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Publisher’s Position: What Should be the Goal of Public Education?

By Steve Hunley

It seems to me many of us are missing the point of public education.  We’ve moved away from the basics of education in this country, despite spending more than ever.  Ultimately, the goal isn’t passing as many tests as possible, collecting data or even graduating.  The ultimate goal is helping a child become a productive member of society, which means going on to further his or her education or getting a job.  Frankly, if these youngsters don’t get a job at some point, our entire system will collapse in upon itself.  After all, where does the money come from to pay for public education?  TAXES.

If these youngsters don’t have jobs, they aren’t going to be paying taxes, which means there will be less and less money for public education and everything else funded by our tax dollars.

The educational bureaucracy in this country has focused upon just about everything else besides students becoming  productive members of society.  We constantly hear that education is improving, yet the preparation rates, those ratios of students who are prepared to further their educations or go out and get a job, are abysmal.  The highest preparation rate in Knox County is 40% at Farragut High School; the lowest is at Austin-East, which is a dismal 3%.  Think about that for a moment.  Only 3% of the youngsters at Austin-East are prepared to further their educations or go out and get a job.  Sixty percent of the students at Farragut are not prepared to go out and get a job or further their educations.

What difference does it make, ultimately, if every student in the Knox County school system emerges with a high school diploma if he or she cannot go to college or get a job?  To my mind, that is a complete failure of the entire system.  Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where the thinking of the educational bureaucracy in this country is emphasizing the wrong thing.  The goal is no longer to prepare children for the future and there is something profoundly wrong about that.

Like much else in this country, the present system cannot sustain itself, but the results will be catastrophic to our overall society.  If these youngsters aren’t out being productive, do they become wards of the state?  Just how many wards can we afford?  Who will be paying social security taxes so the seniors can receive their monthly checks?  Who will be paying the freight for Obamacare?  Theories are just that; they are not realities.  The reality may be quite different than what we actually need.

It’s time for our local system to work harder to emphasize preparation.  Let teachers do their jobs and teach.  If teachers are merely expected to teach students to pass the next test, are the students really learning anything worthwhile?  They certainly aren’t being prepared for the future.

Obviously, if students aren’t prepared for the future, the future is suddenly not so bright anymore and that will affect every last man, woman and child in this country for decades to come.

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