Why American education is a bust
Most of you know I lived in Israel for a decade where they spent a vast amount of the national budget on the military. Despite that, they still made sure everyone who wanted an education could get one. Whatever else is wrong with the country, they value education and as a people, Jews value education.
So why does America have such pathetic education? Public education is bad everywhere in the U.S. If you want your kid to get a good education, you need to pay for private schools. The last big “educational change” was the passage of the Federal Requirements for State Assessments which grew out of 2002s “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB), a piece of legislation which I have to assume was well-intended, but which has had the expected awful outcome.
Basically, it means that students in every state have to pass tests in reading, language arts, and mathematics in grades 3 through 8 and again in high school, as well as in science at least once in grades 3 through 5, 6 through 9, and 10 through 12. State assessments must align with the breadth and depth of state academic content standards and measure student “achievement” based on challenging college and career-ready state academic achievement standards or on alternate academic achievement standards.
Except this program doesn’t accomplish that.
I’m sure that must have sounded good to the non-educators who passed the legislation. Pity they didn’t include actual teachers in designing the curriculum. The result has been that we teach students to pass tests. Everything is aimed at getting kids ready to pass these tests and no time is spent teaching kids to think independently or think. If too many kids fail the test, they lower the “pass/fail” hurdle until almost anyone can pass, even if they don’t know anything — and most of them really don’t know much.
How in the world did this happen? Well, let’s take a look at what we admire in this country. Do we admire educated people? Do we make movies and write books about scientists, jurists, authors, or artists? We used to, at least occasionally, but that isn’t what Americans want to read or see.
As a people and as a nation, we don’t respect or admire education. We don’t treat educated people as an asset. Individual families vary, of course, but as a collective, this isn’t what Americans want. We our children to make money, but education for its own sake? Who cares about that anyway?
A lot of us care. We can’t control how our governments — local and federal — run the schools and most of us can’t afford private schools either. We do the best we can to make sure our kids have books to read and can have an intelligent conversation. We can’t change the system or the culture, but we do our best to make home a place where learning happens. Sometimes, it’s enough. Often, it isn’t, especially when both parents are working and children are pretty much on their own.
Why should we then be surprised when our educational system looks pathetic compared to education in other countries?
Who do Americans admire? We extoll “tough guys,” whether they were pioneers (never mind that Native American were already here and did plenty of pioneering), explorers (greedy seagoing thugs looking for gold), anybody with a big gun as well as real gangsters. We love gangsters whether they are riding a horse, murdering people in a dark alley, or out in space shooting down other ships.
Let’s look at Hollywood as the place where America’s creates its dreams. What do we love? Gangster movies. Shootouts. Violence. Considering all this idolization of crime, criminals, and other tough guys, educated people never made it into the mix. We don’t make movies about scientists and intellectuals because they don’t make money. We save our admiration for people who “made it” without an education. Maybe that’s why we never properly funded education in the U.S.
At this late date, we still aren’t funding education. We build schools only if the old one is crumbling. We pay teachers as little as possible and complain if they don’t perform to our expectations. And now, just to put some more fuzz on the peach, we’re banning books in schools and reducing knowledge. We are going to have the dumbest kids on planet Earth.
When states, cities, and towns decide to trim the budget, it always starts with laying off teachers, increasing class sizes, and not paying for textbooks that have a basis in reality. We ask why are people so stupid in this country? Look at our educational “system” and take your best guess.