Each year, elected officials from the President of the United States on down to the local municipality give a State of The Something address.
For the past several years, all the officials seem to talk about is the sorry state of the educational system, the lack of jobs, and the need to increase taxes to sustain social programs like food stamps, Medicaid and other entitlements.
During the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Jan. 25, President Barack Obama informed the American people that, in order to compete with rising powers like China and India, education spending will have to be increased.
First of all, the increased competition the country faces is the result of two decades of bad policies handed down by administrations and members of Congress, whether Democratic or Republican. They allowed millions of good-paying jobs— many of which were filled by high school graduates—to be outsourced by big business to developing nations, all in the name of cheaper labor.
While these countries were climbing the ladder of success, the rungs in America kept being sawed off. The high school dropout rate kept increasing; the vast majority of these dropouts are in inner city schools and areas with large immigrant populations. American students rank 25th in math and 21st in science compared to students in other industrialized countries.
Billions of dollars have been spent in this country over the years to improve our educational system, but it seems that there has been little bang for the buck.
Who’s to blame for the educational crisis America faces? Some say it rests upon inadequate teachers; others cry that the breakdown of the family unit is the culprit. There are those who also suggest that more American children are dealing with learning disabilities—such as Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder— than ever before, making it difficult for students to retain what they’re taught.
All of these things might be true, but surely there are dysfunctional families, bad teachers and learning disorders in China and India and other countries across the globe. Why do American children seem to struggle more than their international peers?
The education system has been a political football kicked around by politicians since around 1964. At that time, the passage of the Civil Rights Act required forced busing to achieve racial quotas in public schools, setting off more controversy than the balance it sought to achieve.
Over the years, teachers’ unions gained a tremendous amount of influence and power, helping to secure smaller class sizes for their students as well as increased salaries and benefits for themselves. Meanwhile, disciplinary standards were changed and curriculums were dumbed down, easing the “stress” students face in order for them to score high on standardized tests. The scores are then boasted by politicians as signs of success.
If we want to truly fix our education system, everyone involved— from parents to the politicians—needs to contribute to the creation and implementation of meaningful, high-quality standards that challenges students to do their best. The money is already there; the hard work must now begin.
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