By Alan Caruba
It says something about the dreadful state of American education when “bullying” has become the greatest issue of the day.
As millions of American youngsters return to school, they continue to be indoctrinated with programs designed to teach that homosexuality is okay, that sex education is more important than history or math, and that they should care less about individuality than the group.
This is straight out of former Soviet-style education than an educational system that previously turned out generations who fought and won World War Two, contributed to a thriving economy, put men on the Moon, and were focused on achieving competence in reading, writing, and arithmetic. In 2001 I wrote a four-part series noting that the rot in our school system is not new. It dates back to the 1960s and earlier.
I got to thinking about this when I read a September 15th Wall Street Journal article, “SAT Reading, Writing Scores Hit Low” by Stephanie Banchero. “SAT scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 fell in all three subjects areas, and the average reading and writing scores were the lowest ever recorded, according to data released Wednesday.”
In 2008, a Washington Times commentary by Dan Lips, an education analyst at the Heritage Foundation, noted that “Spending from all levels of government has soared. Today, the average student in American public schools can expect more than $9,200 to be spent on his or her behalf this year by taxpayers—a real increase of 69 percent over 1980 per-pupil spending. Yet this additional spending hasn’t meaningfully changed student outcomes.”
Lips warned that “it has become painfully clear that the federal government can’t solve the problems in America’s public schools”, but it is precisely the federal government’s takeover of the nation’s educational system that is the reason for the continual decline. It is yet another failed legacy of the Carter years, signed into law as a cabinet-level department in 1979, it began operation in 1980.
The statistics all reveal a long period of educational decline and the SAT scores are just one more example, but there are other indices, not the least of which is a huge dropout rate that has left countless Americans ill-prepared for any meaningful employment.
Meanwhile, there has been a relentless effort to infuse textbooks with a national curriculum as the result of the concentration by the “big four” textbook publishers. It has produced a one-size-fits-all approach to education nationwide, mostly geared to the dictates of only three states, California, Texas, and Florida because they represent about 30 percent of the K-12 market.
In 2001 the trend was already noticeable. “The result is an increasing trend toward texts that are long on visual gimmicks, short on factual information, and homogenized in content,” said that president of the Center for Education Reform, Jeanne Allen.
The introduction of “No Child Left Behind” that George W. Bush signed into law on January 8, 2002 has proved to be yet another top-down mandate that relied heavily on testing, testing and testing. Rapidly, teachers began to “teach to the test” in order to avoid the loss of funding to their schools.
Simply put, the federal government should get out of the business of education.
The regressive role of teacher’s unions was spotlighted when the then-new Governor of New Jersey took them on, insisting that teacher’s pay more for their pension and health benefits. The unionizing of teachers is as responsible as the federal takeover of education in America for the decline.
Recently, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said, “I’m tired of giving out fake diplomas” when he introduced a slate of education reforms of his state. The SAT scores underwrite his view that students are graduating from high school without the education they need to move onto colleges and universities.
Gov. Christie wants to focus on individual schools rather than districts as a measurable unit of success or failure. He wants to emphasize “outcomes” such as graduation rates, achievement gains. He wants to measure success by high standards that directly correlate to college and career readiness. He wants considerably less bureaucratic paperwork that requires more administrators than teachers. And he wants a clearly defined schedule for intervention in schools that are experiencing persistent education failure.
Something is amiss when students entering kindergarten are expected to have mastered reading skills that are supposed to be taught in the next grades. When did it become the job of parents to deliver five-year-olds to the local school with skills already in place that are the job of the school to teach? Why do these same children graduate from high school with horrid reading and writing SAT scores?
The education of today’s students has to be returned to the control of local school boards and those boards have to be freed from the demands of teachers’ unions that are interested solely in health and pension benefits, and the salaries of administrators and teachers.
Failing that and America will continue to have another generation of students that, since the 1960s, have literally been cheated of a proper education, no matter how much money is thrown at it.
© Alan Caruba, 2011