Dear Dr. Hurd: I am a counselor working in a public school setting. This is starting to become a source of great conflict for me because after months of reading and contemplation, I have reached the conclusion that the government shouldn’t even be involved in education (among other things’) in the first place. I will likely eventually leave my position and end up in private practice, but until then, I was wondering if you had any tips for helping me keep my sanity.
Putting aside for a minute the thuggish mentality exacerbated by unions, ‘services’ provided by theft (taxation), and general incompetency — the biggest conflict I’m dealing with, as a mental health professional, is the fact that ‘public’ anything blurs the boundary between individual vs. institutional responsibility.
I could go on with numerous examples of what I mean by this, but here’s one: I believe the decision to come to school (or not) and try one’s best to succeed lies with the student, and that the student (young adult) would be the only one bearing the brunt of that decision. When that fails, it is up to the parent to provide an alternate solution. But in our collectivist ‘it takes a village’ culture (further perpetuated by public schools), much of the parenting onus falls on myself and other counselors. Parents (and some leftist teachers, too) expect us to bend over backwards to coax these students into coming to school and producing work. At the same time, given the context of ‘public’ education, this mindset makes sense. After all, isn’t this what ‘their’ tax dollars are paying us to do?
How do I provide student support services, without launching into a lengthy explanation of my pro-reason approach to mental health whenever I have a request that falls outside of what I believe is my rational domain? Is such a thing even possible, or should I get out sooner? I love my job, I just wonder if I would get significantly fewer requests to ‘force a mind’ than I would were I working in a different (i.e. non ‘public’) setting. Do you think this is necessarily true?
Dr. Hurd’s reply: The “entitlement” psychology that is bringing down America runs deeper than demand for Medicare, Social Security and other free goodies from the government. People have reached a point where they feel entitled to things that cannot be bought with money — things such as education, well-behaved children or even thinking itself.
You can’t change the nature of the public school system and the flawed premises upon which it rests. The only thing you can do is to look for the few rational parents / students who might actually accept self-responsibility for their minds and brains, and nurture/educate them the best you know how. The system is totally rotten, but not every single parent and student who participates in it necessarily is. Remember to evaluate people individually, not by the system under which they’re operating or struggling. This is the key to maintaining your sanity, whether you stay in the system two more weeks or ten more years. I do advise you to have an exit plan in place to eventually get you out, however. I’d also love to see you write articles or a book exposing the system for what it is, from an actual employee in that system.
Few things are more preposterous than the idea that government can, or should even try, to impose education on the American public. As you point out so well, education implies a willingness to think in the first place. A child who has been exposed to thinking on a regular basis, and whose leaders/parents have demonstrated a consistent respect for thinking, are the only kind of children who can be educated. Absent this respect for thinking instilled in children by the parents, you will never be able to buy a good education … not for billions, and not for trillions, as we have seen. No child left behind? How about every child left behind by the insanity that passes for education in this society?
The stupid liberal socialist Republicarats who run what passes for public “education” are the sort of fools who — while they decry and condemn the making of money at every turn — actually believe that money can buy you education. Seriously? If this were true, why would test score inflation and other tricks be required by public schools in order to “prove” the results they want to show? Even the young people sense it. When I ask young people I counsel why they don’t respect their schools or teachers, they usually tell me, “It’s all about them. They just want the numbers and scores to look good so the school will get the funds it needs.” Of course, schools will get those funds no matter what because public schools aren’t going anywhere until government spends so much that it literally shuts down the currency and the economy. We may be approaching that day.
The noble and practical thing for someone like you to do is to become an educational entrepreneur. Don’t ask me what that will involve: That’s for YOU, as the entrepreneur, to figure out. The best case scenario for America is that the government will go bankrupt, and the currency will surely flounder, but civilization itself will not. If a new, privatized economy can rise again, then a private, free market for education will be one of its most important components. This will be created not by politicized, inert bureaucrats (they’ll all be gone), but by individual entrepreneurs in the educational marketplace. You would do well to start creating and innovating rational educational/counseling services that individual parents will want. Start working on the side, develop an online presence, write some books or booklets — do whatever you have to do in order to create a niche for yourself in the forthcoming private market for education.
The notion of a “free market” for education is inconceivable to most people. “Why, that’s something the government provides. Why would there be a business of education?” As you said, it’s a “takes a village” mentality, but the village is on fire. Your job is to create a product and/or service that will lure parents and students to fill in the gap left by the increasingly awful, mediocre, antiquated approach to education imposed by the top-down union-corrupted bureaucracies. Offer an alternative to the fascist-style education dominant in the United States and elsewhere in the developed world today.
You ask if such a thing is possible. I will reply by asking, “Is education important? Does public education even remotely do the job required to educate young people? Are public schools going to get better, or worse, over time, especially as the federal government totally runs out of money and credibility?” You already know the answer. Given the answer, then of course such a thing is possible, so long as you have something objectively worthwhile to offer that a certain number of people are willing to pay for, in the interest of teaching their children to learn not only subjects, but how to think.
You might take a tip from the homeschooling movement. Research and investigate what homeschooling parents are learning about the education of their children, and other independent providers of educational services outside the tax-subsidized monster of public schooling. What gaps in services or products/tools are there, including in a mental health or counseling context? What issues related to motivation, self-esteem or performance arise that a homeschooling parent (or any other parent) might benefit from by the skills you have to offer? What about an educational coach, including young children suffering through the dreary drudgery of public education? What results can you demonstrate for parents by working with students to help them improve their performance in thinking — not just getting good grades (which public schools are going to provide regardless), but actually thinking?
If your job is that of an idealist, to save the world, then I know of no better way than to play a role in fostering a new generation of American thinkers. The public school system, as you well know, will never do such a thing. The best and most prestigious institutions of higher learning in America got us … President Obama, and the other smug clowns — those products of higher education as we know it — who are destroying both our government and our economy. Need I say more?
In the realm of education, as so much else, America will need to reboot and simply start over. The future belongs to people like you, provided you’re able and willing to bring some of that future to the rest of us today.