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EDUCATION: Assembly line or individualized education?

Letter by Colin Guthrie, Puyallup on July 31, 2012 at 10:20 am with 32 Comments »
July 31, 2012 10:20 am

Editorials and letters ask if charter schools can raise student achievement. It is possible, as one letter writer wrote, that one school uses the “whatever it takes” objective in education philosophy instead of the easier segregated assembly line form of education.

Schools have used an assembly line objective, which requires segregation and refusal to educate some students. When federal law and the U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in multiple forms, schools continued to use the same assembly line objective, which easily fails when we integrate students of multiple levels into one system.

In today’s society, all adults, including those with special needs (who typically were refused an education) are expected to be integrated with society, have regular jobs and be on their own. The “whatever it takes” objective is harder to use because it requires more commitment from schools and students. It also requires individualization of instruction to each student.

Leave a comment Comments → 32
  1. The assembly line is the teacher production line coming out of central washington university. Hardly a bastion of stimulating intellect.

    Your student body will only be educated if the teachers are competent. Students can only learn so much on their own.

    But, until the union is busted, ignorant incompetent teachers will run the Washington state education system.

    Show me a list of Washington state educated Rhodes scholars or Nobel prize winners !

  2. cclngthr says:


    The assembly line I refer to is now students are taught.

  3. SandHills says:

    Short version of letter:

    We have an education system in America that is based upon the lowest common denominator. The “no child left behind” slogan can be translated into “no child gets ahead”. And in a global economy, many of our kids will be the dishwashers, maids, street cleaners of the future.

    It has become almost impossible to state a reality of life in this PC world…that not everyone is going to succeed, no matter how much time, money, and legislation, is thrown at education.

    Go back to a system that rewards intelligence and hard work – and while punishing those without those qualities is to much ro bear by e bleeding hearts, at least don’t ask those with ability to remain running in place to make those born with less ability feel better about themselves. Education can take a lesson from the Olympic games, hard work and dedication pays off – and just striving for the gold is worthwhile even if you never reach the podium.

    Todays PC society has pushed their agenda so far as to create an education system that expects everyone to be on the podium for a gold medal.

  4. cclngthr says:


    Everyone HAS to succeed, there are no other options. There are absolutely no programs that help those people who are unable to function other than a severe disability. Either they get jobs; or are housed in prison because they are unable to succeed. Many commit suicide because that is what they feel society expects them to do.

  5. Fibonacci says:

    IQ of 88
    I think your name says it all. Another of those big “the evil union is the bogeyman” ignoramuses that have no idea what the “union” actually does. Are you related to truthbusterguy?

    We use the assembly line approach because it is the cheapest way to teach. How do you “individualize” education with class sizes that approach 30 or more with one teacher in a 50 minute period. That comes out to 1 minute 40 seconds per student.

  6. commoncents says:

    1qof88 — um Rhodes Scholars should never be used to compare states in the way you mention. They are given based upon the University attended. However you asked…UW has had 37 of them. WSU has had 10. UPS has had 2. PLU has had 1. Seattle U has had 2. Many of those are likely grads of Washington public schools. That being said – Cameron Turtle is a graduate of Pullman High School (gasp a public school) and is a 2012 Rhodes Scholar winner in Bioengineering. He’s 22 years old so is a recent product of our school system that is so obviously and painfull broken.

    As for the Nobel Prize. Again it’s not the state that wins the award but Walter Brattain won a nobel prize and he was raised in Tonasket. It’s wonderful that you consider the Nobel Prize so valued. Must mean that you appreciate the effort and worth of the materials that won the prize for Al Gore. Brilliant!!!!

  7. commoncents says:

    scratch that…they are given based upon state lived in but listed by university. UW is only public university with 2 this year and the other recipient besides Mr. Turtle was homeschooled in high school. But that information is not easily gathered.

  8. cclngthr says:

    That period type of schedule would have to be eliminated and have students in smaller classes with longer periods with one teacher; and a longer school year.

  9. SandHills says:

    ccingthr, your utopian view of everyone having to succeed does not fit the reality of life. Always catering to the less motivated, or lazy, or even those with just treading water IQ wise – is the MAIN reason we have such a poor educational system in America.

    Now if by success you mean lowering the bar so everyone can have a good feeling about being successful, then I would have to say that sort of thinking is the main problem to address, not what your letter is trying to convey.

    To many non-rowers in the boat now – and in a poor economy those who are rowing the boat are wondering why an education system that promotes mediocracy (on the basis of your “everyone has to succeed”) needs more money thrown at it. Some non-PC thinking needs to be started on separating those who truly benefit from public education from those who would fail if there were true standards to pass. These folks used to start learning to be brick masons rather than believing they can go to college because the academic standards have been lowered to make them believe they can.

  10. the French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote about different models of surveillance – including the schools which, according to him, were based upon the factory model.

  11. Fibonacci, Coming from an era of 36 students per class, the teachers were excellent and skilled. All 36 students were somehow awarded fully paid university scholarships, half to “Oxbridge”. So it is primarily a matter of teacher calibre and student application. Class size is a union issue for monetary gain.

    Commoncents, I stand corrected. I should have said Nobel prize for Science as the idiot at Maison Blanc got the meaningless version.

    But I do stand by my slam of the CWU sausage factory spewing out 2nd rate State school teachers. Never have so many inept damaged the brains of many so young.

  12. cclngthr says:


    As far as utopian, you view is there always are programs for people of less ability as adults. This is not the case. Many special education students do not have adult services, as you keep assuming. They must get jobs, or else. They HAVE to succeed, or they end up in prison; which is why the prison population exploded when such programs ended in the early 70’s when institutionalization of people was not suggested.

    A friend of mine operates a sheltered workshop through Tahoma Associates. The typical client needing the sheltered workshop is one who has an IQ of under 50. Above a 50 IQ, they are inelegible for such sheltered workshop or group home setting due to state and federal guidelines. If they are taught properly, yes they can succeed.

    Whether you like it or not, many jobs require advanced educations beyond a high school diploma. Technology and products require that kind of advanced knowledge.

    The letter’s main point is when we have an assembly line education system, INDIVIDUALIZED education is non-existant. It is the individualization that should be a priority, not a one size fits all.

  13. cclngthr says:

    I also speak of experience in this issue, not only as an educator, but also an adult with a disability. Being labelled, I have had to face facts when it comes to services and what is needed vs what is out there. For many people with disabilities, particularly moderate to mild disabilities, what happens is services automatically end once they graduate, AND they are expected to get jobs and be independent.

  14. SandHills says:

    But you are divorced from the reality of cost – when it is already apparent that local government are starting to lay off police and firemen – in order to meet the cost of paying the pensions of those already retired.

    You are speaking of an open pocketbook with available funding. In a perfect world, yes, everyone has worth, everyone needs to given the tools to be a success. But in the real world – even with available funding, trying to make everyone a success with individualized based education – it simply comes down to the old adages of “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” or “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”.

    Show me the money – that couldn’t be allocated more effectively elsewhere – and then chase your dreams of a perfect world where everyone can be a success.

  15. Fibonacci says:

    Somehow I doubt that you went to a school with class size of 36 students and all of them were awarded scholarships to college. Not even elite schools such as Lakeside manage to do that.

    As far as class size being a monetary issue, there are some districts where teachers receive extra pay for bigger classes, so how do you figure having each teacher teach smaller classes is a monetary issue other than the fact that it costs the district more.

    As far as your rant against CWU, what do you base these allegations on that they produce inferior teachers?

    One again, your writings are full of personal experience. It would be wonderful if we could have classes small enough so that each student could be taught on an individual basis, but as others have pointed out, that is a pipe dream. It will never happen, much much too costly. You are so defensive of special ed. No one is saying that they should not be educated, but there are a limited amount of resources. There is simply just not enough money, and I think what I am hearing here is that we spend more and more on special ed, with limited gains, which short changes regular ed in terms of resources.

  16. Mr Fibonacci, educational establishments do exist beyond the Columbia river. The reference to half the scholarships being for “Oxbridge” universities should have been a clue. I know there were 36 as I was the class idiot. Even the 36th scraped to a phd, proving that skilled teachers and discipline overcomes large class sizes.

    I do have first hand experience of a significant number of Cwu trained teachers. Their skills and attributes almost defy the concept of education. Wwu seems to do a much better job churning them out.

  17. truthbusterguy says:

    ccingthr and other koolaid drinkers that post here. Lets talk to results of your union owned education system:

    Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

    Look at the dropout rates in this state and accross the state and the nation. And what is your solution? Raise taxes, spend more and lower the standards so the unions don’t look bad.

    The liberal socialist union run school system is a miserable failure. Fire unions, end collective bargaining, charter school and voucher systems are the next plan. Liberals won’t like it but it will not be any worse than the present dumbed down system that pumps out millions of kids that can’t read, write or perform simple math functions.

    Your defense of the present system is undefendable.

    I will never understand the mind of a liberal. How low are you willing to go before you will admit the great social experiment has failed our kids and destroying the country.

  18. truthbusterguy says:


    In a world where being ugly is a disability your claims of being disabled carry little weight in your argument. I too have disabilities but don’t use them to make my argument. I don’t and won’t use my disabilities as an excuse.

  19. cclngthr says:

    What you, and others ignore is a disabled person HAS to be successful, and independent once they reach adulthood. There are zero programs for adults with disabilities except for the very severe that need one on one total care. With my disability, I need regular physical therepy, and some assistance in doing things. I get NONE because I don’t qualify because I don’t have retardation. Mild disabilities are considered undisabled in the adult world. They are required to be on their own as adults; and it is past time you and other people think about this when you claim there should be no education for these people because you believe they are uneducatable.

  20. cclngthr says:

    I am not defending the current system because it uses the assembly line education model. I want to change that to the individualizaton model of education where each and every child is taught as an individual rather than being clumped into a larger group.

    Individualization, as I said in the letter requires more commitment from schools and students.

    As an adult, I see exactly what is out there as of programs for people; and what I see as a teacher is kids are being clumped together and not taught to what they actually need. Kids are being treated as objects that are assumed by adult perceptions that maintain they are worthless and completely unable to achieve success. People in poverty, according to you should always be in poverty because you think they are retarded and unworthy of an education so they can move out of poverty.

    Unless we go back to institutionalizing and hiding disabled people, which you seem to prefer, we will never see people succeed except those financially well off and have self motivation and parents who demand the kid attend college.

  21. Fibonacci says:

    truth buster
    Man I love your retoric—-very entertaining. The “liberal socialist union run school system”. Why not educate us, just how does the union “run” the schools? Our schools are not failures. I got a great public school education as did my wife and kids. Sorry if you and yours didn’t. Public schools are not going away, and neither is that big bad evil union. Sorry.

    Yes, I got your “Oxbrigde” reference. Somehow I bet your school was “public” right? I visited some schools in the area you are talking about, and while I still don’t buy 36Phd’s, even if true the “average” school there is no better than here.

  22. Fibonacci says:

    Easy man, Idid not say we should not educate everyone. I said we do not have unlimited resources. Special Ed students DO have IEPs, they ARE given individual attention compared to regular Ed. I Sid we don’t have the money to do what you want.

  23. Fibonacci says:

    Easy man, Idid not say we should not educate everyone. I said we do not have unlimited resources. Special Ed students DO have IEPs, they ARE given individual attention compared to regular Ed. I Sid we don’t have the money to do what you want. You keep saying the same thing over and over.

  24. cclngthr says:

    The book, With Love from Karen by Marie Killilea documents Karen, who has Cerebral Palsy living in the 40’s and 50’s. Karen has a severe form of the disability, but she has normal intelligence. Schools refused to accept her due to her physical disability and an assumption she could not learn. She had little schooling until she was 15 when a private catholic girls school took the chance to accept her. Her success in school was documented as she was an Honors student at that school for several years.

    If Karen was uneducatable, how did she achieve the status of being an Honors student?

    Back then, there were institutions which supervised disabled people.

    Now, disabled people are expected to be on their own, which requires them to have not only living skills, but also skills to get a job, and keep it.

  25. cclngthr says:

    They may have IEP’s, but there are assumptions people make about them that they cannot get jobs and must be constantly supervised.

    This does not exist in today’s adult world. People are expected to fend for themselves.

  26. cclngthr says:

    If you look at it in the way I do, you will find education expenses to be higher; HOWEVER the following expenses are lower:

    1. Prisons
    2. Welfare
    3. Unemployment
    4. Public medicaid

    With more people being independent through education; which by the way, Findland schools are successful at; more people are achieving success because the educational resources are there and readily used by the people. In Findland, not only preschool through 12th grade is free, but trade school and college is also free.

  27. Of course its an assembly line when you A) use merit based pay and B) use standardized tests plus C) No Child Left Behind. Then there’s the complaint that the schools are an assembly line? Its not the teachers or the union that are creating this phenomenon. I find it disturbing that as we race to the bottom, there are posters here who actually believe that the new thing to do to save money is to start by leaving SPED in the dust? To cut costs? This is starting to resemble pre WWII Germany! Whats next, do we move next to cutting poor and minority students out of education as well to cut costs?

  28. SwordofPerseus says:

    Three serious problems confronting public education are:

    1. Lack of child readiness for a number of disparate reasons.
    a. hunger
    b. violent/aberrant behavior
    c. lack of language/reading skill development
    2. Standardized testing and inflexible/ineffective curricula.
    3. Lack of common sense, respect and discipline.

    This would indicate a deeper problem than teacher ability or lack there of. It is much more systemic in that it is the large number of children who are sent to school with one or more of the problems mentioned. Hungry children, children who witness or are victims of domestic violence do not make good students. Teachers are expected to handle all of these problems and teach to over crowded, undisciplined class rooms. This is primarily the reason many schools are failing in the basic task of educating our youth.

    Education of the public is critical for the success of a nation, without it we are subject to the whims of tyrants and dictators. I fear we are failing ourselves, not just our children. Maybe we need a better society…One in which we care about children, all children.

  29. cclngthr says:

    Schools have always used an assembly line form of education, where a teacher teaches a group of kids and does not fully assess EACH AND EVERY kids progress. We also have parents who demand grades be changed because the kid did not perform to their expectation.

    I think it is possible to individualize education to each and every student. Of course this means completely dismantling the current system, and building one similar to the SPED program, where all kids education is based of an IEP.

    What I see in people’s comments about getting rid of SPED is they don’t want people with disabilities to succeed, based off their preconcieved notion that there are adult services out there and disabled people should not be in the open.

  30. mahinaokeiki says:

    Students come to school with undiagnosed medical problems and disabilities. Students come to school with language barriers and a wide range of capabilities. You could say that students come with an infinite number of challenges and strengths.

    Teachers are expected to know everything about every child, and they are expected to ‘diagnose and treat’ every ailment. Sometimes parents of these students will work with them. Sometimes parents of these students work against them.

    You can talk about assembly line versus individualized teaching and learning as if there’s a choice to make. However, I believe that public schools have had little choice in what approach to take to ensure students are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to move beyond high school. When public schools work with a fixed or decreased number of resources, your ability to provide adequate solutions is also fixed or limited.

    Charter schools will provide solutions for the students who do not require more than they offer. The remaining students will be left behind in neighborhood public schools where the struggle will continue. Charter schools are a great way to escape from ‘those’ kids.

  31. cclngthr says:

    However, agencies and programs who receive government funding cannot discriminate in forms which prohibit, or make it more difficult for one group of people to access that service. Charter schools, who would be receiving government funding would have to accept all students who plan on attending that school (given the space for them). The school would have to have programs and related services available to them.

  32. mahinaokeiki says:


    Admitting students is one thing. Retaining them is another. Charter schools do not retain all of them. They push them out, suggest they leave, send a letter home that they aren’t going to get what they expected.

    An example of saying one thing and doing another:

    I don’t think it happens as blatantly as this example, but it is pervasive and doesn’t matter which charter company is in charge.

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