Public Education Must Be Replaced, or at the very least, Reformed

Public education in this country is failing. Students are graduating without the skills or knowledge necessary to become productive citizens of a republic. They should be the people who make informed decisions about public affairs. They aren’t, as the last few elections should demonstrate. They should be prepared to become productive members of society, but way too many aren’t as the labor participation rate and the decline of media income highlight. Public education failed them. So what should be done? Bottom line, public education must be reformed or replaced completely.

I’ve been involved in public education most of my life. I went through the system, graduating high school, college, and education credentialing, finally earning a master’s degree. I was a public school teacher for thirty-eight years and a substitute teacher for three years before that. I loved my education and my job. But the public schools today are not the public schools of the past.

Are some public schools still doing fairly well? Certainly, but more and more are not, especially in the inner cities. The direction that all public schools are headed in is not promising. Can public schools be reformed? It’s doubtful, but possible, if enough Americans wake up to the damage public schools are doing to their children and the nation.

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Educating our children is a large part of what makes humans, human. We do it better than any other species in the animal kingdom. Since the earliest hunter taught his son how to knap flint to create a spearhead or since the earliest basket maker taught her daughter how to weave reeds into a shape to hold grain, we have passed on the knowledge and skills to help our children succeed. Public schools should do the same, but somewhere along the line we have lost sight of what the ultimate goal should be and how to best achieve it.

educationFor starters, those in charge of public education now seem to think that all children must want to go to college and achieve an academic education. Not everyone does. In European education students, after receiving a basic education, are given the opportunity to learn skills in non-academic areas.  We need carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. Singers, dancers, and actors also don’t benefit from most of public education’s secondary curriculum. Public schools in our country should recognize that some students are not interested in academics and help those children learn the skills or develop the abilities they need to succeed in the areas in which they are interested.

Another problem in our current education system that needs to be addressed is the breakdown of accountability. Promoting students who have not mastered the basic skills of a grade level in order to prevent damage to their self-esteem means that by middle school many students are years behind where they should be and are unable to understand the texts they are using.  I’ve been there. Trying to teach students who don’t have the skills needed to master a new concept is tough. The students as well as the teacher feel a great deal of frustration. In the real world there is only so much individualized instruction that can be given in a classroom of 30+ students. And, as an added problem, students who feel unable to cope tend to not only give up, but to disrupt the education of others.

This is another major issue in public schools that is not being addressed. Discipline has been diminished, especially in inner city schools. Teachers are actually being assaulted in their own classrooms by students.  Progressive apologists can argue all they want about why some students misbehave, but the bottom line is that classrooms where teachers are not in control, are classrooms where little learning is going on.

Finally, and most important, our public schools are not turning out responsible future voters. Watch a Watter’s World segment on Fox News.  There are potential voters out there who have gone through public education that have no idea about our history or current events. Worse, the history our children are taught is slanted to a large degree against our nation. And it’s been dumbed down. I’ve been there. I’ve seen how current texts compare to those I started with back in the ‘70’s. Instead of promoting our successful melting pot tradition our public schools are invested in multiculturalism that actually diminishes our country. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”  Yet that is what is happening as political correctness permeates public education.

The proof is in the results as private schools consistently outperform public schools. The U.S. Department of Education in a report titled Private Schools: A Brief Portrait, admitted the following.

  • Private school students generally perform higher than their public school counterparts on standardized achievement tests.
  • Private high schools typically have more demanding graduation requirements than do public high schools.
  • Private school graduates are more likely than their peers from public schools to have completed advanced-level courses in three academic subject areas.
  • Private school students are more likely than public school students to complete a bachelor’s or advanced degree by their mid-20s.”

Bottom line. Public education has to be reformed or be eliminated.

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

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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