There was a time in America when, if one graduated from an ordinary high school, he got a very substantial education in the process. He could read, write research papers, do fairly advanced math, and clearly communicate with others. His opportunities expanded among potential employers and, if he was able to go on to higher education, with college professors. But that era is gone.
Now, the public schools in the US, especially in the inner city, are in real trouble. My wife is a high school English Literature teacher in an urban public school. Many of her students cannot read on a fourth grade level, much less write comprehensible sentences, and constructing logical, cogent paragraphs is mostly beyond them. My wife is an extraordinary teacher and has managed to teach some of them to construct a persuasive essay, but this has been an arduous task taking months.
Yet, teachers are vilified in the media so that their strength, which lies in teaching students, has been seriously and negatively impacted by political correctness and a litigious mindset among parents and the public in general. The fix for this undesirable situation does not lie in Dewey-modeled “education reforms” of the sort proposed by the so-called experts, whose idea is to dumb down education or to advocate radically increased standardized testing to support fictitious statistics and keep their overgrown budgets.
In the pernicious interests of Political Correctness practices are imposed on teachers which strangle their initiative and motivation, but they are threatened not to have high failing rates, lest their paychecks suffer. All this as though it were the fault of the teachers that students fail. In the system where my wife teaches, it is common practice to give students a minimum average grade of 50% even if they rarely show up to class or have real grades of 15% or even 0% as in the case of one student.
Teachers are told that, if attacked physically by a student, they are NOT allowed to defend themselves, on pain of losing their jobs. Instead, are told they will receive large benefits for the abuse they tolerate. If we are to restore sanity to the classroom, we must:
- Get the big money out of education.
- Get the Federal Government out of education.
- Get rid of most of the useless and expensive bureaucracy.
- Get rid of Political Correctness and replace it with order and civility.
These changes will not be made by the existing establishment, who, like the Federal and State bureaucracies themselves, will continue to feed off the carcass of a dying system until it is nothing but bare bones. Then where will the hope of our children’s education lie?
Changes must come from a co-operative network of teachers, parents, and students, who want a future, a universal movement among teaching professionals and other parties in support of the restoration of traditional American public education along the following principles.
First, public education should be essentially not-for-profit. While private enterprise may provide textbooks, technology and other educational support, no authority, including control of content, should be exerted by any private organization, corporation or other such entity in public education.
Second, all public education must remain local. No national or state entity may control either the standards or content of material taught in the classroom. This must remain in the control of local authorities, including local school boards, PTAs and like organizations whose sole interest is in providing quality education to public school students. The power to educate is the power to indoctrinate, a power too easily abused by politicians on every level. It must be kept in the control of teachers, local administrators and parents immediately concerned with local school issues. Teachers should take an integral part in executing such authority. There must be no national curriculum, the content of which is controlled on any level by government.
Third, the public education should be Teacher-Student-Parent centered. The process of Education is a 200% relationship of teacher to student, each putting in 100% effort, dedication, and commitment. The student seeks learning; the teacher offers the tools to learn. In this regard, the teacher is the incontrovertible core of the learning relationship. Administrators must be secondary, always acting to support the Teacher-Student unit. Outside consultants, educational philosophers and those seeking grant money to write about education, especially when they have had no direct classroom experience, should be entirely excluded. Ideas are always welcome, but they must support the concept of traditional education, which has proven for centuries to be the most workable system.
This is based on the assumption that teachers are committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest principles in the delivery of educational methods and practices. We recognize that there will be situations in which a teacher may deviate from strict adherence to traditional practice, but the purpose of any and all lessons must be to educate students toward the highest levels of knowledge, ethics and morality. Students are not experiments or laboratory creatures.
Fourth, we must recognize and encourage the role of parents and taxpayers in all phases of education, providing that role does not interfere with the traditional process of educating students, but instead ensures adherence to the established guidelines. When parents fail to take an active role with their students and teachers, they should be called to account. We must reject and abhor the practice of litigating grades. Grades must be based entirely on the performance of the student as he/she follows the study plans provided to him in the classroom by the teacher.
Fifth, it must be recognized that the classroom is not a democracy. The teacher must be in authority at all times and students must be respectful of that authority. Too often, the teacher is unprotected in adversary discussions with parents and other agents. The job of the principal and other administrative staff should always be to protect the teacher from unfair treatment. Likewise, the principle or agents of the principle must also safeguard the interests of the student and to maintain fairness in dealings between teachers and students or parents.
Order must be restored to the classroom in the form of civility, common courtesy and classroom etiquette. Rules for conduct must be clearly established from the outset and students must be held to standards of behavior. Those students who do not comply with established standards should be disciplined without exception. Where applicable, school dress codes must be considered part of the rules.
We must return to teaching and imparting the basics: basic civility, core knowledge, and core facts about America, including American Exceptionalism, thus restoring traditional American values to American education.
Sixth, we must return to a vertical plan that is developed by teachers and includes realistic goals at all grade levels. These goals should include Standard English grammar and composition, basic arithmetic and mathematics, fact-based world and American history (not politically correct or interpreted versions in which facts are ignored and bias introduced to create false narratives) and factual rather than “consensus” science. This vertical plan may be universal, but not federally mandated, controlled or influenced.
Last, we must recognize that teaching is equally a calling and a profession. An effort must be made to restore respect and dignity to the profession of teaching, thus encouraging once again a desire to enter that profession which we consider so noble.