"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, tests and grades. Our classroom sizes are some of the smallest in the world. We love education and spend 800 billion+ on education annually.
The United States government provides 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 picks of 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 months, the state of American “education” has been prominent in the press and the picture is not pretty. Recently, 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 this economy, cutting back and making do with less. Other teachers cheated and paid someone to take their teacher certification exams for them. Schools wanting to get more money teach to the test. 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. None of this is good for America’s children.
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. I find it remarkable that despite this lack, so many people try to do a business anyway.
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. With all the funding we put into education why are we not teaching our students logical thinking, entrepreneurship, parliamentary procedure and how our government works, using original sources?
One challenge Americans face is in defining what education is. Part of the problem is that schooling and education are different things though they are used interchangeably. Universal access to school attendance 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. What is education anyway? Education is to rear up, to elevate, to bring forth or to lead out. Education begins at home. Every home is a school. The question is, “What are you teaching?”
Today’s column was an overview of the general state of our public schools. There are many facets to education, in the weeks to come we will be exploring them in more depth.