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Since we started the Education Social Interest Group here at the Good Men Project, I have had some very interesting conversations with folks regarding the topic. As someone who has no children of their own, I never paid too much attention to whether or not our Education System was working. It always seemed to be someone else’s problem—as long as I paid my school district taxes, then I did about all I could be expected to do. What right did I have to tell parents how and what their kids could be taught in elementary school? I had no skin in the game.
As someone who has no children of their own, I never paid too much attention to whether or not our Education System was working. It always seemed to be someone else’s problem—as long as I paid my school district taxes, then I did about all I could be expected to do. What right did I have to tell parents how and what their kids could be taught in elementary school? I had no skin in the game.
Now I see the bigger picture. I suppose I have for a while, but didn’t do anything about it until the age of “Fake News” exploded into our political discourse. As a younger man, it made no difference to me that someone found Bat Boy in a cave somewhere or that aliens visited a small town in Missouri or that the Virgin Mary’s face appeared in a slice of toast. Those stories seemed all so harmless.
But now the stories are more realistic and have a more strategic vision: To question knowledge itself, to declare a war on epistemology and trumpet in the coming of a new age of agnotology, the study of ignorance (Yes, there is actually a term for how willful ignorance plays a role in our society).
The only way I can see defeating it is to educate our youth properly and completely. This ignorance has brought about science denialism into the norm and has usurped critical thinking in all facets of our lives when it leads to actual legislation brought forth by our own government. So, yeah, I have skin in the game now.
Much can be said in a debate about No Child Left Behind and Common Core. I’m not going to get into those debates right now. Instead, I want to discuss other items that have possibly fallen under the radar.
According to Capital and Main, charter schools in the Los Angeles area are less inclusive of children with special needs. The Washington Post noted the same trend in three sections of New York City. The new model, championed under Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, may be apocalyptic for this demographic, and could very well lead to an ever-increasing burden once those children grow up to adulthood. The limited opportunities that special needs adults have now would be even more limited with poor quality education. The Washington Post article points out the disparity of underprivileged kids as well. So, along with special needs children, the poor are slowly being left behind on purpose.
The Washington Post article points out the disparity of underprivileged kids as well. Along with special needs children, the poor are being deliberately left behind.
The Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, just signed a bill to allow the Bible to be taught in public schools. I am a huge proponent of teaching World Religions and Philosophy in public schools as a means to expose children to different cultures and allow them the opportunity to think critically, but this doesn’t seem to be what Kentucky will be doing. The bill specifically mentions only the Christian Bible, and states that the purpose of the elective class is to explain the Bible’s role in American History.
There is actually some dispute as to how it influenced the Founding Fathers, and that should be pointed out. Deism, religion freed from the Bible, was a major belief for people like Thomas Paine, who wrote The Age of Reason. In that essay, he denounced his faith in the Bible by using critical thinking and logic entirely, yet still remained true in his belief in a Creator. James Monroe and Ethan Allen were among the deists of the 18th century, as well as others who signed the Declaration of Independence. It hardly seems to be a fair representation of the religious beliefs of the fathers of our country to focus solely on the Bible.
In 2005’s case Kitzmiller v. the Dover Area School District, the ACLU helped a group of parents (including Tammy Kitzmiller) sue the Dover School District. The District wanted to teach Intelligent Design in their Pennsylvania public school. Ultimately, the parent group prevailed and the syllabus was tossed. One reason for the court’s decision was that ID is simply Creationism by another name and is entirely non-scientific. The courts got the ruling right, but one has to wonder if this will be attempted again.
We must not be doing Education right here in the United States. Our PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scores, provided by the National Center for Educational Statistics, show the US is not the country with top marks. We’re not even in the Top 20 countries for Science, Mathematics or Reading, even though (according to Business Insider) we’re the 13th richest country in the world. So, we should be able to afford better education, right?
NCES shows we spend about $12,000 per student, which is among the highest. Why aren’t we getting the biggest bang for the buck? Is it because we aren’t innovating? Are we not keeping up with the rest of the world? Are we not focusing on what the rest of the world is? Who is getting left behind?
Not only are the children impacted by our policies on education, but let’s consider the teachers as well. According to Payscale, the average median salaries for K-12 teachers is short of $50,000 per year; Special Education teachers make only slightly more than their counterparts.
Teacher Portal breaks it down a little further, shows salary by state. Montana’s starting pay is lowest, at around $27,000, but the average salary is nearly twice that. New York pays their teachers the best, averaging $75,000. For comparison, Kim Kardashian is worth over $105 million. I’m not saying teachers should be millionaires, but pay this low suggests we’ve directed our attention in the wrong place.
Money is only part of it. Public School Review lists 10 Major Challenges facing public schools. These include class size, technology, student health and parenting. These issues are outside of a teacher’s direct control, yet they pose very real issues in the classroom. For classroom sizes, the article notes, most teachers state they cannot effectively teach when classrooms get above 30 students, yet when money gets cut, class sizes grow and teachers have no recourse but to do the job they have been trained to do.
One can only speculate what the root causes are, but the data is clear as day. Our education system is failing our kids and, therefore, it’s failing our country.
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