Once again, public school students in the United States rank near the bottom in testing for English and Mathematics. The country’s abysmal ranking has fallen in 12 consecutive years. Students in China, Estonia and even Iceland surpass American students in educational acumen. Alarmists point to a number of factors that have led to the precipitous decline, including high student-teacher ratios, lack of emphasis on core subjects, and the influence of teacher unions that prevent the implementation of a merit-based teacher compensation system. However, the factors leading to America’s education decline go much further than the sound bites promulgated by media talking heads.
Parents need to take back control of their children’s education. The burgeoning number of households with one parent or both parents working full-time undermines the most essential element of a child’s education. Parents must closely monitor their children’s study habits and participate in school activities that require adult supervision. Parents can no longer allow their children to spend the bulk of their time connecting with peers on Facebook or playing countless hours of the latest gore game on Playstation. There was a time in American history when parents held their children accountable for their education, instead of blaming teachers and administrators for their children’s shortcomings. We desperately need to return to that era.
The repeated calls for more school days, longer school hours and additional homework do not address the fundamental reason for America’s education decline. The sausage grinding system of putting each child through the exact same curriculum ladder impedes educational development. For a system that promotes diversity, the American education system expects each child to learn the same subjects, in the same time frame, under identical parameters. The education system should allow children to explore their interests at an early age. Forcing geometry on a child who wants to expand his literary horizons inhibits the child’s development. One of the primary reasons parents pull their children out of the American education system for comprehensive home-schooling is because of the lack of subject focus in the public education system.
Another reason the popularity of home-schooling has soared over the past decade is that an increasing number of parents realize that much of what our children learn eventually turns out to be patently false. Take, for instance, the lies told about our money and banking institutions. The systemic perception presented by the elite involves spinning how the economy operates on flat money and debt. The education system inculcates our children to accept the debt dynamic, when in fact debt is the main culprit for our current economic woes. History lessons turn into outright lies; such as the legacy of Christopher Columbus and why America fell into Civil War. If we want our children to receive an authentic education, then we must teach them the truth – or at least allow them to discover the truth on their own.
Wisconsin has become ground zero for the fight between public sector workers and politicians who want to eliminate the right of collective bargaining. Lost in all of the hyperbole, media loudmouths have not tackled the sensitive issue of paying teachers based on performance. The merit-based pay system flourishes in other countries – the same countries that perennially top America in education rankings. Performance-based pay sounds good on paper, but it loses its luster when performance is measured by student test scores. Teachers teach to tests, instead of presenting curriculum that sets our children down the road towards success. Test scores can be one measure of teacher performance. Other indicators should include measuring student progress, developing children in their core interest, and the use of interactive learning tools.
The education system should eliminate tenure from any compensation considerations. Politicians should allow parents to send their children to any school within their school district, and allow them to opt out of their high school in lieu of a better performing high school in their geographic region. Teacher unions vehemently fight against competition among schools. Nonetheless, this is not about competition, but about giving parents the right to seek the best education for their children. Let us not capitulate to failure, but take failing schools out of the education system.
The No Child Left Behind Act exemplified what is wrong with the American education system. It was a broad stroke against common sense. It also added unnecessary layers to an already bloated education bureaucracy. The best idea for improving the United States education system may be the most neglected idea: radically streamlining the composition of the education bureaucracy.