I Don’t Want to Be an American Idiot: Understanding the Educational Chasm in the U.S.
This blog has been written and re-written by me several times. At first my approach was to study, in-depth, all the educational leaders; China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, and Finland. After much analysis and reading I came to the conclusion that most of the education models that are implemented in these countries simply are not applicable in the U.S. This will come as quite a shock to my mother-in-law, who is not only a teacher but also a French, America hating, American. She’s always yammering about how we should be like China or France and corruption this and corruption that. I politely respond that corruption, greed, hatred, pride and all the other dirty little imperfections are part of the human condition and exist across all regional and racial barriers. But I digress…
The reason I feel that, as a whole, other country’s educational models are not applicable to our system is because the ideology, government, and cultural aspects are unique to those regions. All these factors work together to supplement their education system. We can take ideas and examples from their model, but as a complete package it will not function properly.
That being said, lets discuss some of the main issues of our school system. Twenty years ago the U.S. was number one in education. Our country has evolved greatly in those twenty years and, unfortunately, the education system was not able to adapt as quickly as we were changing. I attribute this largely to the complex divisions in our education system. America separates its education into federal, state, and local levels.Each level has different mandates and requires a certain finesse and authorization as well as having different ideas about how to properly educate.
Any military strategist can tell you that to divide an opponent is a major advantage. Two reasons support this: a longer decision-making processes due to lengthened communication and authorization time and discord among the divisions. What I propose is that if we operate individually, we can never be unified and will spend our time regulating and comparing instead of progressing. The logical solution would be a centralized authority to govern education. Finland shows us a perfect example of how this can be effective. The issue I see with this is that our society is based on competition. Right now schools across America are competing with each other when they should be cooperating to achieve a single agenda. Additionally, our students are competing with one another. Each student should be graded based on their own strengths and abilities, not compared to millions of others which skews the value of that student.
Stripping the infrastructure and creating a single core authority and vision is not something that can be done overnight nor is it something that is necessarily plausible. The system we have wasn’t forced upon us. Years of litigation, partnerships, and planning went into creating it. I suggest that we work with the resources that we already have. Migrate education criteria away from state and local faculty and place the judgement of educational standards at the federal level. The core agenda can then be passed down to the states which will not make individual decisions on education criteria, but will support the federal agenda and process the monetary support to ensure the success of the mission. The local level will be responsible for reporting back issues, voicing concerns over monetary and educational restrictions, and the application of the overall vision of the federal level.
I can already hear the concerns about a communist-like school system with one central governing body. In truth, China has been so effective in its goals due to its centralized infrastructure, but to this I say, the federal level is only supplying the agenda, not enforcing nor doing so without repercussion or input from the other levels. It is simply at this level in which the amendments and solid foundation get put into action.
I believe this addresses the core issue. Then we have to address the peripheral issues: the quality of education, the structure of the school environment, and the funding.
As far as quality of education, it has been noted that we have been less aggressive in our attempts to teach certain subjects at various levels. We are setting the bar too low because of the high rate of attrition. I used to hear the motto, “Shoot for the stars”. I feel like our motto had been reconciled to read, “If you can’t reach the stars, we’ll pull them down a little bit so they’re easier to hit”. At an early age we should assess which students are of a sound mental facility. Those should be progressed through primary and secondary schools. The others should be taken to individual schools where their special needs can be met, full-time. Our educational standards should be supported despite individual performance. We should evaluate each student based on their individual progression, ability, and performance.Our children will no longer be statistics such as 20 out of 500, they will be judged pass or fail based solely on themselves.Of course this all is based on the fact that we are getting a challenging, modernized, and sound education referendum at the federal level and that our teachers are competent.
Teachers are to be compensated accordingly, required to hold a four year degree in a related field, held with higher respect, and given more responsibility over the students. If a child becomes a problem, the teacher holds the decision to expel the student from the class or admonish them accordingly. Those children who are repeat offenders will receive counseling. If the counseling is unsuccessful, they are to be sent to alternative education facilities. These children should not be allowed to influence or distract the ones that want to learn.
Funding will come from taxes, much like today. In my opinion, education is the number one goal of the country. All taxes will have a certain percentage automatically withheld to be passed to the state level to distribute. Schools will not incur any taxes. Distribution of funds will be based solely on the population of students. As mentioned before, it will then be up to the state to compensate the funding to areas that need supplemental enhancement.
I’m sure my limited experience and knowledge in the entire system has left out some core principles and maybe overlooked some currently existing ones, but at this point, it’s the best I could do.It really doesn’t have to be more complicated than this. The more complex you try to make something the more fragile it becomes and the more restructuring you have to account for when changes appear.
As a side note, I’d like to add that it is our individual responsibility as parents to ensure the educational achievement of our children. If you simply sit back and trust that the school system is going to take care of your child, you are failing them. Don’t be afraid to challenge what is being taught and to require your children to supplement their studies with additional work you feel is pertinent. The difference between success and failure is a parent who cares.