I’m sitting here rereading some posts and comments thereunto (yes, I do that), and I had a sudden insight.
This springs from a comment on my Charter Systems post about how perhaps the push for the charter systems movement is coming from the corporations that run some charter schools, and that the whole thing is to push for the vast profits these corporations stand to make if we all go charter.
I had snarkily replied that if it were possible to make vast profits from a school, wouldn’t we be doing that? And I’ve been thinking: are we so wasteful of the taxpayer’s dime that we can’t see how to make money doing what we’re doing?
And I’ve decided, no, we’re not. There was a headline this week about how our school system is under budget, thank goodness, and won’t have to tap into the reserves. Well, yes we are, and do you know how? Spending was frozen in August. The amount sent by the state to this county for my media center, and which is entailed upon it, has been frozen.
Our checkbook balance looks good, but it’s the “good” we all see at the first of the month: lots of cash on hand, but every single bit of it is already marked for bills. My point is that the only way we can beef up the assets column is to choke the actual education process.
No, my dears, education is a rathole. You just have to keep shoveling money into it, and is that any way to run a business?
No, it’s not. Here’s my insight: education is not a business, and you cannot run it like one, or at least run it like one and expect business-like results. Education is a farm.
You plant, you water, you fertilize, you tend, you weed, and with any luck at all, you harvest. But some harvests are big ones, and some are not. You have no way of knowing, although of course you do have to use the right fertilizer and the right techniques. But one thing is for sure: you still have to pour money into the process. You have to buy the fertilizer and the tractors and the combines and the irrigation, and you have to maintain them. Because if you don’t, then you will get no harvest at all.
And I think it’s a better metaphor, at least to bring us back around to the profit motive, if we regard our farm as the source of our own food, not as crops to sell for profit. I’m not going to explicate that one; think through it yourself.
As for funding these nourishment-providing farms of ours, the History Channel had an absolutely intriguing show the other night about agricultural technology. We saw cotton farmers in California using satellite technology to identify which areas of their fields were ready to be sprayed with a saline solution, and with how much, as they flew over them with spraying helicopters. We saw rice farmers using satellites and computers to tell them which areas of which fields needed fertilizer or pesticides.
These were compared, of course, to developing nations where it’s all done by hand.
Now, which farms were feeding the world? Yes, I know it blows my metaphor about food vs. commodities, but you get my point.