Is The American (USA) Education Broken or Just Neglected?

“Change is the end result of all true learning.”

– Leo Buscaglia

We are two decades into the 21st century; the United States of America is only five years away from celebrating 250 years as a nation. Still, we fight over the same old issues we have always fought over, with some new modern ones added in for good measure. 2021 is no different when you watch the news than when people watched the news sixty years ago. Groups of people are still fighting for and over equality, justice, the economy, and healthcare. The rich still take advantage of the middle class; racism in 2021 seems no different than racism in 1921; bullying and bigotry, homelessness, and unfair wages. I could go on and on with all the issues the United States faces today and has always faced.

To overcome most of these problems and progress into the future with that ‘skies the limit’ mentality we must start at the beginning with Education. 

Education is the foundation.

Education is fundamental. 

Education is knowledge, and knowledge is power. 

Education is where it all begins for our society. 

“The real safeguard of democracy is education.”

– F.D. Roosevelt

Most of us started school around the age of 6 and graduates high school around the age of 18. Plus, if your parents put you into pre-school and went on to a four-year college, you most likely spent about two decades in the education system. If you spend a fourth of your life or your children will spend a fourth of their lives in a mandatory system, shouldn’t it be the most rewarding part of your life. Unfortunately, most students dread school. School should be a place of excitement, adventure, growth, and most importantly, it should be fun! 

I attended a small public school in rural Ohio, surrounded by cornfields and creek-filled forests. This school is so tiny my graduating class was less than 60 people. The class size was not a reflection of a dropout rate or people failing out; it was just the size of the class. In fact it was the largest graduting class, up to that point, since the year of 1958. I know this because they made a big deal about it and had people from the class of ‘58 hand us our diplomas. The building itself is so small that the elementary and junior high schools are within the same structure, and the high school is just a breezeway away. K-12 sit on the same campus. The two buildings are just one story tall, and both buildings house full size basketball courts. The rest is classrooms, offices, kitchen and cafeteria. Now that you know the size of the school let’s venture outside. We had two large baseball fields, a new stadium, a football field surrounded by a new track, and a weightlifting building, along with an outside basketball court. The community in which I grew up focused heavily on sports over academia. 

Like many schools around the country, teachers bought most of their supplies or gave each student a list requiring parents to ‘donate’ items such as printer paper, crayons, dry erase markers, tissues, and disinfectant wipes. Teachers should not have to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pockets, nor should parents have to provide them. 

The technology in the school I attended was laughable. The year I graduated high school (’09), the school was still using analog projectors; only a few teachers had mounted digital projectors. Even less knew how to operate them. The computers being used were still running on Windows XP with the old IBM CRT Monitors. The big honking monitors, not flatscreens.  In some cases, students had to share computers because there were not enough computers for all the students. The only Macs in use were the old macintosh’s from 1995, and there was just one Apple Macintosh G3 for the I.T.guy. Like I said it was laughable. 

In a world run on the Internet and computers, public schools struggle to maintain up-to-date software, new computers, and most importantly, enough computer equipment to fulfill the need of the students, especially schools in rural America. Technology in a public school should be state of the art. The teachers should not have to pay for anything when they come to work. Plus, most students ages eight and up have some smart device, whether it is a phone or tablet, or both. If the schools cannot ‘afford’ new computers, which they can, I’ll get to that later. Then the teachers must embrace the technology the students are already using and stop punishing the student for using it.  

As an adult, I’m never without my phone or away from a device with access to the internet; we should be teaching students how to utilize the tool they have and will have as an adult. With a smartphone, you have the world’s information at your fingertips. Instead of calling it “cheating” when a student googles an answer or uses a calculator, this should be encouraged. In the world outside of academia, there will never be a point from an employer that says, “Hey, I need the most accurate answer, and I need it as quickly as possible, but you cannot use a calculator.” If an employer asks you to solve something, they want the correct answer as quickly as possible. If you need to use a calculator or the internet to solve a problem, then that’s okay because the correct answer is more important to your job then the function it took to get the answer. As long as it is the correct answer, that’s all that matters.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we don’t need to teach long division or other written forms of mathematics; on the contrary, the students should be taught all the fundamentals – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. Teaching them the basics will ensure the next generation’s critical thinking skills, which is a dying talent in today’s society. However,  teach them these basics in elementary/grammar school then; once they reach junior high, teach them how to utilize the technology they have in their pockets. Teach them how to solve complex math problems by using mathematical apps they can download on their phone. The Internet is here to stay, and children need to know how to find truthful, valid, and scientific information on the Internet.  

Teach them about cited and sourced material. Inform the students that peer reviews must back up any claims. TEACH THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD! And for the love of stars, please, teach them the difference in the definition between a scientific theory and the colloquial common term for theory-i.e., the term ‘theory’ used in The Theory of Gravity is a provable act of nature that can be tested and observed, which makes the Theory of Gravity a FACT! (So is the Theory of Cells, Evolution, and heliocentric – the sun is the center of the solar system) Whereas the common term ‘theory’ like “I have a theory…” This version of the term ‘theory’ is used as a synonym for the term ‘guess’ or someone’s conjecture on a topic. Or better known in scientific circles as a hypothesis. 

In a world where anyone with a YouTube Channel and a made-up title can make baseless claims about reality, we all live, teaching students how to find facts on the internet is MUST. For example, millions (yes, I said millions) of people worldwide believe the Earth is FLAT! All because trolls, bad actors, and con artists have and will continue manipulating information on the Internet for their own means. This is why conspiracy theories are running rampant on truth and facts right now. All because peoples’ goodwill is being taken advantage of. 

What I mean by that is, most of us who are adults have been conditioned to listen to the news without question. Since the start of televised news, there were only two maybe three news stations that we could get on our televisions. We all used to get the same information every night at 6 pm and 11 pm. So, we all took these thirty-minute new segments as facts.  Now, specifically in the last twenty years, we can get 24/7 news channels that have an agenda. Which is not telling the truth but to sell ads and filling air time, and what is the best way to fill air time in America, where reality TV is the most watched programs = controversy, and in-fighting. It’s in the business model of all “news” channels to get viewers, not report the facts, not to present both sides but to make money and manipulating its viewers to agree with whatever they are “reporting”. Bringing a rise in echo chambers and bias opinion moderators. These issues are in part because the information is being obtained all over the globe in seconds thanks to the World Wide Web, which has yet to mature into a utility as it should be. As we know it today, the Internet is young, only 30 years old, and most Americans didn’t have internet access in their homes until the late 1990’s early 2000’s and it is still the Wild Wild West online. Once tech-savvy politicians and lawmakers get into office, the Internet will start to be utilized much better than it is today. There will be safeguards and penalties for those that spread misinformation. No this is not a disregard to “Freedom of Speech” for the same reason its illegal to yell “FIRE!” In a crowded room. Unfortunately, there will always be those that skew information in their favor to accomplish their agenda. 

With all this in mind, this is why children and the next generation of students must be trained and taught on how to identify false-facts and B.S. and find sourced material to verify the facts, evidence, and the real truth. What could be more important than that in today’s education system? I mean, memorizing Robert Frost’s poems is all fine and dandy, but I’ve never had to quote “The Road Not Taken” during a job interview. 

Some of you may be wondering, “Not all students have access to smartphones or tablets,” and you would be correct. With the poverty rate hovering between 10 and 13 percent, not all parents and guardians can afford to provide their children with such up-to-date technology to take with them to schools. However, the Department of Education can! IF and only IF federal funds were to be allocated appropriately, and the government invests in education and our future. 

In 2019 the budget for Education was between 59 billion dollars and 73 billion dollars, depending on how you calculate it (i.e., with our without higher education grants, aid, university subsidies etc). Regardless of how you calculate it, that sounds like a lot of money; the problem is, is that amount is just a drop in the bucket for other areas of spending. As seen below in this chart, this is all of OUR discretionary spending for the fiscal year of 2019, (By the way, the only reason I keep referencing to the national budget of 2019 instead of 2020 is that 2019 was the last ‘typical’ year of government spending Pre-COVID.) But as you can see, Education is clumped in with training, employment, and social services. To be clear, this is just the Federal Government’s spending budget; this does not include what each state is individually spending on education, which should be the same nationally, but I’ll get to that in a minute. 

So, think of it this way if we reallocate just ten percent from the defense and add that strictly to Education, the world of tomorrow will be a much better place. Of course, as I write this, I can already hear some of you yelling and saying, “Don’t take money away from our troops! They fight for our freedoms! Murcia!” Well, that’s true, but if you look at the chart again, we can still take ten percent from the Operations and Research sections, so that way the money that goes to our troops is not even affected. Personally, I think the troops should be getting paid what movie stars and athletes make for protecting us all, but that is another topic. 

If we take just ten percent of that 676 billion dollars and put it into the schools, that’s an extra 67.6 billion dollars into the Education system. Virtually doubling the federal government’s investment in our future, and that’s how we can pay for technology in our public schools. 

OR if you don’t want to reallocate any funds from defense, even though we are in no official war or ground war right now, we are still spending more money on defense than the next seven countries combined. And, yes, that includes both China and Russia. How about we freeze defense spending at 676 billion or so for X amount of years and let other areas like Education catch up. To put what I’m referring to into perspective, the Navy has just put in a request for buying not one, not two, but three brand new aircraft carriers. Which cost, depending on size, anywhere from four to thirteen billion dollars EACH. We, the USA, already have eleven active aircraft carriers.  These eleven already sets us far ahead of any other country with aircraft carriers, the next country to us that has the second most carriers is China, and they have TWO! Just Two. And the Navy wants three more on top of our eleven. The United States is not the world’s police, nor should we be. (If we are the police of the world, then the other countries can pay for it) Plus, the two most recent Presidents are bringing troops home. Trump and Biden are bringing troops home and closing bases, so we don’t need to spend even more money on defense, let alone buy/manufacture more. Let’s invest in education, and that’s how we can pay for a better education system. 

But let’s say the Education system is well funded, and every child in public school has access to high speed Internet from devices in their pocket. Now What? Well, we need to ensure they are being taught facts, evidence, and reality. There needs to be a federal standard for what is taught to the children of America. For example, students in New Mexico should be learning the exact same curriculum as those in Massachusetts, but currently, they are not. We need a level the playing field for all kids to have an equal opportunity for the future. If parents want to teach none-scene or pseudoscience to their child, that’s their business, but public schools that are being funded by EVERYONE’s tax dollars should only teach what we know to be accurate, factual, and evidence-based. They should be taught the good, the bad, and the ugly of our history, no more white-washing. It’s our history. Like we all have heard before- those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it, as we are witnessing today. 

As such, Children should be taught to question and be inspired to be curious. When I was in school, I’d asked numerous amounts of questions and was often told, “Tadd, you are disrupting the class with your questions.” Or when I asked why we needed to be taught something, I was never given a proper answer as to what the purpose was but rather I’d be told “It’s on the OGT. You have to pass the Ohio Graduation Test to graduate.” That is not answer. Questions should be encouraged. Questions help people learn and expand their knowledge. As I stated at the beginning, students should not dread going to school; on the contrary, students should be excited, and shutting down a student just for being curious does not aid in a child’s curiously in educating themselves. It does the opposite. 

Too many teachers are the cause of making education boring, dull, and an awful experience for any given student. Teachers who only teach to collect a paycheck and no longer have the drive to incite excitement in their students to learn their subject should find another job. They are squashing curiosity and critical thinking skills with their piss-poor attitudes. Now, I understand the system can suck the drive out of teachers. Like how companies can do the same to any of their workers, but while workers who are making products can dread their job with only consequences to themselves, teachers are molding the minds of the next generation, and they cannot get discouraged for the sake of their students. We need to help aid our teachers in standing strong, making sure they are taken care of both financially, physically and mentally. As I mentioned above, giving them proper funding will help tremendously.  

But if a teacher does not have the passion for their job or the topic they teach, then they need to get out of this profession. No teacher should be the source of draining curiosity and the adventure of learning out of their students. To aid teachers who suffer from burnout, there should be a program in place to retrain and help them switch professions, without judgment, all for the sake of the students and the country’s future. 

As mentioned a few statements ago, The Ohio Graduation Test was the requirement and still is to graduate high school in the state of Ohio. Most states require some kind of standardized test to graduate. However, they are phasing out the OGT by 2022, but it will be replaced with a national standardized test. This would be fine IF education standards were the same in every single state, which it is not. When I think of standardized tests, I’m reminded of a quote that most contribute to Albert Einstein, but the quote may not have come from him at all, but regardless the point of the quote still stands

“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid”

Standardized tests contribute to drop out rates and graduating failure, and should never be linked to how much funding a school gets. Students already have enough pressures and having the principle assemble all the students in the gymnasium to explain “if you don’t take the OGT seriously this will not only hurt your future but will hurt the schools rankings” which to an adolescent’s mind they don’t give a rat’s left buttock about the school’s ranking so stop applying pressure. If schools have to depend on testing for funding let’s test the teachers and board members on Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic to see if they are even qualified to be in charge of teaching students, 5, 10, 20, years after graduating college when they obtained their teaching degree. Although most school board members where I come from have zero background in education and only do it as a status simple or a spring board for future political aspirations. But I digress, standardize tests should not be a measure for funding nor should be the evaluation of a young adult to graduate. Here’s why – 

Psychologists and Neuroscientists alike have been aware that everyone absorbs information differently, at different rates, and through various mediums. As science learns more and more about the brain, we know more and more about how each person is truly unique. But yet, in the name of efficiency, we standardize education, we manipulate children to be orderly and demand that they just stop asking questions and “be like everyone else.” This statement was told to me by my Junior High Reading Teacher and, I’m sure, countless others who are curious, open-minded, and just learn differently. There is no such thing as “like everyone else” it is not the place for the education system to pump out brainless, rule following automatons, thats the workforce’s job – {insert sarcasm here} 

Our education system needs to be revamped in numerous areas, but most of all, its approach to educating. We need to stop having politicians with law and business backgrounds shape the requirements and standards for learning. We need trained child psychologists, neuroscientists, educators, and people who have the best interest in mind for children designing our education system. I have written this article to bring forth issues that I have seen and lived through, spending roughly twenty years in the American Education System.  Now, it is up to you to think about these issues and those you have encountered. 

Vote for those that truly want to help the education system.  Not just those who wish to profit off of it or manipulate our children for their own agendas. This goes for both local school board members, Superintendents, Commissioners, House Representatives, Senators, and especially Presidents since they appoint the leaders for the Department of Education and make requests for the annual budgets. My advice is be more active in your local school district. Remember the old-adage “The squeakiest wheel gets the oil.” Don’t let some small-minded, backward, flatter earthier type control your school district. If you pay taxes, you should voice your opinion; if you have children, you MUST voice your opinion; if you want a better future for The United States of America, and the world at large.

VOTE Logically & VOICE YOUR OPINIONS! 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Tadd Riley says:

    You should read my article on whether Jesus Christ was a Liberal or Conservative if he was alive today. I think you will find illumanting. Thanks for the reblog. Have a great day!

    Like

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