By Joe Rector
I listened to the Democratic Debate a couple of weeks ago. No, it didn’t have the flair for dramatics that came from the earlier GOP gatherings, but some of the answers that the Dems gave for questions were every bit as frustrating as Republican comments.
Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of solutions for the poverty and disadvantages of so many in our country. The 2014 federal education budget skyrocketed to 85.8 billion dollars. That doesn’t include the mountain of money spent on other things such as school nutrition programs or education tax expenditures for individuals. The entire budget of $141 billion represents 4% of the total US budget. That is dwarfed by the Defense budget for the same year, which was a whopping $520 billion. The defense budget took 14.85% of the budget. Does that say to where our country’s priorities are aimed? Maybe so, but this isn’t about education versus defense.
According to www.choice.org, 7000 teenagers drop out every school day. In addition, 26% percent of students don’t graduate on time. That sounds pretty much like an educational crisis. In any other business, such numbers would lead to restructuring, downsizing, or bankruptcy. However, two difference can be found with education. First, schools deal with people. By the way, students are NOT products that can be molded and consistently reproduced with a predictable standard deviation. Second, we cannot allow the education of our children to fail as we might let happen to a poorly run business.
The leaders of our educational system have decided to institute “rigorous” curricula that spend more time on testing with asinine methods than learning. Teacher morale is at an all-time low as pressure to meet arbitrary goals increases. Students not only have to come up with 2 + 2= 4 but also have to explain “why” that answer is true. HUH? Any time a “bean counter” is in charge, the bottom line of success is measured in some kind of number. Forget what kids learn.
Democratic presidential candidates urged that more money be designated to education. They declare that the best way to find success in education is to invest more cash in programs, regardless of their effectiveness. In 2011-2012, a total of $12,042 was spent on each US child in elementary and high school. That’s already a bundle of money.
No, not every child is going to college. In fact, college is NOT for every person. However, each student needs to learn and to develop a skill that will help him or her to earn a living. We need to commit to academic and vocational education to meet the needs of all students. Doing so might prevent some of the dropouts from leaving school.
The best way to address the problems of education and the performance of students is much simpler than what the “big dogs” would have us believe. It’s as simple as developing a family approach to education. That has several steps. First, parents demand excellence from their children. That means that parents demand, not beg or ask, that children GO TO SCHOOL, perform at school, and complete homework in the evening. The might place limits on the use of phones, iPads, Xboxes, and televisions so that more important things can be accomplished, things like reading or art or simple conversation.
Moms and dads can bring about dramatic improvements if they place as much interest in their child’s classroom room performance as they do in their athletic endeavors. That means encouraging them, getting them extra coaching from some source for difficult subjects, and visiting school when parent meetings are held. Involvement is the key to the woes of education for many families. Parents need to parent and not allow children to quit education. Any child who drops out of school is dooming himself to a life of poverty and struggle.
Right now, the U.S. does have a crisis in education. It’s only cure will come when parents recognize the value of education, whether it be academically or vocationally centered. Even if a parent himself was a dropout, he owes it to the future of his children to demand that they complete school and go on to develop skills that will lead to brighter futures. Let’s start at home first in our efforts to improve education before spending piles of money or offering voucher programs that won’t guarantee any more success.