Our constitutional republic is experiencing turmoil at a level many of us have never experienced in our lifetimes. The news reports about riots, destruction of personal property, random killing of innocent people, and disrespect for law and order. The lack of leadership in many cities and states is mindboggling!
From my perspective the lack of civility, respect, and understanding leads directly to our education system. For decades the system has moved in a direction that promotes radical ideas, disrespect for authority, and a lack of understanding related to the founding of our republic. Books used in classrooms have relevant information in them, but teachers and administrators have taken the classroom and turned it into a petri dish. Along with the support of legislators, students now learn to take a test versus comprehending facts, relevant life skills, and what I refer to as basic manners.
Those who have willfully participated in radically changing education outcomes have mastered the ability of eating the elephant. Taking one bit at a time is the process and they have been methodical and intentional in their efforts. However, the facts don’t support positive outcomes. Since testing is the primary criteria defining success in K-12 education, let’s look at some data.
The U.S. Department of Education provides The Nation’s Report Card for eleven subject areas, though not all subjects are currently assessed. Using National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data, national average percentages are reported at the proficient level. This means “students should consistently apply integrated procedural knowledge and conceptual understanding to problem solving.” Given this definition, the following are the most current NAEP assessment data for 4th, 8th and 12th grades.
Public School Students “at or above the proficient level”
As students progressed from the 4th to 12th grade, scores decreased in four of the five subject areas. None of the scores reported in the 4th grade are encouraging. However, what is most disturbing is the decline in U.S. History, which in the 4th grade began with abysmally low proficiency scores.
Another data source is “Charter Schools and Their Enemies” by Thomas Sowell. Like Dr. Sowell, I believe charters schools serve a segment of the student population with great success. This book provides comparative test data for two subjects between traditional public schools and co-located charter school networks in the state of New York. The scores reveal that charter school students out perform traditional public school students by over 95% on Mathematics and English Language Arts. In addition, charters are welcome in many communities, fall within the public education system, and strong, effective leadership affords children the ability to succeed regardless of economic status or ethnicity.
The proposed effort under the current administration is the creation of the 1776 Commission to reinstate patriotism in schools. Based on the NAEP scores for Civics and U.S. History, I believe this is a step in the right direction. This effort is meant to ensure students learn the facts of our country’s history, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was with great risk that our founding fathers left us a legacy, though imperfect, that has worked for “We the People” for over 240 years. The least we can do is honor them by educating future generations of the importance of keeping our constitution, republic, rights, and freedoms. Every year there are people from foreign lands who clamor to arrive on the shores of this great nation. We are unique in structure, our laws, and civil liberties.
Unfortunately, the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is rarely considered. This is no surprise since God has been kicked out of the classroom. Even with the January 2020 announcement for new guidance on prayer in school by the Trump administration, as a former school board member, I guarantee schools will provide new policy, but will continue to operate as usual.
Our quality of life is driven by the decisions we make. It’s imperative for education to impart lessons that improve student awareness regarding decision-making, because their decisions will impact others. Society has evolved and promotes an attitude of “if it feels good, do it” or “it’s all about me” and has discounted and infringed upon many rights. A major unforeseen factor is that few ever contemplate the unintended consequences. My experiences have led me to conclude that decisions tend to be reactionary due to circumstances, rather then based on a plan.
We didn’t get to this point overnight; it took decades. Reforming education will not be easy, but changes must be made and must be intentional. We need leaders to stand up to those who want to retain the status quo; retain their perceived power and control. Leaders that will support efforts to ensure our populous are delivered the elusive guarantee in state constitutions, which is the right to a quality education. Legislators must support education opportunities that allow individuals to develop their talents. Create that environment to ensures people are given the opportunity to think about issues, debate the pros and cons, as well as allow them to decide what is best for them.
An action taken to remove statues and rename monuments and buildings is a recent bite that’s been taken out of the elephant. Some may say this has been going on for decades, but not to the extent we see today. There will always be shifts in perspectives regarding the history of our republic. However, trying to erase our history only allows future generations to be ignorant of our greatness and repeat the less desirable aspects of humanity.
Bottom line: parents, families, and state legislators must take action to ensure centers of learning will provide an environment that allows children to learn what they need to succeed. We must stop the chaos we are currently experiencing. If we expect to make positive change in our culture, environment, and minds – we must focus on the education system.