Just as the state board of education in Texas takes the final steps to remove the secular Thomas Jefferson from its history text books, the President has set his focus on bringing the next generation up to speed via education standards, where the previous generation apparently failed (were failed). Some of the country’s most important political and cultural debates are staged in the guise of improving public education.
Yes, the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the planet because public education has not been a priority for perhaps the last 40 years. Let’s start with state, city or even the nation’s fiscal budgets. True, some places have thrown money at the problem with little or no results. Schools need positive community reinforcement. I remember a time when the drunks and the addicts would tell kids to go to school, “Go to school and be somebody.” Over the past 30 years, resentment has replaced encouragement of academic achievement especially in communities where there are low performing schools. Schools sometimes have to step in to do social work for students and occasionally their parents/guardians. If parents can’t hold up their end, meeting academic goals becomes that much harder for the student and the teacher. The parent/teacher partnership is strained by demoralizing unemployment or multiple part-time gigs to make ends meet.
Public education also got burned by making teaching a pass-through gig or a profession for persons who couldn’t get jobs in the private sector. The revolving door mentality has to stop and teaching needs to be a serious profession again. Serious educators, I’m sure, feel like a deflated football being tossed and kicked across the field. With each new administration comes a new set of standards and requirements. A new pass/fail criteria. At what point will teachers be stakeholders in crafting the standards and requirements for their students to succeed since it is their profession that’s always on the line?