When an engineer determines that a machine isn’t functioning properly, he will diagnose the problem by, for instance, testing the parts of the machine.

Obviously, defective components must be replaced with quality parts. If the factory that supplies the components refuses to institute a rigorous quality-assurance program, then the engineer will have to consider doing business with another factory.

Unless the machine in question is public education.

In that case, we (the engineers) routinely replace defective components (teachers, administrators and elected officials) with identical replacements (people with the same credentials, from the same “factories,” or schools of education, who share the same demonstrably failed philosophy). Yet, somehow, we expect significant improvement in the performance of the machine (public education).

The most deeply flawed component of the education machine is the philosophy embraced almost universally by teachers, by administrators, by their union representatives, and by the Democrats who lick the boots of the aforementioned.

With few exceptions, they are disciples of John Dewey, the humanist and socialist responsible for the “progressive” philosophy that dominates public schools. Here are a few tenets of the belief system: self-esteem over achievement, feelings over facts, the collective over the individual, grievance over gratitude, “social justice” over the “three Rs” and equity over excellence.

Not surprisingly, the machine’s performance is inadequate.

Last week, Raleigh’s News & Observer reported that seven Guilford County schools were “put on notice that they need to improve over the next few years or else they could be turned over to an outside group.”

Wow! The state means business, doesn’t it?

Well, not really. Very few schools would actually be taken over, and the process takes several years. Meanwhile, the children doomed to attend failing schools will learn very little, if anything.

Online at National Review magazine is a grim assessment of public education penned by Chester Finn Jr., a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. Finn quotes Peggy Carr, an administrator of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as “the nation’s report card.” As we’ve come to expect, the news is depressing.

“Over the past decade,” Carr says, “there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse. In fact, over the long term … those readers who struggle the most have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.” But surely the news is better when we turn to the American College Testing (ACT) program.

Nope. “A slight decline in college readiness” continues, the ACT reports. “In fact, the percentages of graduates meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in math and English are the lowest they’ve been in 15 years.”

Meanwhile, back here on the home front, the News & Record’s Jessie Pounds reports that the Guilford County Association of Educators is “demanding” teacher raises higher than the 3.9% Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed. The veto resulted from the fact that Cooper concurs with the teachers group; that is, he believes teachers deserve bigger raises.

The GCAE “demands” that the state “give raises that increase pay faster and more equitably.” The problem with “equitable” treatment is, it must be extended not only to excellent teachers, but also to the mediocre and the incompetent.

Another “requirement” of the GCAE is a $15 minimum wage “for all employees, including cafeteria workers and bus drivers.” That’s a horrible, and horribly expensive, idea. I have a “demand” of my own: Henceforth, educators and their spokesmen must take a refresher course in basic economics.

Public education is a machine in need of a complete overhaul. Let’s get on with it.

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Charles Davenport Jr. (cdavenportjr@hotmail.com) is a News & Record columnist. His column runs the first and third Sundays of the month.

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