Public education system is failing our youth

by Jack Heller
March 15, 2020 1:00 AM

What would be the fate of a baseball manager whose team had a record of 50 years of losing seasons with each succeeding year falling further down in the standings? Would you continue to not only fully fund, and also provide periodic raises, bonuses and other perks to include a generous retirement plan to the coaching staff? Americans have a low tolerance for perennial losers. There is one very glaring exception and that is America’s K-12 public education system whose effectiveness has dropped to poor and is well on the way to pathetic.

In 2015 American taxpayers paid out over $649 billion to fund the K-12 public education system. The very same year the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released the results of their testing of 15-year-olds from 72 nations in mathematics, reading and science in the Program for Student Assessment (PISA). The results of this 2015 testing revealed that U.S. students ranked 39th in math, 24th in reading, and 28th in science. Not only did the kids in Western European countries surpass our children but so did the kids from China, Japan, Korea and even Vietnam, despite the fact that we out spend by far what other countries do to educate children and yet our student’s academic performance continues to decline.

How is this possible? Why aren’t Americans up in arms that our children are being “short changed” and are receiving a substandard education? Who is responsible for this colossal failure? Finally what can be done if anything to stop and reverse this ever increasing downward spiral?

In broad terms I believe the following factors are the primary causes for the abject failure of our public education system.

1. The government has almost a sole monopoly of public education and has little competition or viable alternatives.

2. Failure of the majority of parents to instill discipline or to motivate their children to be responsible for their actions and behavior or to support the teachers and schools that are endeavoring to educate their children.

3. Teaching a curriculum that “pretends” that all children have the ability or motivation to attend college.

4. Rewarding mediocrity by lowering standards, providing social promotions and undeserved awards, as well as accepting substandard academic performance and personal behavior which translates to the development of a poor work ethic.

5. Using and wasting valuable education time and resources to pursue social programs and political agendas at the expense of teaching the basics.

Our government run education system is a socialist program, managed by socialists based on socialist principles and practices, and as a result it can only result in failure. The main reason it will fail is that it does not have a solid foundation that is essential to any any efficient program or enterprise.

Standards must increase as one advances, they must be fluid and must always rise and never be allowed to regress. Think of standards as steps. As soon as one is achieved one’s attention and focus must be on scaling the next one. To establish the necessary standards you must start by determining what skills and abilities you want the student to possess upon completion of their education and then do ”backward planning” to establish the necessary standards required for achievement.

Discipline in its true definition means “doing what Is right and necessary without being told to do it.” That is why morality training by parents, clergy and the school is essential to the educational process. Though we are born with some inherent ideas of right and wrong, children’s discipline and morals are shaped by the environment in which they are raised and educated. Far too many parents train or allow their children to rebel against authority to include their educators. No educator can begin to teach anyone until they have their attention and compliance. One cardinal rule that should never ever be violated is to “not permit anyone or anything to disrupt the classroom learning process. Disruptions or disrupters must be removed.”

Motivation is the art of influencing others to achieve an individual or group goal, in such a way as to get them to freely act of their own volition. In short to get them to do something because they want to do it not because they were told to do it. Motivation can be in the preferred way through the form of personal rewards or praise (positive) or when all efforts fail and it becomes necessary to punish or criticize (negative). To properly motivate students to learn it is essential to allow them to complete any course, class or grade as quickly as their ability will permit. Students must be allowed to progress according to ability and how fast they can master a prescribed skill. Students who waste time or those who are slow learners should have a school year length that is commensurate with the mastery of the required skills, while high achievers can have more free time for independent study or extra curricular activities.

Competition between schools and between students is a necessary ingredient if they are going to succeed in educating American youth to the standard achieved by most other developed nations of the world. Our public education system has destroyed competition in the classroom to the point where over-achievers are openly criticized by their peers who are content to follow the path of least resistance. Public funded schools can pay lip service to or completely avoid making the required changes to make the system viable as they know they will continue to be funded as no other alternative exists.

The teacher unions jealously guard against the use of taxpayer funds being used to fund private or religious sponsored schools or to pay student tuition to attend them.

I believe that any legislation that seeks to block a parents right to chose the school that best serves the educational needs of their children and does not allow them to use their taxes collected for education for the purpose of educating their children in a school of their choosing is blatantly unconstitutional and must be over turned. A parents right to educate as they deem fit is superior to any governmental claim. Until the Public School system has viable competition it will never improve and will remain sub standard.

This year the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case of a local woman against the state of Montana in which she claimed that she was denied an application for a scholarship good for 50 percent of the tuition cost of her two daughters to attend Stillwater Christian School in accordance with a program authorized by the state legislature in 2015. The state based it’s denial on the fact that this request violated the “so called Blaine Amendment”provisions of the state constitution which bars the use of taxpayer funds to support religious schools. Blaine was a US

Representative that introduced this amendment because of the large number of Catholic schools that were opening up in the 1870’s. The amendment was never ratified, however 37 states including Montana included it’s provisions in their constitutions. The Montana Supreme Court denied the woman’s appeal based on the fact it violated the state constitution and as a result the entire Tuition Funding Program was terminated. Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the mother and end this ban on taxpayer funding of private and parochial schools and then we will have the necessary competition to force the reform and modernization of the Public School System.

Jack Heller lives in Lakeside.