignorance: the latter can be corrected, but the former cannot be because it is innate.

Ignorance abounds in education, and stupidity seems to be catching up.


When I started High School, way back in the 70s, I went to a very academically rigorous School. There were different tracks for students with different abilities. I was placed in advanced math, science and English tracks. I loved it. After years of sitting in classes waiting for the other students to catch up I was finally challenged and forced to push myself.

But then we moved. We moved to a progressive area outside San Francisco that embraced the new doctrine of “inclusion”. The worst readers were lumped with the best readers. Those who couldn’t add and subtract were lumped with those who were ready for Trig and Calculus. This meant that everything was always geared to the slowest.

There were no advanced classes in math or science or anything else because that was thought to stigmatize the less intelligent and make them feel dumb. Some teachers didn’t believe in grades. Some teachers didn’t believe in homework. It was SO very progressive.

The end result was that my last three years of high school were a waste. I’ve always resented the fact that my education was stunted because the needs of the slow, the average and the uncaring students were put above those of the best students. The few who loved to learn and were capable of making great progress were shunted aside.

And this was back in the day before disruptive students and hostile parents became the norm. I shudder to think what High School must be like for the academically gifted now.

Our public school system now exists primarily to babysit and to regiment and to perpetuate the jobs of educators. It’s not about education because only one in ten students even cares about learning. I’d be perfectly happy to see the massive bureaucratic public school systems broken up. Let people keep their taxes and send their kids to private schools. Let a variety of private schools spring up that serve the needs of various students – schools that would be free to boot the bad apples. People recoil in horror when you mention this idea but the public school system is a perfect candidate to be privatized.

Indeed, public education should be privatized. Disruptive kids would be kicked out of class. Pay would be on merit. Those left behind would be those who should be left behind. What a difference!

Steve B via Email:

Mish, if you haven’t discovered him, John Taylor Gatto has a couple of books on the topic of Public Schooling that I consider must reads.

If you want to read him online, you can do so here: Underground History of American Education.

He wrote a more succinct summary of that material and you can get that from Amazon:
Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

Steve B

Thanks Steve B.

In looking that up, I see a book that John Taylor Gatto endorses on the back cover. It’s called Radical Unschooling – A revolution Has Begun.

Gatow writes: “Full of brilliant common sense! Mrs. Martin takes us behind the curtain to see in rich detail what alternative education really looks like when it bestows on its subjects the freedom to choose. Every parent who feels compelled to give their kids into the care of total strangers should read this book.”

Shannon via Email writes:

Great read, Mish.

All things have a price. It’s how we make decisions on everything we do. I’m sure you’re well aware of this. And, if this is true, then what is the price of an education? This is the great unknown. Of course, we can tally all the money that comes in and divide it by the number of students and say this is the cost of an education, but such numbers are distorted.

In a socialistic industry such as education, it is impossible to attach any meaningful price tag to the product. The parents of the students have a belief that the education is free. This in turn sends a signal to the industry that there is no scarcity of resources (mainly money).

When there is a belief of no scarcity in resources, there are no free market forces to keep the checks and balances in place and spending always gets out of control.

I send my kids to a private school and because of the rising cost of resources in the public sector it is driving up the cost in the private sector (I’m almost priced out of the market).

I would love to see the public education competing on the free market with a private education. When that happens then the true price of an education would be revealed and all jobs related to this industry would have their day of reckoning.

This “price” would also force parents to be more active in their kid’s education and take away the “baby sitter” effect for the teachers. The free market would fix everything wrong with the system. I know… this is merely a dream.

P.S. I’ve started getting into the habit of asking people the price question for everything… especially for our military and war. It works great and really gets them thinking.

Keep up the great work!


Thank you Shannon.
That was a tremendous response.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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