So, what's the problem with the Blueberry Story? Why is the experienced, perceptive English teacher's point that schools cannot reject "defective" students inappropriate? This is important. It goes to a fundamental misunderstanding of schools that, unfortunately, educators too often accept.
Schools do not manufacture a product; they provide a service.
Teachers are not production line employees; they are professional consultants.
Therefore, schools must be run like professional consulting organizations, not factories.
Students are not blueberries. The "blueberries" for schools are textbooks, whiteboards, overhead projectors, rooms, desks, computers, libraries, multimedia centers, school buildings, etc. Just as exercise equipment, courts, sound systems, televisions, showers, whirl pools, saunas, etc. are the "blueberries" for a health club. Nutritionists and personal trainers are not "blueberries" and, most definitely, neither are the patrons. For law firms, it's libraries, computers, internet service providers, online legal research, offices, fax machines, etc. Lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries are not blueberries, and neither are clients.
I believe two things cause many folks to get this analogy wrong. First, they have difficulty equating students with the clients of other professional consultants because of the hidden role of choice for students. Students (and parents) don't have an option about going to school, and most have no option about what school they attend. This is different from health club patrons or legal clients, and it obscures the choices involved.
Students do, however, have at least one significant choice: to engage, or not. And that choice is huge. Learning requires engagement. In fact, it often requires work. Or, as Philip Schlechty says, persistent effort through challenges at activities that help students gain knowledge and skills they, their parents, and their community value. Could we improve our success rate at selling work if we increased the diversity of learning options available to students and their parents? I think so. In communities where we don't have much in the way of such options, is the battle lost before it's begun? I don't think so. But failing to properly identify the business we are in is one sure way to reduce the odds of success!