Source: Sprott Money, by Peter Diekmeyer
Netflix’s recent announcement that it would be producing a second season of Thirteen Reasons Why has raised new questions about the disastrous state of the US public school system and its effects on the economy.
“Hey, it’s Hannah Baker,” says the show’s protagonist, played by a stunning Katherine Langford in the opening episode. “Get settled in. Because I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended.”
The Thirteen Reasons’ portrait of how a stifling, bureaucratic system progressively cuts this teenage girl to pieces, eventually driving her to death, provides a dramatized, insightful reflection on (another) emerging lost generation.
The statistics are grim: a third of 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. live at home according to the US Census Bureau. Homeserve USA finds that nearly one in three Americans can’t come up with $500 to fund an emergency. As if that were not enough, according to the US Congressional Budget Office, governments have saddled today’s young with more than $100 trillion worth of pension and healthcare debts.
The harder truth depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why is that today’s high school graduates emerge with few skills, little education and a sanitized view of the world. In short, they are totally unprepared to take on the challenges they face.
Following are Thirteen Reasons Why:
- Thirteen years in jail
In Thirteen Reasons, Hannah, the bullied protagonist has no way to escape a toxic environment. Her helpless position progressively worsens and eventually drives her to suicide.
Because education is compulsory in the United States, Hannah lives in a de facto prison. She cannot change schools or classes without parental approval and undergoing a humiliating bureaucratic process.
An education system that prioritized learning would put students at the center, leaving them free to choose their schools, classes, teachers and programs.
- American kids can’t vote
The challenges facing American kids are exacerbated by the fact that they aren’t allowed to vote. They thus have little stake in the system, no sense of responsibility and adopt a de facto poise of helplessness.
- Students come last
None of the dozen studies reviewed for this article assessed the US public education system based on students’ needs.
Governments prioritize public education based on its effects on national competitiveness. Businesses focus on getting skilled workers (whose training they don’t want to pay for). Teachers’ unions focus on salaries and working conditions.
The upshot is that students’ interests come last.
- Bloated administrations
America spends more per student than any other country yet ranks 14th in terms of results, behind Russia. Must of this is due to legions of highly-paid administrators that clog the system with rules, regulations and forms, few of which prioritize education.
- Kids taught to worship government; shun individual responsibility
The young have always been concerned with social causes. It’s thus hardly surprising that teachers would encourage students to prioritize government’s role in healthcare, welfare and environmental regulation.
However today’s public schools offer essentially no counter arguments about individual responsibility.
High school graduates thus emerge as easy prey for politicians who claim that near-unlimited government spending and borrowing are the cure for the nation’s problems. ( See the Krugman con ).
- Public schools teach no marketable skills
The greatest indictment of the public-school system’s actual performance relates to the fact that students graduate with no marketable skills.
If America’s kids emerged from schools able to read, write, do basic math, type, work as a team and use a half dozen common software packages, they would have something to show for their 13 years in the slammer.