Culture Education Politics

We Cannot Fix America until we Fix the Mess that is Public Education

Most agree America faces massive problems as the 2016 election fast approaches. We are more divided than ever. Our economy is anemic. Foreign affairs are in a shambles. Yet we can’t fix America if we keep graduating low information voters (or ‘useful idiots’) who keep electing the incompetents who got us into our current mess in the first place. Don’t you ever wonder why so many Americans are pathetically uninformed? Man in the street interviews from the old Leno Tonight Show to the current Watters’ World segments on Fox News have spotlighted some incredibly ignorant people. Who did the United States win its independence from, for instance? Not a clue. Study after study has shown that too many Americans are unaware of history and current events and are more likely to be able to name characters on a sitcom than the Justices of the Supreme Court. How is that possible? Short answer – public education is a dismal failure.

That’s what happens when those in charge of educational policy and curriculum don’t know what they’re doing or worse implement a politically correct agenda. Outgoing Department of Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, was never a teacher and as far as I can tell never even took an education class. I know many of the courses I was expected to teach were unrealistic, if not impossible. Clearly those requiring them had no concept of how they could be taught successfully in a real world classroom.

I retired just before the No Child Left Behind debacle ended. The idea that every child would be successful by 2014 might have been a worthy goal, but it totally ignored reality. Obviously those who wrote the bill never heard of the bell curve. What NCLB did was to stress out teachers and students alike as unattainable demands kept coming from those in charge. I had incoming sixth grade students who routinely confused and misspelled they’re, there, and their, yet were expected to test at grade level. The current “fix” for public education, Common Core, repeats many of the same failed concepts and will likewise eventually crash and burn because it not based on common sense.

Just as bad if not worse is the increasingly growing problem of political correctness in all subjects. The political left has long held almost complete control of the majority of our colleges and universities. These are the institutions that train new teachers, new journalists, and many of our new electorate. College students influenced by liberal professors will be those who choose what text books to use and what curriculum to teach. In a reading test used to determine student understanding of cause and effect a global warming selection was used.  The “correct” answer was that man was causing climate change. In the name of diversity a social studies text spent more time on Sacagawea, than Thomas Jefferson, the President who sent Lewis and Clark west.

If a future United States hopes to stay a great nation the whole public education system must be reformed. To begin with political correctness must be eliminated. College professors and public school teachers must be required present both sides of issues fairly rather than advocate only one point of view. Text books should be written objectively. History is what really happened, not what some may wish had happened.

Over 200 years ago Thomas Jefferson had a better vision of what public schools should be than the one we use now. Granted his plan was designed for an agrarian society and would have to be updated for the 21st century, but in essence his plan was much more practical than our current system. He believed in a basic education for all children, “In the [elementary schools] will be taught reading, writing, common arithmetic, and general notions of geography.” A key and important difference was that he believed that history was vital to a free society. He proposed that reading in the elementary stage should, “be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views.” Following Jefferson’s vision the caliber of man in the street interviews would be improved and hopefully better choices of elected officials might be made.

Further Jefferson realized that not all students are interested in or capable of advanced academic learning. Currently the goal seems to be that every student should want a college degree, preferably in one of the liberal arts. Incorporating exposure to various crafts, fine arts, and trades in public education makes much more sense. Sadly, these are the very programs now being cut from the curriculum. How many of college graduates are waiting tables instead of working as electricians, machinists, or carpenters? We need all kinds of skills in a functioning society, not just academic ones.

I’d really like to hear more from the various candidates about their views on education, because in the end our future will depend on well today’s children are prepared to participate in a free society.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com


About the author

Nicholas Wishek

Nicholas Wishek. Retired teacher. 40 years classroom experience. Served in California National Guard 6 years. BA in history, MA in education. Married 35 years. Two sons. Many columns published in OC Register 2009-2014.

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