You hit the nail on the head here. Public schools are handicapped by having to take students whose parents don't really care whether the kids get an education or not.Well, I went to school, public school in the 50's and 60's and in the 60's we had to pass that JFK physical fitness test, and I think it was great. But much has changed in public schools since those days. I think more parents were involved in the education process in earlier times. Although my own parents were not, and it made no difference in my education. I think the main difference is that back in those day kids were taught deference and respect to their teachers, to authority. You went to school being conditioned to be that way, by your parents and by your local society. The teachers back then were mostly women, and since there wasn't many women in business, in corporations, as lawyers, etc, the quality of teachers we had were perhaps better than today. We had women who would be in high positions today in other fields, making more than a teachers pay.
I think the problem with education has many factors not just one or two. And the problems in education are a reflection of a changed society.I am talking public education here. Todays kids are hyper distracted with parents that allow the distractions. Much of our education is done after one leaves school and goes home. I think this has become a weak link in many homes in america. Today, I do not know of any middle, middle class families or upper middle class families that have problems with their children learning, even in public schools in my area. I think there a socio economic factor involved, but it's different than my school days. Different because almost everyone I knew in my country school were what would be considered poor by todays standards. Yet the education was better, people actually could read when they graduated. Our drop out rate wasn't large. I think we lost 5 or 6 people out of 50 something from grade school to high school. Most of those just joined their dad's on the family farm, and many ended up better off than some of the folks that graduated. Ah, those were good days for average people. We had hope, and looked towards a bright future, which most of us achieved.
So, there isn't just one problem, like bad teachers, although we have way too many in my local schools that should be working in a wal mart instead of teaching. It goes much deeper than that, because some kids in their classes have no problem learning. I guess these teachers just cannot reach the kids that are not self motivated, or motivated by parents. Perhaps a better teacher could. I sure do not know the complete answer. Or perhaps these kids would never improve, regardless of the teachers.
From my own experience, with my wife having retired from teaching, as well as her father, she says the parents changed over the years, and she got too many that had no interest in their children's education. When the child was doing bad, not studying, she would conference with them, and many times the parent just didn't care. Most were single moms who were too busy pursuing their own pleasure. This is a societal problem.
I also think the malaise of many of today's parents, created by their loss of opportunity plays a role. It is communicated to their kids, a hopelessness, that they take with them to school. Why study hard they think? I can make a better living selling drugs. At least then I can have great clothes, a real nice car, the latest gadget, etc. Look at my mom, she went to college and we are on food stamps! To dismiss this would be foolish, I believe.