- Of the rest, most neatly sidestep any blame for the tragedy as they foist blame on parents, teachers, money, legislators, society, hormones (yes, I've actually heard that), and the students themselves.
- Just a handful will try to warn you of this education apocalypse. Some of those brave souls have been censured, reprimanded or fired.
There is much about American public education that is right.
One thing that's right is that this country intends to educate everybody equally (both genders, all income levels, all ranges of ability, and all ethnicities, religions, races and backgrounds). This is noteworthy and admirable in a world where these attitudes aren’t universally held.
Additionally, many educators honestly try to figure out how the system could be made better. Conscientious teachers, principals, parents and school staff spend their days working on behalf of the students. They get the paperwork done, are friendly to students, and come up with new, heart-warming, esteem-building programs.
Sadly, much about American public education is all wrong.
Across the country, however, a philosophy of teaching has taken a stranglehold on K-12 education. It’s been sewn into the fabric of teacher education and forced into the nation’s schools and classrooms and down the throats of the principals and teachers. This philosophy says it encourages new ways of thinking, and yet for years has been practically closed to anything perceived as oppositional, and systematically blind and deaf to contrary views. It values self-esteem over achievement, effort over success, and consistent results by everyone (regardless of how mediocre) over uneven results that include brilliance by some.
In American education, it’s become normal and acceptable to say that children naturally struggle with math or reading, don’t understand science or just aren’t that good in school. Before students ever have a chance to think it, administrators have thought it, said it, accepted it and incorporated it into the standards, watering them down so they aren’t so hard. Those watered-down standards are ably represented in various packaged curricula that value collective effort over individual achievement.
Students must learn the same things in the same way with the same packaged curriculum, and they must all get to the same place at the same time so they can all pass the same tests on the same day. Academic gifts are cherished in theory yet often discouraged in practice. Superior talents of any sort are frequently not given room to shine.
Ironically, this system that is built almost entirely on the concept of self-esteem is actually the antithesis of self-esteem, having produced an entire generation of children who can’t cope with basic academic skills. It’s also the antithesis of excellence, competitiveness and innovation.
Public-school students struggle to do basic mathematical, scientific or literary activities that are reasonable for their age. Many elementary-school students are not progressing from addition to multiplication; some never progress from adding on their fingers. Many middle-school students can’t consistently multiply in vertical formats, do long division, or convert fractions into decimals. Many can’t read at grade level. Subjects other than literacy and mathematics – such as civics, history, economics, forensics, second languages, social studies, art, music, gym, geography, ethics and communication – are given short shrift or have been eliminated completely.
High-school students are dropping out at unacceptable rates, or they’re graduating without the basic skills they need to go to college, vocational school, the military or the work place. Up to 50% of high-school graduates must take remedial classes before beginning their post-secondary life.
All of this is before we start talking about the gazillions of taxpayer dollars that are spent every year on state standardized tests that 40-80% of students cannot pass the first time around.
As a consequence, an increasing number of parents perceive public school as inadequate. Some are choosing to supplement the regular program. Others are leaving public school entirely – sending their children to private schools, alternative schools or private tutors. More and more of them are making the weighty choice to teach their children at home.
Oddly, even as these families disappear from public schools, education professionals seem to have a really hard time saying that anything is wrong.
- Even as students fail to learn basic skills (evidenced by dismal scores on state, national and international standardized tests and evaluations), these administrators deny that children aren’t getting what they need from public schools.
- Even as families disappear from public schools, and the numbers of privately educated and home-schooled students increase, administrators deny that families are disgruntled by the failed programs and are voting with their feet.
- Even as engineers, giants of industry, mathematicians and college and university math professors speak out against certain math programs, and even as standards and curricula are reviewed and modified, administrators deny that math programs are flawed.
- Even as dropout rates, remediation rates and scores from various national and international studies indicate that students are not becoming academically proficient, administrators issue reams of numbers as “proof” that they are.
The education establishment is insular, the issues are major, and the philosophies are ingrained. Ego, money and social engineering agendas have been big parts of the problem. In all of the data floating around the public arena, there is very little actual truth. There is, however, a great deal of money being made.
This article is intended to help provide context for articles you will see on this blog.
Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (October, 2008). "What's Wrong with Public Education?" Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/