While the media would have us believe that we are a country divided beyond reconciliation, there is one thing just about everyone agrees on – the public school system is broken. Now, when you start talking about why the public school system is broken, you’ll find a big divide. One group thinks government should be doing and spending more to fix things. The other group thinks government should back off and let states and local communities do what is best for their locale. Who’s right? Who is ultimately going to “fix” the school system?
Politicians In Education
Since the late 1970’s when Jimmy Carter, the first president endorsed by the NEA, created a separate Department of Education, education has become increasingly political. From a budget of $11.8 billion in 1970, the DOE’s budget ballooned to $77.8 billion in 2011 while reading and math scores have remained flat. From Title IX to No Child Left Behind to the Lunch Police, politicians give schools lip service and lots of money without the results to justify the expenditures.
Today, most states (45) are contending with the Common Core – another top-down initiative. Who will benefit most from these new national standards?
- Schools – federal funding is tied to schools complying with the Common Core
- Outside Interests – Pearson, the publishing and testing giant, stands to gain untold profit and access to student information with the Common Core. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (and several of its offshoots) played a huge part in developing the Common Core standards and stand to benefit from harvesting student information as well as providing curriculum and software.
- NEA – the National Education Association, one of the most powerful unions in the country gains further influence in Washington with the implementation of Common Core.
Albert Einstein’s definition of “Insanity” was: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Even a cursory glance at the history of education in the United States meets this criteria.
Public In Education
When left to their own devices, average citizens joined together for a common cause can achieve remarkable results. The following examples demonstrate the best of what education can be without any help at all from politicians.
- Charter Schools – Charter schools are schools that use public money but operate outside the restrictions imposed on traditional public schools. The top charter schools in the country have shown that adapting schools to the community they serve produces results. Success Academy in New York City is an example of what can be achieved. They started with one school in Harlem in 2006. Today, they operate 32 charter schools and serve some of the city’s most disadvantaged children. Despite their students’ hardships, Success Academy schools routinely place in the Top 20 of all New York state schools.
- Homeschool – More than 2,000,000 children in the US are homeschooled. The ways to homeschool vary from unschooling to classical education. No matter how they are schooled, homeschooled children outscore their traditionally-schooled peers from grade school through college. For children with special needs, there are a vast amount of special education resources available making homeschooling an especially appealing way to give children a custom education.
- Khan Academy, MOOC and more – Funded by the Gates Foundation, Khan Academy offers free online courses in just about anything. Anyone motivated to learn can access these courses and educate themselves. MOOC (massive open online course) is slowly changing higher education around the world. Free and open to anyone, students can study at their own pace and, in some cases, receive specific certification. Another growing trend in education are public and private virtual schools. Not only are these schools cost-effective, they give families flexibility and freedom. For additional assistance, tutoring has become extremely popular as a way to “make up” for public school’s short falls.
In regards to education, the most innovative and successful change has and will come from the public. One of the great things about the United States is the fact that everyone can get an education. The need for public schools and an educated electorate is crucial. It is in the hands of the public to ensure the government sticks to its constitutionally appointed duties and that the local communities are doing what’s best for its students.
What are your thoughts? Is education best fixed by Washington, or Main St America?
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