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Closing Our Public Schools

Updated on April 21, 2013

Education... has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.

~ G. M. Trevelyan (1876 - 1962), English Social History (1942)

Out with the old and in with the new.

So the saying goes. Is new always better? I guess that’s the big question. I don’t always think it is. What some may call progress sometimes seems down right stupid to me at times.  We see it over and over again, tried and true methods getting tossed out for so-called new and improved. Yet many times these new improved methods do not succeed as well as the old tried-and-true. 

There are examples of this all around us today and it makes me wonder - just because we can, does that mean we should.   It is the examples in our school systems that bother me the most. Here in America, we spend more money, per student, on our public schools yet the overall success rates continue to drop. So the experts look at the highly successful public schools and see the statistics showing that more money is being pumped into these schools. So the conclusion then becomes to pump more money into failing schools so they can achieve higher success rates.

Definition of insanity?

They keep trying the same thing over and over again the same failing results. Their battle cry remains the same, ’We need more money.’ No matter how much money we give the schools, we are not seeing any improvement in the success rates. What is wrong with our public school systems that they can’t see that just providing more money is not the answer?

Is it the Teachers?

Much of the emphasis is now being put on teacher salaries. I don’t have a beef with teacher salaries at all. In fact, I think teachers should make a lot of money. They work hard for it. As in all professions, there are good teachers and there are bad teachers. However, I do have a problem with just throwing money at our public schools. I can’t speak for all of the schools in America, and perhaps not even all of them in Michigan, but I can comment on the schools here in West Michigan.

In the school district where I live, there are two high schools. Eight elementary schools feed two middle schools which then populate the two high schools. That works out to be 4 elementary schools feeding each middle school and each high school. Personally, I’d like to see more middle schools because that is where I think most of the kids get lost. Having kids go from the protected walls of elementary school to the free roaming halls of middle school has caused many a faltering student to get left behind.

The day before it disappeared.
The day before it disappeared.

East Elementary School

I would like to highlight one elementary school in our district. It is, or was, the oldest of the elementary schools with the smallest class size. It is being torn down today. Rubble, broken glass and fallen bricks are all that’s left. Years ago, my son, a senior in high school at the time, planned to be a teacher. As part of his studies, he helped out the kindergarten class as a student aid in this particular elementary school. The class size was limited to just over 20 students per classroom, which is considered a very small class in today’s public school system.

The school district always knows best

As is true in most school districts, declining enrollment and higher costs, have forced many districts to shut the doors of some of their schools. This is what happened in the case of our neighborhood elementary school. What we, as the tax payers in this district, found out about this particular school closing, took us all by surprise.

Of the four feeder elementary schools in our district, this elementary school scored the highest in every test that was done. From tests that measure student’s achievements to tests measuring teacher’s satisfaction, this school came out on top. Yet, this is the one school they closed.

They have their reasons for doing so and I’m sure it centered on money maybe because of their smaller class sizes or the costs to maintain the building grow as the building ages. Due to the closure of the GM plants that provided quite a bit of funding in this district, the budgets have dropped and the cost per student ratios have become alarmingly uneven.

Test Scores

That said, it is sad to see this school go. The building was alive with many happy faces every day. We could hear the kids playing and having fun during their recess time. Parents and students alike were very fond of this school being right here in our neighborhood. As for the students, who scored higher than all of the other schools in the district, they have now been plugged into those other district schools. So do we look to the test scores of those schools to increase? Just the opposite is true. The test scores of these schools have stayed the same and in some instances have gone even lower. Is it the kids? Are children dumber than they used to be? Who are we kidding?

Our schools do not reinforce the idea that students need to perform their best.  Every parent out there knows that kids will do what is required and without any added incentive, very rarely will go above and beyond the bare requirements.  Our schools only require the minimum from students and therefore, are typically only getting the minimum effort in return. Last time I checked, average was a C.  When I was in school, if you failed a class you had to take it over.  You were expected to pass the class no matter how many times you needed to take the class.  

Alternative Schools

The first avenue the district took with the empty school building on the corner was to make it an alternative high school. Without passing judgment on anyone who attended or have loved ones going to such a school, I want to point out what this means. Some alternative schools have a focused education that labels them alternative, such as science, math or even a music centered curriculum. Others may have a non-traditional approach to teaching that pegs them into this category. For those who may not have heard of an alternative high school, this is also the kind of school where they send students who cannot make it for what ever reason in a normal high school setting.

The principle goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.

~ Jean Piaget. Swiss Philosopher 1896 -1980

The particular alternative style high school that took up residence in our neighborhood was the kind of school where high school students who refused to conform to the rules at their own school are sent to ensure that they get a high school diploma, often times whether they deserved it or not. They would parade up and down our street before school, after school and during the school day. We would talk to these students. When asked why they are in this school they would respond candidly and say that they hated school and they hated the rules but the state is forcing them to attend this school in order for them to get their diploma. And being labeled ‘encouragable’ was a free pass in this school.

A Diploma for everyone
A Diploma for everyone

I may interpret these things differently than most but here is what I gleaned from all that I learned about the new school on the corner. Kids who decided they didn’t need to do homework or play by the rules got to go to a school where the school would bend the rules for them, make excuses for them, allow them to pass and get their high school diploma.

The schools would get these kids, now called statistics, off the books so to speak and onto the streets where they can finally contribute to society. But what have they learned? They learned that if they complain enough and don’t do their part that someone will come along and make things easy for them.

Really? Is that how it works?

It never worked like that for me.  It seems to me, that we have set these kids up to fail.  We, as the adults here, didn’t require enough from them nor did we help them to meet the goals that we, as a district, established for them.  We allowed them to fall behind, to limbo right under the bar we set. We set this bar of a minimum requirement to pass high school. This is set for a reason and would grant every student reaching that goal to attend college.  But then we stage a mass exit of hundreds of kids each year.  We let them out of the coop with a diploma that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.   Sure it looks better to have this diploma than a GED but where is the education to back it up? 

White collar vs Blue collar
White collar vs Blue collar

Then what?

Do we want these kids growing up with a second class education, without job skills and without a viable future? Studies have shown that with the market turning away from manufacturing, blue collar jobs are becoming fewer to find, yet the amount of blue collar workers is increasing. What have we done to these kids? What have we relegated them to? From this perch where they now sit, the climb to the top may seem unattainable.

Oh goody, another strip mall
Oh goody, another strip mall

Just what we needed

The alternative school wasn’t working out due to budget concerns and ended up being moved to another location. This left our little school on the corner empty.

They sold the coveted corner lot for a new strip mall.

I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive. ~ John W. Gardner US administrator (1912 - 2002)

The last of the building came done today. It was sad seeing the building torn down.

I don’t necessarily consider elementary school paradise but Joni Mitchell’s song did come to mind.

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.


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    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      7 years ago

      RunAbstract, I have to smile at your teacher vs the flu story. I realize that teachers have a tough job but some of the stories that I heard are just unbelievable. Great news that your child is smart enough to be a physicist but only if that is what he/she wants to do. Thank you for your addition to this hub.

    • RunAbstract profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      Very good article. My child was a homeschooler for a very long time, but decided to try the public school route this year. After enrollment the school set up some testing to decided grade level. After it was determined the kid was above grade level, aptitude testing was next on the list. (The school decided the kid should grow up to be a physicist). And darn I was hoping for a chef!

      I don't know... I have never been a big fan of public school. I was "educated" in public school, and had one teacher in particular who should have never been allowed near children! (I think the woman was insane, and desperate for medication)... or maybe just evil).

      Also when the kid was in kindergarden and I saw the little class marching in line with their hands BEHIND THEIR BACKS to go to the gym, something just felt so WRONG inside me. Why did those babies need to walk like little prison inmates?

      Then the kid came down with a mild case of flu. The teacher called and told me I needed to take my child to the doctor! I asked if she had heard of some cure for the flu the doctor might have that I hadn't heard of? She hadn't. So I told her in that case I would just continue with the bed rest, fluids, and children's Motrin for fever if she didn't mind. Or if she wanted to pony up the $85 for a doctor's visit, I would go ahead and take the kid in, so the doctor could tell me to do the bed rest, fluids, fever thing. She declined.

      I aquired Hooked On Phonics, along with other learning materials, and started homeschooling. Now they want my kid to be a physicist!?!

      The public school system seems to me to think they are in charge of too much of a child's life.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      7 years ago

      Thank you Vocalcoach. Children do deserve the best, I wish we were giving it to them. All we seem to do is throw money at the system. This clearly isn't working. I sure appreciate the fact that you took the time to read this and comment.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      An excellent hub and well written. Thank you so much for this article. Children deserve the very best in education and talented and caring teachers.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Couldn't say it any better world traveler. Yes they do work hard and they teach all of our future leaders. Wanted to be one years ago. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such great comments.

    • World-Traveler profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      I agree. Teachers work hard for their money. Many are not paid enough.

      I have seen much more stress on teachers' faces than I see on those of many CEO's and government workers. I have seen teachers I have worked with at the university level loose their hair, become infected with serious disease because of reduced immune system defenses due to job stress and suffer from eyelid droop.

      Teachers often work long hours correcting homework, preparing lesson plans, writing quizes and exams, correcting those quizes and exams- all unpaid work hours.

      Teachers are often paid for student contact hours only, not the time invested in the above mentioned activities.

      Teachers are the future of nations. They prepare the next generation of professionals that help insure the health, security, and economy of the countries they live in.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Well thank you Dobson. Waste and inefficiency sums it up very nicely. Throwing money at our schools are not the answer that's for sure.

    • Dobson profile image


      8 years ago from Virginia

      The education system is a terrible menagerie of waste and inefficiency. It is a sad commentary on our ability to think freely that we cannot see the simple part of the equation that money does not equal success. Sometimes I wonder how seemingly reasonable people can join a local school board and lose their collective sanity.

      I like this hub and its truth.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting stars439. Ours schools are teaching our future leaders. You're right, we should all be concerned enough to see that the students are prepared.

    • stars439 profile image


      8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Excellent hub. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The benefits of old schools, and the benefits of new ones should be available to society. This would help answer questions. GBY

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for commenting Mentalist acer. My husband read the whole encyclopedia too, just to learn stuff. I read quite a bit too because I figure we are never too old to learn something new.

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 

      8 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      I spent the 6th 7th and 9th grade doing remedial work, I found public education nothing but memorization wiyh no meaningful explanation. Just read the chapter and take the test. In college the lecture system helped me mightedly. As I ramble on I read scientific journals and the dictionary and the encyclopedia just basically taught myself in High school...which was just as well.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Tina, thank you for commenting. And my dear friend, you are correct, the teacher's union is all about money now and not really about the kids or even education anymore. The public school system can't compete against the charter schools here, they fail every time. Charter schools are doing what the public schools are supposed to be doing, teaching kids.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      James, you have that right. They get the money & they get to decide how to spend it. Then they spend it before it ever reaches the schools.

      I try to imagine how my teachers, way back then, would have reacted if I said I didn't want to do any homework anymore and that I'd show up to class when I felt like it. What my father would have said is enough to chill my bones even now.

      It is truly a shame that so many kids are granted a diploma showing that they completed high school, yet they don't have an education at all. It makes me wonder if that is part of the intent......keep them reliant on the crumbs.

      Thank you for your comments, James.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Wow, James I completely agree with you about the teachers unions. Unions are greedy and corrupt and do provide a safe haven for lousy teachers! I too, think that education would improve for our youth if the teacher's union was disbanded.

      Great point!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      The problem I see is that the Teacher's Union is Socialist and anti-American. They indoctrinate teachers and kids but could not care less about education. They protect lousy teachers. They support the heavy administration costs. They support an extremely left-wing curriculum. So much time is spent on Tolerance Training and not enough on math, reading, and writing. If the union were disbanded, the schools would improve quickly and dramatically.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      It sure does Rafini. The schools push these kids for as long as they can, just to get their money. Thanks for your comments.

    • Rafini profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere I can't get away from

      The government no longer recognizes the fact that everyone is different. The assembly line has come to the public school system and demands 'no child left behind' to mean that all students remain in school until the age of 18. It no longer matters whether or not a student is already capable of being a unique individual. No. What matters now is everyone must conform to what the government wants whether or not it's in their best interest.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for your comments eovery, Charter schools are making here, and it causes even trouble for the inept public schools.

    • eovery profile image


      8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      I see charter schools in higher populated areas, but around here there are some private schools, but charter schools just have not been able to be established, yet.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Harlan, Some of the older school buildings have beautiful workmanship. What a shame about the stained glass window. You're right, it could have & perhaps should have been sold. That open drawer of taxpayer money needs to better accounted for. But you know how it is with the government, they say they can do it better and more economical, but then always prove themselves inept. Thanks for commenting.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Tina, Thank you for your comments. Glad you stopped by. The money that our school district gets per student should be able to do the job. There are just too many hands reaching into that cookie jar before it gets to the actual school. A neighboring school district, a few years back, spent $100,000.00 for a fancy chandelier for their front hallway. Seems down right stupid to me when they are cutting back programs and closing schools because of lack of funds. Where is the accountability?

    • Harlan Colt profile image

      Harlan Colt 

      8 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

      Great hub, we have similiar situations here in Idaho.

      I know a lot of it comes down to money. When I was in school the school had money for lunches and PE clothes etc it was all free. Today everything costs money for the parents of the student. Some schools are even charging for books now.

      We had about 3 older gradeschools torn down last year, these buildings were fine and would cost a huge fortune to build with that style of craftsmanship and detail today. I watched a dozer plow through a stained glass - grand arched window, the window was worth a fortune all by itself, why didnt they try to sell it for the money? I guess when you have an open drawer full of taxpayer money, there is no need to try to save a few dollars.

      - Harlan

    • TinaMarieTad profile image


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Joni~~ Great Hub! I too can attest to the closings of schools here in Michigan and the drastic cuts to the school budgets. As a very active school volunteer in both of my chidren's schools, I can tell you that the quality of their education has been effected with these cuts, and the staff has too. Many forced early retirements, as well as teachers let go. In my son's elementary school, we have been cut so badly that there is one teacher per grade, which doubled class size this school year alone. Teacher aides have been cut all together and also our elementary music program. I don't see how our children can get a superior education with cuts in funding such as I have seen. So sorry about your school closing...I think it is one of many to follow suit unfortunately.

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      You are correct in saying something has to be done. Charter public schools have become quite popular here. They get the same money per student from the state funding yet the ratios are completely different. All of the kids graduate. Most go on to college. The atmosphere at the school is different. These are not for-profit schools; they are public schools but are not subject to the government district policies. Nor can the district make use of their money. They control their own funds and the money is used solely for the school. It is a wonderful alternative that is proving the government public school system is broken.

      Thank you eovery, for your comments.

      Guess I didn't get it all out of my system yet. :)

    • eovery profile image


      8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Here in Iowa, the great government is forcing school district into merging. Most of the smaller schools have had to join with another school. It does save money, but I do not know if the education system has improved. They say the can offer more programs to the students, but there has been some lose of teacher - student relationships.

      I am come to totally believe that the last 2 year of high school needs to be either a trade school program, or t2o years of college. Here several students have taken college courses and have several hours of college credit, but a true two year program would help the out a lot more. While some students waste the last two year of high school.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • Joni Douglas profile imageAUTHOR

      Joni Douglas 

      8 years ago

      Thank you Sheila and Cybersupe. Although my children have all graduated out of the district schools, this closing hit close to home, obviously in more ways than one. It was sad to see it go, especially because I firmly believe that it was and continues to be, their mismanagement causing the escalating problems in this district. Thank you both for your comments.

    • CYBERSUPE profile image


      8 years ago from MALVERN, PENNSYLVANIA, U.S.A.

      Hi Joni,

      I live in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and we have the exact situation here with our school systems. The State of New Jersey is next to Pennsylvania and they also have a school crises big time. Thanks for exposing this alarming situtation.

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      For each and every child in school, the school district gets money. So, as in this case, the district sets up a special school for these kids so they won't drop out, the district gets our tax dollars, and the students get nothing but a diploma, which is worthless without the ability to read and write and conform enough to keep a job.

      And I heartily agree with you that the middle schools need more. Everyone knows kids going into their teens are at a vulnerable time in their lives, and they need to be directed toward what's best for them, but without enough attention, they do fall through the cracks.


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