August 10, 2015

Public Education: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Many of America’s public schools appear to have a lot of good going on in them. There are dedicated inspiring teachers. Many students have access to state of the art technology.  From coast to coast creative teachers offer innovative and inspiring programs. “Education” is an American tradition complete with school lunches, yellow school buses, sports, clubs, tests and grades. Our classroom sizes are some of the smallest in the world. We love education and spend 800 billion+ on education annually.

In the United States, the state governments provide at least 13 years of education for every child. All children have access to the basic tools of knowledge acquisition, the opportunity to learn to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. All children can attend school and the public, through taxation, picks up the costs of transportation, teachers, and classrooms. Children are not denied school for racial, economic, religious, political beliefs, ability, or even citizenship. Schools provide special classes for children with special needs. Schools across the country offer Head Start preschool to help prepare disadvantaged children for school. We have a growing population of children who speak Spanish as their primary language. English as a second language is offered to these students to help them succeed. Some students live in poverty and lack good nutrition and medical care. Lack of which can impede school progress. So, America’s schools also provide meals, many providing two meals a day and also provide in-school medical clinics, as well.

Yet, internationally our students do not rank well on standardized tests. With all the positives, why are America’s schools, as a whole, failing our children?

In the past few years, the state of American “education” has been prominent in the media and the picture is not pretty. In recent years, teachers in many states have picketed for higher pay and benefits. They protested while many American families they serve were without jobs or suffering in the same economy, cutting back and making do with less. Other teachers cheated and paid someone to take their teacher certification exams for them. Several schools around the country sport high narrow windows, barbed wire fences, and armed guards. These are schools, not prisons, or are they? Some schools have been convinced to use tracking chips to prevent truancy. What are they thinking?

Schools wanting to get more money form the Federal government have begun to settle and just teach to the test. State school boards have exchanged local control for dollars, by opting into a national curriculum standards. In a hurry to implement these standards they have bought into curriculum, technology, and data collection that are a high stakes gamble.

If teacher strikes and prison like schools did not draw protests from parents, the recent changes brought on by the new standards, the curriculum used to implement it, and data collection has moved many parents into action. Many have fled the public system only to find that many private schools are going in the same direction. None of this is good for America’s children. This is doing well for the businesses involved with providing new technology, new curriculum, new tests, and data collection. This leaves us wondering if this is about providing jobs for industry or quality education for children.

So, the numbers of families homeschooling are rapidly increasing.

Most of America’s children attend public school 13 or more years (k-12, many pre K – college). Public school was sold to the American public with the idea that it would help prepare citizens to be contributing members of society. Yet, most public schools in America do not teach children to think logically. This leaves most young adults unprepared and in many cases unable to make wise financial decisions. Why do we settle for them teaching our children what to think rather than how to think?  

Few schools teach children the basic skills needed to run a business. This leaves most graduating seniors unable to choose between free enterprise and being an employee. Why? Lacking the skills, the choice is made for them. Only 60-70% graduate from high school. Many go on to college and others straight into the job force. A few begin their own business. Most who do fail. I find it remarkable that despite this lack of preparation, so many people try to do a business anyway and some actually succeed!

Most schools do not teach children Robert’s Rules of Order or Parliamentary Procedure, an understanding vital to participation in government from the local to the national levels. Students graduate without a basic understanding of how our government was designed to work. Many have never studied from original sources and do not understand the beauty of our form of government or why it was designed the way it was designed. With all the funding we put into education why are we not teaching our students how our government works by using original sources, logical thinking, entrepreneurship, and parliamentary procedure or Robert's Rules of Order ?

Schools used to build on Judeo-Christian principles taught in the home. Today, school curriculum tends to diverge from that and in its place tries to social engineer. In many ways curriculum tends to undermine or devalue the home and moral behavior.

Another challenge Americans face is in defining what education is. If you cannot agree on a definition, how can you fix the problems? Part of the problem is that schooling and education are different things, though the terms are used interchangeably. Universal access to schools does not guaranty a good education. To be schooled is to have attended a school and received instruction. Most schools school children rather than educate them. Instructing is one thing and learning is another. While one can learn from instruction, instruction does not equal learning.

What is education anyway? Education is to rear up, to elevate, to bring forth or to lead out. Education begins at home. Education includes the development of character and learning how to think.

Every home is a school. The question is, “What are you teaching?” Is it schooling or education?