If we are going to ever again stand tall among the community of nations we must fix our schools. In September 2005, CBS reported that “The United States is losing ground in education, as peers across the globe zoom by with bigger gains in student achievement and school graduations, a study shows. Among adults age 25 to 34, the U.S. is ninth among industrialized nations in the share of its population that has at least a high school degree. In the same age group, the United States ranks seventh, with Belgium, in the share of people who hold a college degree.” And that doesn’t even begin to talk about the skills required to get those degrees.
Gee. Where should I start? I'll start by saying I don't know everything about everything. I have merely gathered some impressions that have hardened into conclusions about what is wrong with public education in the USA today and what it will take to fix it. I have seen education that worked (when I was in High School) and education later on that does not work. I have seen education in urban and rural areas and they suffer from many of the same ailments.
Some schools are underfunded because the properties in their district are not as valuable as those in other districts and the resulting taxes are not adequate to build or maintain the facilities and programs required. We must equalize the funding across school districts at least within a state and probably across state lines to give students in the economic backwaters of south Georgia the same advantages enjoyed by students in the suburbs of Dallas, TX. (Nobody said this was going to be easy and it will get harder.)
Some school facilities are not adequate. I do not merely mean that some schools don’t have modern computer or science labs but that some of them leak when it rains and their bathrooms stink because the plumbing doesn’t work. These should be modernized as quickly as humanly possible.
Schools are traumatized by lack of discipline. Teachers are forced to spend far too much time trying to maintain order and most of the time without administrative support. Teachers have to learn how to endure the disruptors and compete for attention from enough of the rest of the class to meet their performance goals. This must end immediately. Unmanageable students should be permanently removed from the public school setting. If they later decide that they want an education we should provide an alternative that does not disrupt a public school classroom and does not place an undue economic burden on the public system because the reason they are forced to use that alternative system is that they refused to accommodate themselves to the objective of learning.
We as a nation don’t have the courage to take the steps required because we would have to stand up to the parent who claims their child is being discriminated against and that would put us in the crosshairs of a legal system that has perverted the law to such a point that the mere suggestion of charges of discrimination being brought is all that is required for profit hungry lawyers to suck millions of dollars from funds that are intended to pay for text books, teacher salaries, labs, and all the other things a school system needs. Lawyers should be paid a small state wage for handling such cases and should not participate in any settlement. Punitive damages should not be allowed. It should also be illegal for any school system to settle out of court. The issues need to be heard and the merits evaluated. Courts would soon cull the frivolous cases from their schedules for their own survival.
Teachers have far too many distractions. Not just taking roll but administering achievement test after achievement test and teaching lessons that do not build core competencies to satisfy one social agenda or another. We should first strip everything from the teachers’ schedules that has nothing to do with teaching. I do not support adding energy conservation to the overloaded curricula of our schools. I support a program that would make our kids capable of passing the 8th grade final exam for Salina, KS in 1895 and then go on to acquire the skills that will be needed in the next 50 years.
Try your hand at it. Open the test attached and ... begin.
We are curiously and tragically confused about equality. We ARE all equal before the law but we are not all equally competent at math, science, English, music or sports. Who would suggest that just any guy could take the field as part of a professional football team? No one, so why do we accept the lie that we can design a curriculum at which everyone can succeed yet still challenges the brightest among us and prepares the next generation to compete with societies that are not dealing with “self image” issues.
Schools have been in the process of lowering standards of competence for decades. This must stop and the first thing that must go is “No Child Left Behind”. Would you want to watch a race that was rigged to always end in a tie, where there was no incentive for contestants to excel? Google “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom or borrow the book from your public library. I can’t begin to summarize his findings but it is superbly analyzed. Read and weep or take action to improve your schools.
There is entrenched incompetence in teachers and administrators and it makes it hard for others to get everything done. Educators (especially incompetent ones) are experts at obfuscating (clouding) the truth, covering their trail. They will have to be weeded out by hand, so to speak and again the charge will arise that someone is being discriminated against. It might actually happen from time to time but on the whole, if we can’t eliminate the ones who don’t measure up, we will have to blame ourselves for the poor performance of their students, …our sons and daughters… and that affects the kind of lives they will be able to live: productive, prosperous and happy or ineffective, poverty stricken and despondent. What do you want for your kids? What do we do about teacher tenure? It was instituted for good reason to protect teachers from tyrannical administrators and angry, over-protective parents. We probably need to do away with tenure but make the standard for dismissal high enough to protect the competent with the burden of proof on the plaintiff. Come to think of it, the government is the one bringing the “complaint” – charges – in criminal cases and the burden of proof is on the one bringing the charges.
Finally racial attitudes of entitlement among the blacks fueled by 100 plus years of Jim Crow laws that followed 200 years of slavery coupled with white shame and guilt for injustices committed by our forebears has rendered it impossible for us to call a spade a spade without being called a racist. I rejoice that Jim Crow is dead, that hangings and other brutal forms of death and intimidation have been scoured from our land but we have allowed weeds to grow in the newly cleared ground and they are rendering the field of education incapable of producing the crop that it otherwise could.
If you think am a racist, you would be wrong. I want every child: white and black to receive a quality education, in the same schools (though in better shape than they are now), from the same teachers (though maybe different ones from the ones you now have and certainly less harried with irrelevant activities). I may be the only white man you have ever met who has read “Roots” from cover to cover.
Sorry for the length.