Education


The United States government continues to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on two wars that cannot be won. Big businesses are being bailed out, while the greedy executives who run them continue to pad their pockets with obscene bonuses. Yet, when it comes to educating young people in America, the government will only shrug and say, “Well, what are supposed to do?”

Americans are provided with public education, but the quality of that education continues to decline. Education, which is the foundation to everything needed to guarantee a country’s success, is being systematically destroyed in America. Education leads to progress. Education leads to innovation. Education leads to understanding, adaptation, leadership, and while it may sound ripped off from a cheesy bumper sticker, education unarguably is the key to a brighter future.

We are spiraling towards a preventable tragedy. School districts have no choice but to fire gifted teachers, consolidate already packed classrooms, and cut electives and after school programs – the majority of these schools being the ones in the poorest neighborhoods where education is more vital than ever.

This morning on CNN, I read an article about proposed state budget cuts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, education is taking a huge hit. It’s estimated by the American Association of School Administrators that 275,000 education jobs will be eliminated next year due to these cuts, which would wipe out all of those jobs that had been protected by last year’s stimulus funds. New York City alone is threatened with the loss of 8,500 teachers next year if New York’s governor passes his $1.4 billion cut in state education aid. Los Angeles Unified School District has already informed over 5,000 teachers that they will be looking for a new job come summer, while early estimations predict 22,000 California teachers will be looking for a new job for the coming school year.

This is absurd.

When President Obama spoke at the commencement ceremonies for Hampton University, he spoke about how we must narrow the ever-expanding educational gap between the rich and the poor. He stressed the importance of education.

Just as your education can fortify you, it can also fortify our nation, as a whole. More and more, America’s economic preeminence, our ability to outcompete other countries, will be shaped not just in our boardrooms and on our factory floors, but in our classrooms, our schools, and at universities like Hampton; by how well all of us, and especially us parents, educate our sons and daughters.

What’s at stake is more than our ability to outcompete other nations. It’s our ability to make democracy work in our own nation. Years after he left office, decades after he penned the Declaration, Thomas Jefferson sat down, a few hours’ drive from here, in Monticello, to write a letter to a longtime legislator, urging him to do more on education. Jefferson gave one principal reason – the one, perhaps, he found most compelling. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free,” he wrote, “it expects what never was and never will be.”

What Jefferson recognized, like the rest of that gifted generation, was that in the long run, their improbable experiment – America – wouldn’t work if its citizens were uninformed, if its citizens were apathetic, if its citizens checked out, and left democracy to those who didn’t have their best interests at heart. It could only work if each of us stayed informed and engaged; if we held our government accountable; if we fulfilled the obligations of citizenship.

But these are just words. Action must be taken and it must be taken immediately. The loss of nearly 300,000 teachers – even for a single year – would be a devastating blow to our already teetering public education.

President Obama then went on to say that there is something that we possess that cannot be taught and that is “a stubborn insistence on pursuing a dream.” If the state of our public education continues down this rocky path, millions of dreams will never even be given the chance to be realized.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said recently that we are headed towards “education catastrophe” – and still, politicians continue to sit around twiddling their thumbs. We could go on for days about corrupt bureaucracies, terrible teachers, social promotion in urban schools, and the failure of our current assessment-based educational practices. Frankly, the whole structure of the public education system needs revamped – but in order for that to happen, we need to continue to move forward. If programs and teaching positions continue to be cut, this will not be only a step, but a giant, shortsighted leap backwards.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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More changes must come on top of all of this. As PZ Myers says on his blog:

One additional requirement, besides diverting reasonable amounts of money into education: demand improvements in quality. Not this misbegotten accountability of No Child Left Behind, but shakeups in how school boards manage budgets; remove the elected officials from the business of dictating pedagogy and content, and let the qualified professionals design curricula that actually works. I listened to the video and just felt a sense of dread at the thought of the Texas Board of Education suddenly flush with new money and deciding to buy Bibles for every child, or something similarly absurd.

School districts are slashing budgets left and right across the country, firing thousands and thousands of teachers in the process, removing any trace of creativity and choice in the schools, and destroying the quality of education that students receive. This is ridiculous. This is not the answer. An article in the New York Times examined the current educational “catastrophe”:

Districts in California have given pink slips to 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 job cuts in the public schools. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that state budget cuts imperiled 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs. In an interview on Monday, he said the nation was flirting with “education catastrophe,” and urged Congress to approve additional stimulus funds to save school jobs.

The key to leading the developed world is not by flexing military might, but by continuing to produce a population that innovates, creates, solves problems, and understands – the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to put it to good use. Please, America – it is time to get our priorities straight.

You just need to read this thought-provoking essay by educational thinker Dr. Henry Giroux, a leading theorist of critical pedagogy in education. Everybody needs to read this.

There has been a long, though declining, tradition in the United States in which public school teaching was embraced as an important public service. It was assumed that teachers provided a crucial foundation for educating young people in the values, skills and knowledge that enabled them to be critical citizens capable of shaping and expanding democratic institutions. Since the 1980s, teachers have been under an unprecedented attack by those forces that view schools less as a public good than as a private right. Seldom accorded the status of intellectuals that they deserved, they remain the most important component in the learning process for students, while serving as a moral compass to gauge how seriously a society invests in its youth and in the future. Yet, teachers are being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of school governance, largely reduced to technicians or subordinated to the authority of security guards. Underlying these transformations are a number of forces eager to privatize schools, substitute vocational training for education and reduce teaching and learning to reductive modes of testing and evaluation.

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Sometimes I hate Texas. I’d consider moving there, because I like warm weather, football, and breakfast burritos, but good luck ever trying to convince me to put my children through the Texas school system. Just Google News “Texas social studies curriculum” and you should get an idea of the recent push that they are trying to make in their social studies curriculum lately. If you consider yourself progressive, you will more than likely be as sickened as I am. The reason that this is important is because Texas is one of the major textbook buyers. Since publishers don’t make separate textbooks for each state based on their political demographic, they generally make their textbooks Texas educational standards friendly, because they want Texas school systems to buy their books.

Of course, Texas is known for being full of conservative nincompoops. Check out the latest story from Dallas News:

What do the authors of the children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and a 2008 book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation have in common? Both are named Bill Martin and, for now, neither is being added to Texas schoolbooks.

In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.”

Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

Hardy admits to never having read the book titled Ethical Marxism, yet decided to ban it and all of Martin’s books anyway – despite the fact that a book on Marxism is not a book that would end up in a third grade classroom anyway and even if it did, a third grader would just throw it aside wondering where all of the pictures were.

Michael Sampson, Martin’s co-author on thirty of his books, chimed in, saying that the motion to ban the books is “a new low in terms of the group that’s supposed to represent education having such faulty research and making such a false leap without substantiating what they’re doing.”

This is the state that threatens secession every other day though and had George W. Bush as their governor for nearly six years. Which I suppose answers my question as to how people such as Hardy get in a position of power like this in the first place.

I… you know… like… it’s… umm… WTF?!?!?!?!:

After a parent complained about an elementary school student stumbling across “oral sex” in a classroom dictionary, Menifee Union School District officials decided to pull Merriam Webster’s 10th edition from all school shelves earlier this week.

School officials will review the dictionary to decide if it should be permanently banned because of the “sexually graphic” entry, said district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus. The dictionaries were initially purchased a few years ago for fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms districtwide, according to a memo to the superintendent.

“It’s just not age appropriate,” said Cadmus, adding that this is the first time a book has been removed from classrooms throughout the district. “It’s hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we’ll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature,” Cadmus said. She explained that other dictionary entries defining human anatomy would probably not be cause for alarm.

Really, I’m almost at a loss for words. One nutjob parent complains, which leads to dictionaries being pulled out of an entire school district? The English teachers must be freaking. I bet that this same parent lets their children be exposed to violent movies and video games. Sure, let them shoot up hundreds of innocent civilians in an airport alongside Russian terrorists in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II (no seriously, watch it uncut right here – I know dozens, literally dozens of fifth graders that play this game), but seeing the definition of oral sex, a normal sexual practice that they are going to learn about one way or another anyway? What an outrage! Call of Duty makes them patriots, not have oral sex!

Thankfully, there are some parents who are not completely out of their mind and are pissed about this nonsense:

“Censorship in the schools, really? Pretty soon the only dictionary in the school library will be the Bert and Ernie dictionary,” said Emanuel Chavez, the parent of second- and sixth-grade students. “If the kids are exposed to it, it’s up to the parents to explain it to them at their level.”

I’m sure that the dictionaries will be returned to their rightful place in the schools, but the fact that this ever had to happen in the first place is unbelievable. I’m not really sure what more can be said about this situation, besides that it is absolutely one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. That’s all I have to say about that.

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