Friday, October 17, 2008

Is Socialism Inevitable? Part 1: Education

Education is an essential element of a free people. Without it, people cannot even begin to live in a free and self-governing society. Without the basics of understanding the written and spoken word, one cannot understand ideas or ideals nor can he or she participate in honest debate. It's difficult to stand for something if you have no idea what anything is. The ability to learn and understand was important to our Founding Fathers so they were the first champions of free public education. Wise and prescient men they were for they could see that an uneducated citizenship would easily be lead to tyranny.

And they were correct. Today we have a generation or two of young men and women who have come out of our education system woefully ill-prepared to take care of themselves. Instead of training to be solid on the basics, they learn "feel good" English and mathematics. Instead of raising the bar and helping students achieve, the standards are lowered so more kids pass. 

Those who can't even meet the lower standards are passed along, either to make the numbers look good or to just merely get rid of them. Parents make excuses and expect their kids to get good grades even when they are not earned. The jobs thus available to these children are menial and low-paying and later they will look to the government to make everything "fair" or turn to crime to "level the playing field." 

And that's even if they stick around long enough to graduate. Statistics show over the last few years fully a quarter of all high school students drop out. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in which children are likely to be less educated than their parents and are more likely to drop out of school.

The schools themselves in many cases have literally become battle zones. Kids who are never taught discipline by their parents are not allowed to be disciplined in school. The ones who really want to learn are unable to because the havoc created makes it impossible to learn anything. 

When those who wish to learn more go on to college, many times they have to take basic classes to catch up so they can start doing college-level work. I was visiting a friend who teaches at a small college and spoke with some of his coworkers. One lady was the person who coordinated remedial training classes for incoming freshmen. I was astounded when she told me well over half the students who come into their school require remedial training before they could even begin college-level work. This is appalling and should be shouted from the rooftops.

Parents, instead of teaching their children life lessons about disappointment, losing and failure, they coddle the kids. In sports, no score is kept and everyone gets a trophy so the kids' feelings aren't hurt. In the name of "esteem building" kids are pumped up with undeserved praise. Later in life, when disappointments come to those kids, they don't know how to handle it. They never learn the skill to persevere and keep trying until they reach a goal, to do something difficult and succeed. So, when school work becomes "too hard" they drop out or just "skate along" until it's over.

In a relatively short time, we end up with a generation or two of people who are woefully ill-prepared to take care of themselves and whatever family they might have. In trying to let them succeed so much when they are young, their guardians set them up for failure. As they grow into adulthood, those young men and women have no idea how to handle the basic things the "grown up" world expects them to take care of. 

All the while they give up the freedom they have been blessed to enjoy because they simply don't know any better and just want what they feel they're entitled to.

We should all be appalled at this trend in education. Where are the parents protesting against such terrible treatment of their children? Where are the parents when the kids drop out? Why are the news outlets not shouting this crisis from the rooftops? Instead we see scant notice of this, while the media report the latest happenings of Britney and her sister, Brangalina's children and 24/7 OJ coverage.

Now, how do we reverse this trend?

Money alone is not going to solve the problem. For example: The Detroit Public Schools system had a budget of $1.2 billion, which works out to about $11,400 per student, yet the graduation rate calculated by the school district is only 67%. If you believe outside sources, the graduation rate is even less at about 25%. Either number is unacceptable.

The Federal Government isn't the answer. All they can do is pass laws requiring the states to uphold standards which the states set for themselves as in the "No Child Left Behind" law. This is totally worthless and does nothing to hold the school systems themselves accountable. The Department of Education is a waste of the taxpayers' money, the role of which should be reduced to recommending standards and promoting them to the states.

The states aren't doing much better. In an attempt to hold at least an appearance of standards for students, many have opted for standardized testing. Although students have to at least learn something to pass the tests and move on, many times it's only those to test well who do well.

School districts and teachers need to be accountable, too. I'm sure the vast majority of teachers go into the field because they love kids and love to pass on and instruct in learning. I'm also sure there are quite a few "bad apples" who through lack of desire, lack of education or lack of skills have no business being a teacher. Those teachers need to be let go and teachers unions need to quit blocking attempts to let them go.

Although money alone won't solve our problems, teachers also need to be paid a better wage for all the work they do. We often read about the exorbitant salaries corporate CEOs, celebrity and sports figures make, yet we expect our teachers to work for so little that many have to take on second and third jobs to make ends meet.

Then we come to the parents. The primary responsibility to teach children are the parents who brought them into this world. Unfortunately, it's often those very parents who look at schools as nothing more than daycare and do not bother to learn what their offspring are doing in school, how they are doing, what their teachers are like etc. It's ultimately the parents' responsibility to make sure their children are taking education seriously and to hold them accountable.

Ultimately, it's we - all of us - who need to start taking education seriously. We are last in industrialized nations in education. Can we maintain our global leadership in technology, industry and other business if our children are not properly educated? The answer is absolutely not.

Eventually the answer will end up being socialism because no one will be able to take care of themselves and will need "Big Daddy Government" to step in and take care of them.

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