“If we are the only intelligent life in the universe, at least there are a finite number of idiots.” Steven Coallier
The first public school in America was established in April of 1635 in Boston. If my calculator is correct, that was 382 years ago. It was the Boston Latin School, which still operates today. Five signers of the Declaration of Independence were graduates of the Boston Latin School; Adams, Franklin, Hancock, Hooper, and Paine.
382 years from the first school to the present day. 382 years of trying to get it right. 382 years of trial and error. 382 years of experimenting and trying this system and that system, testing this theory and that one, open classrooms versus closed classrooms, etc. 382 years and we still don’t have it right.
How many years are plenty of time to get it right? We don’t have the curriculum right. We don’t have the funding right. We don’t have teachers pay right. We don’t have the extra-curricular activities right. We don’t have the emphasis right. Wouldn’t you think that 382 years would be long enough to get it right?
CURRICULUM – Not all children are created equal. Some are fast learners and some are not. Some mature earlier than others. Some skills come more quickly to some. These things complicate the process, make it more difficult to plan, and control. Children with learning disabilities add to the complications. We have learned a great deal, and have come a long way from the days when left handed children were forced to write right handed, and children with ADD were considered “slow”, but it hasn’t been enough. Are there too many kids in classes, are there not enough teachers, not enough teachers with the right training? There must be a system that caters to each and every child no matter their particular situation, from the gifted to the “slow”. Every human being has something that they are good at; each and every child deserves the chance to find what that is, and school is the logical place to find it. All of them deserve success. We’ve had 382 years to figure it out.
In my state there is a critical shortage of teachers for the rural areas. Some openings have not been filled in over a year. There are 24.4% fewer teacher graduates than last year.
We have some pretty smart people in this country, why can’t we get it right? Could it be we aren’t as smart as we think we are? Or, are we still arguing over whose concepts are correct and whose aren’t. Could it be this divisive attitude exists in the academic community? Could politics enter the equation, surely not, although there is a notion that the current administration is moving to eliminate the Department of Education. 382 years should be enough time to figure out what really works, and what doesn’t.
FUNDING – why can’t we mature, educated, intelligent adults figure out how to keep the schools funded properly so they don’t have to cut art programs, lay off teachers, and require students to pay to play sports, or play in the band? Yes, I’ve heard the budget arguments, and listened to the tax debates. It’s too expensive, there isn’t enough money.
Seems we have no trouble at all payinga professional athlete multi-millions of dollars to throw a ball, or to catch it, or to put it through a hoop, or helping an actor earn a couple million dollars each movie. We spend billions of dollars every year on our pets. The cosmetic industry hovers at several billion dollars each year. What’s wrong with this picture? Is the entertainment industry, including professional sports, our pets, and the drive to look glamorous, or younger, more important than our children’s education? We’ve had 382 years to figure it out.
TEACHER’S PAY – is abysmal. The folks teaching kids should earn some of the highest salaries around, they should be high enough to attract the best brains. My goodness isn’t that just common sense? Is there a more important profession? I think not.
In a couple of the small rural school districts in my state the starting salary is $24,000.00 per year. That’s starvation wages. Elementary school teachers should be the most skilled, dedicated, and the best paid. Those are the years when a child sets a pattern that will basically stay with him/her their entire life. This is when a passion for learning and growing should be established. It should be the time when an attitude of success is imbedded. The schools are not the total answer however.
Parents need to be deeply involved during those early years. A family atmosphere that promotes learning is essential. No, not badgering a child to do his homework, but instilling and nurturing a desire to learn. It takes a combined effort of school and home to help a child flourish. There is no greater task, nor greater satisfaction than to succeed.
EXTRA- CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES – are important. All children should be able to participate in some school sponsored activities outside the classroom.
Be it sports, playing a musical instrument, being on the debate team, the chess club, participating in a science fair. Whatever the special interest or talent is, they all should be able to participate in something, or many things if they choose. Participation should be at no additional costs to the parents. Did I mention we’ve had 382 years to figure it out?
EMPHASIS – who made the rule that children are required to attend classes nine months out of the year, then go up to the next grade and attend for another nine months, etc. As mentioned above, not all people learn at the same rate, nor do they gain success at the same rate. What is so important about the traditional school year, and the methods used to “pass them on”. Cannot the gifted have the attention they deserve, and the “slow” have the attention they deserve, and all the other categories have the attention they deserve. Are we fearful of discriminating against a particular group, or creating demeaning classifications of students? Really? Isn’t that a matter of EMPHASIS? We are smarter than that, aren’t we?
Can’t we get a little bit closer to assuring that all children, regardless of their ability to learn, be successful and feel good about themselves? Isn’t there a system that allows the time and money to accommodate each and every child, and instills a desire and a passion for learning? After all we’ve had 382 years to figure it out – how much more time do we need? Educating our children is the most important thing we can do, and always will be. The journey has been 382 years long and we still don’t have it correct. These children today will be running the world in another 50 years or so. They merit our best efforts to see they are educated.
This is how bad we are. Based on several different polls, surveys and studies these are the rankings for the united States:
- 14th in cognitive skills and educational attainment
- 2nd in ignorance about social statistics
- 24th in reading literacy by 15 year olds
- 17th in overall educational performance
- 11th in fourth grade math
- 6th in sixth grade reading
- 54th IN EDUCATION EXPENDITURES (5.30% of GDP)
You can look it up.
“The biggest atrocity of all is to indoctrinate our children into a system that does not value their creative expression, nor encourage their unique abilities.” Benjamin Greene