Reactive Education Fails

Hello, and thank you for stopping by. Today I am going to discuss education.

I want to cover some important issues about education in America for a number of reasons.  What sparked this discussion was some ignorant comments made on one of the local media programs by one of its hosts.

The question was raised as to whether or not the new “patriotism” training required at College of the Ozarks was valuable. Without getting into the actual debate, I wanted to touch on the responses given by one of the show’s hosts. When asked her opinion, she said she thought such a class could “backfire” and actually inspire anti-patriotic feelings. That comment alone definitely made me raise an eyebrow, but what came next was far more concerning for me. She continued by saying she felt the college should concentrate on “basic civics” instead of patriotism. She based her argument on the fact that most Americans “can’t even name the three branches of the government.”

While I agree it is inexcusable for anyone with high school diploma to not know “basic civics”, I find her solution disturbing. By the time people get involved in post high school education, they should already have mastered “basic” knowledge, such as civics. At no time should any college include a “basic-level” civics course in their curriculum…if it is discovered that any student lacks the required “basic” knowledge in any subject – not just civics – that student should be sent back to primary school – or remedial education. College is for students to enhance, refine, and further perfect their knowledge…not learn the basics. I can’t even imagine offering that as a solution…the solution for students lacking basic knowledge is for them repeat courses until they have the basic foundations to enhance, refine, and further perfect their education in college.

Now…my opinion on the patriotism class…well, although I applaud the college for making an effort toward a growing deficiency in our country, I feel it is not something that should be taught as a course, but should be inspired – patriotism, in my opinion is not an indoctrination process, it is inspired by someone’s emotional drive and love of one’s country. The problem is not a lack of patriotic lessons, it is the unpatriotic role models we elect to office, and the constant bashing of everything patriotic by the media and celebrities. In my opinion, constantly bad-mouthing our country’s heritage, and constantly politicizing every issue are very destructive to the concept of patriotism. There are far greater things to focus on than just offering a quasi-indoctrination course during college.

Now, back to education…

Education has been debated since I was a child – with the major issues being, funding, standardization practices, and how to properly educate people at all levels…from kindergarten to post-graduate studies.

Let me start with funding. When I was in school – primary school – funding was always an issue…so it seemed anyway. Teachers were always complaining about their low salaries (and, I think the average back then was around $18,000-$22,000), and long their hours. The schools were always having fundraisers in order to advance some feature at their location – by feature, I am referring to things like, new computers, uniforms for sports groups or clubs, or even new classrooms (and, these were usually in form of portable buildings…basically a single-wide trailer furnished into a classroom). I remember selling candy bars, spices, and soliciting sponsorship for walk-a-thons and skate-a-thons.

The only direct money my parents were responsible for was basic supplies – up until high school, my parents purchased a few things at the beginning of each school year, such as a school box (basically an old-style cigar box), pencils, paper, notebooks, erasers and so forth – nothing really that costly. My parents were also responsible for non-mandatory field trips, which were usually not expensive, and were usually only an annual event for each grade level – often times, no field trips were even scheduled. Additionally, during the course of each year, we either brought our own lunch, or for a very small price, we could purchase breakfast and lunch.

In high school, things didn’t change too much, except there was no school-box requirement, and we were required to buy textbook covers (we usually made them ourselves out of paper grocery bags).

College and beyond was – as it should be – my personal responsibility for funding…from everything to housing, food, books, tuition, etc.

Now things are a bit different. Primary and high school teachers are, for the most part, members of teacher unions, which force schools to pay them higher wages. Their hours are typically “banker” hours…basically, the hours reflect closely to the hours of the students – with some exceptions for preparations. The most dramatic difference is parents are deeply involved in funding their children’s education – the supply list now includes community items, which was unheard of while I was young. By community items, I am referring to items to be used by the teachers, and the entire class rather than just the each individual student. Most parents are required to purchase their children’s personal supplies – like backpack, school uniform clothing, pencils, paper, notebooks, erasers, etc. – along with “community” erasers, pencils, paper, notebooks, rubber bands, paperclips, and so forth, which are to be “donated” for use by the entire class, including the teacher and staff.

Some of the other expenses – additional to personal supplies and community supplies – include things like pictures (which were optional when I was a child, but are now mandatory), first aid supplies, textbooks, study books, and so forth. So, along come the unions and force public schools to pay higher wages, but they offer no solution to school funding, so the extra money is taken from the students’ education so teachers can get above-average incomes. The burden of basic supplies for each school now rests on the parents – and, I am referring to basic supplies for the school, and not basic supplies for just their children.

As you can tell, I am not a big fan of the unionization of our public education system. It clearly reduces the effectiveness of a system we should really prioritize to a higher level…especially if we have gotten to the point where media hosts are suggesting we offer 3rd-grade level civics courses to college students because they generally lack the knowledge base to be worthy of the degree they have been accepted to pursue.

Now, I have covered funding briefly…so, I am going to go over some thoughts on standardization and, at least what I consider “proper education”.

What do I mean by standardization? Well, that is actually a very complicated discussion. Basically every state has their own requirements for grade progression. So, when students graduate high school and apply for higher education, each school to which they apply must somehow match a variety of different “standards” into their requirements for admission – in other words, each school must try to qualify students from separate states, and separate districts into their one standard for admissions.

Some efforts have been made to standardize students’ qualifications based on standardized tests, such as the ACT and SAT. More recently different districts within each state have attempted more standardization by using various methods of testing at various stages and levels of education during primary education. The concept sounds like an improvement, but in practice, it just complicates the issue – plus, in many cases it allows for students to progress based solely on standardized tests scores, with almost complete disregard for their term-wide performance…in other words, more often than not, a student could barely make passing grades throughout the term, but a passing score on one test means promotion to the next grade regardless of their actual performance. To make things even worse, teachers tend to “teach the test” – meaning they often sculpt entire lessons based on their prior knowledge of these standardized tests…the results are less than standard…far less than before these methods were even implemented…there are even cases where teachers are pressured into achieving a predefined “passing score ratio” (or quota), that some of them change the scores for students to ensure passing scores, while some simply read off the correct answers for the entire class during testing. I know from firsthand experience that Florida was among the many states where the “passing quotas” are so important for teachers’ records that several scandals arose from teachers doing exactly what the tests were designed to prevent.

In my opinion, a proper education doesn’t come about by teaching tests, and surely it doesn’t come about by fudging testing practices and test scores just to promote a certain quota of students.

As a nation, we need to be more proactive with ensuring future generations are properly educated. The taxes collected for the purposes of education need to go to education. Teacher unions need to either provide solutions to the problems they create, or they need to go away completely. And we need to focus on learning and educating rather than promoting students just to keep them moving up the ladder…if they fail then they need to learn from that failure and apply themselves and work harder…diplomas and degrees should be earned and should be based on knowledge level.

And, one more bit from me about education. We really need to find a way to encourage a much higher standard for primary school teachers…it is more than a rumor, it is a fact that the majority of primary school teachers come from the bottom third of their classes – so, we are giving the important task of educating our future generations to the least scholarly…the least qualified…and, the least motivated people.

If you compare our educational system to other countries, you will find we are so muddled with “political correctness” and a “feel good about yourself” environment, that we simply cannot compete. We are doing a serious disservice to our future generations by denying them a solid educational foundation. We need to dig our heads out of the sand and face this problem head-on. It would be nice for our future generations to actually be educated and knowledgeable, rather than just awarded diplomas and degrees.

That’s all for now. Please let me know your comments, feedback, and suggestions. You can find me on both Podbean and BlogTalkRadio…and, you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you again for stopping by and please check back soon.

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