U.S. EDUCATION: WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT
& WHAT SHOULD BE DONE TO FIX IT
By Alan Caruba
To put it plainly, U.S. education sucks! Education in America is a failed institution that is failing millions of students every year. Ironically, as the system degrades, the number of tests being administered to “measure” whether students have learned anything increases. “”Dumbed down” tests for “dumbed down” students are meaningless.
In New Jersey, my home state, the number of public school students taking state exams will nearly double this year. Where the money to pay for these tests will come from is anybody’s guess, but the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires testing in language arts and mathematics will expand to the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, insuring that every student will be tested every year from grades three to eight. At last count, the amount allocated to this was an astounding $23.2 million, a $7 million increase over last year.
Now multiply this against all of the other forty-nine states or against the average of all fifty states. Do so, that is, if you can multiply anything without the use of a calculator. If you have graduated from any public school since the 1960’s or 1970’s, the odds are you can’t.
In an article written by Veronique de Rugy and Kathryn Newmark, respectively a research scholar and research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, the statistics of American education are served up with horrifying implications. They begin by reminding readers that, in the 1990s, the Republican Party pledged itself to abolish the Department of Education (DOE). The GOP platform accurately noted that, “The Federal government has no constitutional authority to be involved in school curricula or to control jobs in the market place.”
Well, that was then, and this is now. “Now” is President George W. Bush’s appalling No Child Left Behind Act and his administration’s commitment to throwing ever more dollars at the misnamed Department of Education. It should be called the Department of Deception.
As Ms. Rugy and Newmark point out, “the entire education budget has ballooned during the President’s time in office.” The Department of Education’s budget has grown by 82.5 percent in real terms from $34.9 billion in FY2001 to $63.7 billion in FY2005. The President’s 2006 budget calls for more spending. “The average state receives a level of grant funding that is more than 50 percent higher than when President Bush took office; no state has an increase less than 35 percent.”
Americans are accustomed to a federal government spending billions, but, if they truly knew how little return on their tax dollars they were receiving, they might rise up in protest. On the other hand, most Americans can’t even get to the election booth and still fewer vote in local school board elections; a mere 12 percent! So, while the U.S.A. spends a far higher percentage per primary school student than most other nations, “test scores show little improvement, dropout rates are high, and a large racial achievement gap persists.”
Actual achievement per dollar spent, according to education economist, Caroline Hoxby, declined by 55 to 73 percent from 1971 to 1999. Not surprisingly, however, students at private and charter schools with higher standards and with lower expenditures per pupil consistently scored higher on tests. Home-schooled kids outperform all others!
What’s wrong with this picture? Martin L. Gross, the author of several books on government incompetence, identified the problem in a July commentary published in the Washington Times. “Our educators, from teachers through superintendents of schools, are academically and intellectually so inferior that the fourth grade is apparently the outer limit of their teaching abilities.” With excruciating detail, he examined the scores they achieved on the SATs and the Graduate Record Examination. Teachers score the lowest.
Then, to add to the misery index, Gross notes:
Why don’t parents protest? Because, says Gross,
Having often been rendered functionally illiterate and arithmetically incompetent, today’s parents have no way of knowing their children will suffer the same fate.
So a combination of a generation or two of “dumbed down” graduates of a criminally incompetent education system, leaves us today with far too many students who will discover that neither they nor the nation will be able to compete in the global market place of tomorrow. Here’s what to do to avoid this fate:
First Step: Abolish the U.S. Department of Education.
Second Step: Abolish all undergraduate schools of education. Open up the teaching profession to people with real degrees in specific areas of knowledge and, even better, real experience in the real world.
Third Step: Any teacher shown to be deliberately inflating students' grades should be subject to dismissal.
Fourth Step: Eliminate all the “fuzzy” and feel-good curricula and return to the standards that effectively educated generations that passed through the educational system prior to the 1960s. Education is not magic. How to educate people was already well known by the 19th. century.
Fifth Step: Eliminate bilingual teaching in favor of English language immersion. This will insure that children whose first language is not English can become fluent in the common language of this nation.
Sixth Step: Eliminate the school-induced prescription of mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin to students. These are dangerous substances, the use of which should solely be the decision of a parent and physician.
Seventh Step: Do not allow any member of the NEA, a union whose purpose is to serve the interest of teachers, not students, to serve on any board of education anywhere.
Eighth Step: Eliminate tenure for teachers.
Ninth Step: End the “No Child Left Behind Act” and return control over local schools to local school boards.
Tenth Step: Return to schools real, strictly enforced standards of discipline, including (1) dress codes that require neatness and a degree of modesty and (2) demands for punctuality, orderly conduct, and respectful behavior toward teachers and other students. Et cetera!
Eleventh Step: End foolish “Zero tolerance” standards that punish even the use of an aspirin, and abolish all other "politically correct" nonsense.
Twelfth Step: Permit voluntary school prayer and recognize religious holidays as part of this nation’s heritage and history.
The Department of Education will oppose this. The teacher’s unions and their political lackeys will oppose this. If nothing changes, the waste of both money and minds will continue.
A Practical Guide to Homeschooling
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly commentary, "Warning Signs," posted on the Internet website of the National Anxiety Center, which is located at www.anxietycenter.com.
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