Why is it that our country, with the greatest mass media entertainment and information propagating system in history, has a failing public education system?
Why not put one to work to serve the other?
Each day our children go to school to learn the intricacies of math, science, language, literature, history, art, music, and philosophy, far too often from dull underpaid teachers.
After school, they come to a television diet of police dramas and comedies centering mostly on murder, mayhem or human inadequacies, sprinkled with sporting contests and talent shows aimed at finding the next generation of entertainers or people who can survive in the wilderness. Not that television's popular programming doesn't have its value, but for the most part we waste its tremendous potential for preparing our students for the increasingly complex problems of human society.
A great part of the problem is that most of our public school teachers are the products of the same inferior education system that they are now spreading to their classes, generally teaching to the lowest common denominator rather often in a disruptive atmosphere than to the best and the brightest and well-behaved students.
How do we get off this treadmill to oblivion?
Simple! Let us make better use of the technology and systems we have developed to entertain.
Why not agree on a nationwide basic curriculum and then, using a system not unlike American Idol , select the best teachers in each grade of each subject and put them on large TV screens in every classroom in America. This way we can pay our best educators at the same level as we pay our TV and movie stars and professional athletes, and provide them with the technical bells and whistles to hold students interest as much as Star Wars.
No doubt there will be arguments that we must maintain local control of education, that education is a state not a national responsibility. Fair enough! So, instead of one nationwide system, we have fifty statewide systems.
What do we do with our hundreds of thousands of unionized and tenured teachers? No problem. They remain in the classrooms to test and reinforce the subject matter and enforce discipline, pretty much at the same salaries we are now paying, but each would know that if they master their subjects, like the would-be stars on Idol or ballplayers in the minor leagues, they would have a career path to stardom and can become millionaires.
With a basic nationwide curriculum, even one that's separately administered in each state, we have the opportunity to buttress what is learned each day by integrating some of the classroom material into our entertainment programs. What's to prevent the writers of television dramas like Numb3rs from using the real math taught that week in elementary and high school, or why not have the stars of Three and a Half Men use a bit of history from that week's lessons to win the girl, or have the CSI's use the science of the week to solve a crime? And so on and so on.
While we look for complicated solutions to what seems like an insoluble problem, the simple answer is staring back at us from our ubiquitous TV screens.