For many, it’s absolutely inconceivable that America could be anything less than the greatest country on the planet Earth. Mired in mentally imposed isolationism, the general populace remains confused whenever credible, yet negative, portraits of America are presented. A lot of psychic energy is spent rationalizing away, or just plain ignoring, the face of Third World-like conditions inside our beloved First World.
But, it is not the average American citizen’s fault.
Call it apathy. And apathy generally has causation. Maybe it is the result of unchallenged public opinion and television reprogramming, coupled with a media that gently strokes our patriotic ego. To play on a military term, we might call this unintended natural reaction to negative news “blowback”. For a variety of easily understood reasons, Americans associate certain positive feelings with living in the First World; they assume since their world doesn’t look like televised images of bloated-belly poverty that we are doing pretty well, considering. After all, we have so much clean water we defecate in it. Poor people can super-size themselves eating McDonald’s three times a day. And a C-average student can become Commander-in-Chief. It appears, the American Dream is alive and well.
With so much Opportunity present, the average American doesn’t want to hear anything critical of the United States – especially during the Olympics (USA! USA! USA!) – without it being followed with a viable solution that can fit neatly on a bumper sticker. Isn’t this what the constant Presidential election-cycle news teaches them to expect? Detailed articulation of the problem followed by simple, direct emotion-laden solution. With a corporate logo and a jingle that will stick in your head all day.
Unfortunately, on the issue of Education, such linear thinking doesn’t apply. Education is cornerstone to a great society, our great society. That America rose to such greatness, and that we have claim to some of the world’s most amazing thinkers, average Americans feel intelligent and imbued with greatness by proxy. They do not want to hear their children are falling behind other countries. Denying truth does not change it. Americans’ blind eye and chest beating are quickly allowing the regression of a our education system rather than recognizing that progress, change and ingenuity are vital to our future greatness.
Education, is probably the swiftest and bloodiest casualty of the housing market bust. Without a property tax base to supplement governmental spending, the public school system is a liability; not an asset. It drains money from city and state budgets; it does not make any money. Without that tangible profit we are trained to love ever so much (and measure society by), the result is the public hail to slash budgets by any means necessary; specifically education budgets.
This outcry and refusal to address the importance of education for all ends up in reduction of funds for public schools. Ensuing arguments foster disrespect, even disdain, towards teachers and staff. And most disturbing, this atmosphere of cold budget cuts and disrespect for the institutions causes irrevocable harm to the futures of our children.
This is causing a very specific effect.
As of December 7, 2011 national newspapers reported the American child ranking 14th in the world in reading. That means 13 countries other than the United States can teach their children how to understand their written language better than we can teach our children to read English.
Sixteen countries in the world can teach their children how to use science better than we can. One of them is South Korea.
Twenty four countries can explain the concepts of mathematics to their children better than we can. One of them is Finland.
While the prowess of these United States was built upon and cultivated by our ability to produce a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, who have both made a world-wide contribution to humanity, it is doubtful that we can maintain such expressions of acumen with the current trend in academic performance.
Despite the arguments of No Child Left Behind, education is more than just the measurable abilities of how to read, write and associate information. Modern education is also about cosmology; about how we frame and decipher the world – as Americans. In our educational practice, children are exposed to universal concepts and national ideals that illustrate how we’ve made ourselves unique & exceptional from a mishmash of the world’s genetic stock.
Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and John Henry explain the story behind every American who has ever been born or naturalized. Casey taught us that we’re better when we work as a team. The Civil War fascinates us and we marvel at how we were able to violently take up arms against each other. We wrestle with the knowledge that so much bad is done in the name of America’s good, and that internal struggle often prevents those misdeeds from occurring again. But in the face or the denial of our innovative history; despite the collective brain power that is contained within 76 million awakening minds, the current education model, so focused on just the basics, assumes drive, wonder and wisdom will come from elsewhere. Our system is failing to produce American thinkers with the tools to implement American solutions to American problems.
Against the demands of a Global Economy, several countries are building a more competent 21st century citizen than the United States. South Korea is outpacing us. They are engaging in the process of critical thinking – something that we call American Ingenuity – at a greater degree than our children can. Meanwhile, Texas is considering scrapping it altogether. While other countries are investing in students who will add value to society, we are throwing money with reckless abandon in hopes that our children will attain the ability to pass a test.
The response to the tragedy of American education is Michelle Rhee. She burst into the world of public policy through the controversy of her chancellorship. From 2007-2010, she reformed the District of Columbia. She is a firm believer in the voucher program.
On January 11, 2011 she published the following words with the Wall Street Journal: “In the past year, 46 states grappled with budget deficits of more than $130 billion. This year could be worse as federal recovery dollars dry up. And yet, for education reform, 2011 could be the best of times…. State executives and legislatures face severe choices and disappointments that could undo political careers and derail progress.”
Out of a custom tailored necessity for funding and a rising tide of parental dissatisfaction, the marketplace of private, charter, parochial and for-profit institutions are primed and ready to receive federal dollars. Due to the American Child’s inability to fully comprehend the English language or to understand scientific cause and effect, the conservatives can practice socialism and call it capitalism. They can use government to pick the winners and losers, while advocating the opposite.
As we will see in this series, a variety of educational systems already exist. Solutions abound. What we seek to answer is: Is the school voucher system good for Alaska?