Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Is Education Sinking In The West

American  K-12 Schools
American children are as intelligent as any - so why is our system of public education falling behind? Americans lshould be concerned that our K-12 schools are no longer among the top ten K-12 schools in the world. We used to be the best! Other national systems have improved as we declined, and now we need to turn it around and rebuild as fast as we can do so. Civilization is increasingly competitive and our graduates should be with the leaders. 

How did we get here? There is blame enough to go around. A  recent study reveals that American students are not at fault. They are victims of our inability to provide them with a superior education. Our high schools  graduate too many students who are not qualified for college and university studies. Despite massive state and federal funding, far too many of our K-12 schools fail to meet even minimum standards. This is usually excused by claiming that education is a low priority item in America and it doesn't receive enough funding to do better a better job. That's an easy excuse - but it's wrong! There's no lack of funding. The problem is HOW WE SPEND the funds we have.  Americans will support the best possible system of public education. They want students to graduate from each grade qualified for whatever comes next. So citizen (tax payer) support is adequate, and parental support is at least fair, and our teachers are generally well qualified.  What is to blame for the decline of our public schools? It only takes one word to describe the culprit:


Discipline

An instructor's ability to educate can not be improved without enacting discipline.  Without disipline just one uncontrolable student can prevent an entire class from advancing. 

In our schools, authority has passed from  teachers and school administrators to the students. Sensitivity has been overly promoted by parents, lawyers and many others. In our K-12 schools political correctness has gone too far. Many school rooms are out of control. More and more students lack parental guidance and support. Political correctness has run amok and must now be tempered with common sense. In America a student's freedom is subdued as it must give way to adult educational personnel. This must happen  as the students step into the school's front door. It is essential that students conform to the school's common standards and the adult's authority to enforce them.

Teachers
Teaching school is (still) considered  a poor profession. Instructors  are undervalued and, compared to other professions, teachers are  not paid enough. We claim(?) that we need and respect professional teachers,  but we don't back it up with  an appropriate economic signal. If we doubled or tripled the pay of teachers would we improve their status? Would it attract better qualified teachers? 


Administrators and Other Non-Teachers
Administrators receive, by far, most of the state and federal tax dollars spent on education. Could it be that we have created unnecessary administrative functions? Can we reduce the school bureaucracy?

Traditions
This is a good time to question the entire system of public education. Too many traditional schemes have little value but remain year after year. 
  • Why divide all subjects into 55 minute periods
  • Does each subject have equal value?
  • Why grade students by each subject? 
  • Does our low regard for the teaching profession reduce the number  and quality of students that choose teaching as a career?
  • Why should physics be taught only to HS seniors? 
  • And chemistry the year before?
  • Why is it important that we separate physics from chemistry?
  • Why are HS students required to learn two years of foreign languages?
  • What is the purpose of separate classrooms?
Background Political Bias

Political correctness has changed the way we think and act, and our national character has become more sensitive to negative speech, print or actions. On the whole this seems to have improved the American national character, but it has not been without a cost. Over the years since 1900 or so, at many of our colleges and universities it became normal to teach from only a liberal point of view.  There are recent signs that this long standing bias slowly being replaced as teachers are adding balance back into their curriculum. Controversial subjects are once again displayed with more than one interpretation. 

But a considerable amount of liberal bias is still with us. It seems to begin during the 1st year of college or university. Many high school graduates walk into this charged new environment unprepared. They may discover that the teaching staff is generally:
  • Openly hostile to free enterprise. 
  • Opposed to the concept of limited government. 
  • Resistant to several Judeo/Christian principles. 
  • Against discussions that present opposing views.   
  • Promote collectivism over individualism. 
Liberalism, socialism and communism have been involved in national politics, economics and governments for many years.  During the American Industrial Revolution and subsequent financial depression, these programs gained stature. By the time of Franklin Delano Roosevelts' Presidential Administration, liberalism was being promoted to solve all of the nations problems. World War II forced the issue. Significant government social programs were attempted. An ever bigger national government was grown to deal with Americas needs. Some of these programs worked very well. Some didn't! But regardless, teachers at colleges and universities began to instruct students using a newly attractive slant on  politics, history and culture. Their liberal agenda promoted socialistic economic and social ideas - and gradually overwhelmed academic freedom. The big government concept tends to deny objective truth. It has become a serious problem. American colleges and universities are succeeding in convincing  unprepared K-12 graduates into believing these liberal and ultra-liberal ideologies who see no distinction between America and it's enemies. 

Americans  seem to be forgetting that faith in a Supreme Being and rigid adherence to Judeo-Christian principles are powerful influences leading to a good life. Also that FREE ENTERPRISE ECONOMICS and LIMITED GOVERNMENT has served us very well for over 200 years. 

National Impact on Education 
Look around. Think. Did you receive a good education? If so, you probably  went through our K-12 school system in the 1940s and 1950s. You learned the fundamentals of literacy, history, civics, mathematics, and science. Then, sometime in the 1960s you became aware that the system was changing. Before then, our traditional educational system was the responsibility of the states and individual communities.

In the late 1970s, our President Jimmy Carter reorganized the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and created the cabinet level Department of Education.  Both have proven to be a huge mistake. In addition it was during the 1960s and 1970s that the growing and increasingly powerful Teachers Unions, ensured that costly retirement and health care benefits would burden state budgets from then to the present time. More and more money was required by our schools. When stressed, funds have been moved from the teaching column to the administrative column. 


Recently, the Republican governors responsible for their state budgets began to reduce the power of the Unions. They have finally slowed or stopped them from spending millions of dollars for the sole purpose of electing legislators friendly to their interests.


And now there are conversations all over America about freeing education from politics altogether, and returning Judeo-Christian morals and values to our culture. People are talking about how best to transfer knowledge from teacher to pupil, how to elevate teaching as a profession, how to reduce the "administrator-to-pupil" numbers. 

We may be facing the fact that an educational system based on SELF ESTEEM does not work and never will.


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