A thread began at Alice's, originally about the decline in manufacturing industry, but moving on to the expense and alleged uselessness of public services, particularly education - bring back the cane, we're turning out kids who can't read, etc. Here's some news from the front:
When it was available, corporal punishment didn't have to be used often. An unexpected consequence of the ban-the-cane soft-handedness is that children are now assaulted by each other much more frequently, and quite often in the classroom in front of the teacher - whom G*d help if she (and it will usually be a she, these days) tries to get involved.
But as to functional illiteracy, in the absence of old-style discipline (and I agree that schools are not nearly brutal enough), maybe we've got almost as far as we can go, because we're swimming against strong tides. In the past, we had a literate culture and media, and parents who reinforced social rules and had aspirations for their children. The children of today are more likely to have complex and dysfunctional homes, their TVs (I often turn off at 9 to avoid the crapshed) and computers are full of violent fantasy and their neighbourhoods are ruled by postcode-based gangs rather than the police.
With the best will in the world, teachers cannot impose marital fidelity, sobriety, male employment, moral self-restraint in public entertainment, and the free run of the Queen's writ throughout her realm. Quite seriously, we in the education system can hear the creaking and groaning from the pit props in the mine.
Teachers will continue to be moderately well-remunerated as long as our rulers maintain the pretence that schools can do the principal work of child-rearing; when the scales fall from our eyes and we start to take responsibility for our offspring and the example we set them, schools will go back to standardised textbooks and employ humble, low-paid functionaries to steer the children through them. The public purse will benefit, and more importantly so will the next generation, for whom the present one has so little regard.