I agree with Roger Ebert: he has a suggestion for how we can improve American education.
What I think we need are smaller classrooms, better pay for teachers, and an emphasis on fundamentals rather than frivolity. Although I am in favor of physical education, I believe most school sports foster a flawed culture. The news that Allen, Texas, has constructed a high school stadium costing $60 million filled me with incredulity. What does that have to do with education? I was much cheered by the new documentary “Brooklyn Castle,” about how a team from an inner city junior high school won the national high school chess championship, and didn’t need a stadium at all. They were coached by a couple of great teachers.
Defining “frivolity” is tricky: are geometry and basic writing skills serious, while teaching Shakespeare is frivolous? I think there should be an emphasis on acquiring essential skills like reading and arithmetic before graduation, but there’s also a place for enthusiastic teachers communicating the joys of a specialty. Of course, I think that would naturally emerge if we had adequately funded and staffed schools.
As for the $60 million high school football stadium: there are some school district administrators who ought to be fired for irresponsible behavior, and a lot of parents who voted for that monstrosity who ought to be ashamed. But they’re probably too ignorant because of their deficient, sports-soaked educations to be aware of it.