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School's Out

It's hard to get away from the countless stories and news reports of our failing educational system. I've heard of many different reasons attributing to this and I've seen fingers pointing in every which direction when trying to find a guilty party for this outcome. Amazingly, there are still the occasional reports that come out that try to produce renewed faith in our schools by touting some positive numbers. But the overwhelming amount of negative reports exposing various elements of failure has left the majority of parents worried about their youngster's education.

As far as the blame is concerned, I don't feel that there is really any one culprit that can claim the entire fault. It's a myriad of reasons and causes. I'll name a few of the big hitters, in my opinion, that have considerably contributed to the weakening of our children's education.

First, the parents are to blame. Many parents don't have anything to do with their child's education. Some barely look at their kid's grade cards. According to Jacob's teacher, Jodi and I were the most involved, most concerned parents she had. And, I felt like we hardly did anything. Some of the lack of parental involvement is due to parents following society's lead and becoming busy. Today's busy society (I almost accidentally missed a typo there and left "busty society". Wouldn't that have been funny?) encourages individuals to work longer hours, eat on the go, keep kids occupied with various entertainment mediums, etc. The average amount of family time per week has decreased drastically from decades past. Society tells parents now that kids should be taught individualism and independence. So, parents feel they are doing their children some sort of favor by backing off and letting them learn on their own.

Second, "No Child Left Behind" leaves kids bored and slows them all down. Where did the academic competition go? I'll tell you where. Today's schools expunge competition in fear that if there is a winner then there must be a loser. But, lack of competition is equal to lack of motivation. They fear that having competition doesn't keep things fair and equal for all students. Our government promised equal opportunity for education. It never promised that all children would be at equal educational levels. Furthermore, since standards have dropped to include all the slower learning children in with all the others, the definition of gifted students is subsequently dropping as well. Jacob, who was top of both his class and the other class of kindergarten-ers, was denied enrollment in the gifted program in Springfield Schools. I've since been told that the gifted program fills up too quickly now that standards have dropped, and because schools are now being graded for their student's test scores, they're motivated to keep their top scorers on roll. So, in turn, Jacob's biggest problem is the same as many other student's biggest problem. They're bored. They're offered nothing to keep them engaged so they disengage. This possibility especially threatens boys whose nature is to be physically active. Boys can control this drive as long as they're interested and engaged, but once the interest is gone so is their self control. This is why statistics show us that boys are 8 times more likely to receive discipline in public schools than girls.

Third, speaking of lack of motivation, where might the motivation for schools be to offer the highest education possible over other schools? Schools get money from their state's taxes. The money is divided up by population. The higher attendance of a school, the more money they receive. So, schools are looking for bodies. They have little interest in offering the best education since there is no motivation, but rather they focus on meeting the minimum requirements so that they don't get cut out of the deal.

Fourth, parents have little or no choice in selecting the school that their child goes to. Recently, school systems have begun to allow parents to choose which school their children attend within the same school district in which their taxes are paid. However, there are limits to this choice. Schools must give priority to the students living in the district. So, if the school is full, then sorry your kid has to stick to his/her district. Let's look at the medical field as an example. Doctors and hospitals compete for business. It's generally not location that causes the individual to choose medical treatment but rather it's quality of care, and cost. It's this competition that continues to keep quality of care up and cost down. What, I ask then, might it be like if you had to go to a designated hospital and a designated doctor based on your place of residence? What do you think would happen to cost and quality? Would there be any motivation for these two factors to stay beneficial to the customer?

There are plenty of other contributing factors to our worsening educational system, but this has been a long enough blog already, so I'll end it with my proposal of a solution. Open it up for competition. Allow organizations to compete for the tax dollars. The government can still hand out the money according to attendance, but remove the restriction that keeps government-ran schools the monopoly for the funding. Allow parents to choose whatever school they want to send their child to. The government can even keep the minimum test scores for schools receiving tax dollars. Naturally, the schools will want to hire the best teachers, adopt the best teaching practices because if they don't they run the risk of losing their students and being closed down. Christian schools, Muslim schools, Catholic schools will all have the same chance for this funding. Another positive result will be the all but disbanding of the Department of Education. This government office would only need to police the use of funding and update minimum standards. This cuts out almost all the overhead which could either provide for more funding to qualifying schools or could reduce the amount that people are getting taxed in the first place. Another benefit would be the opening of specialty schools. Some schools would open specializing in teaching students with learning disabilities. This would provide those students with a better learning environment. Instead of tossing all these different students in together, the students could be better taught in schools specializing in their specific learning capacities.

By the way, I can't take credit for this idea. This is a plan of Presidential Candidate Ron Paul's. And, if you think that it could work, then maybe you should look into some of the other plans of his. He has some revolutionary ideas to bring America back to the wonderful country that it has been in the past.


Johnny and Bobbie also made a good point. With as many teachers that they have for each grade, split the students into learning styles. That's probably the biggest problem with children "spacing off", they're not getting taught in the style that they should. The only issue would need to be that parents let them be placed in the way that they should and not get offended if they thought their child should be in another class. It could have a fun spin on it as far as what each class title was.

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