Race To The Regular: Education In America

What defines America? What makes her great? The buildings? The landscape? The weather? Certainly all of the above contribute to the magnificence of America. But above all – the greatest singular aspect that personifies America – is her people! The people – after all – are who carved the landscape and built the buildings. America is defined by each generation’s influence, unique to the time and concrete in it’s history.
Of those generations, some thirteen to date, each have had their own struggles and faced their own challenges. So I ask the question – what prepared them to overcome and persevere? The elemental among them is experience and education that shaped them to have the conviction to overcome and step up. Both are integrated in their influence but exclusive in their application. Education can be manipulated and perverted to change an individuals world-view. Experience can be tarnished by ignorant individuals or morally voided behavior.

For example, I personally was educated to believe Global Warming was just as scientific fact as Newton’s Law of Motion. And who was I to question my teachers (5th grade +). I respected them as adults and trusted them to provide me with knowledge to become “educated”. My parents also in turn did the same. My parents are from humble roots – neither college educated. For the most part my teachings were beyond their opinionated purview. Do I blame them for my jaded education – no – I do not blame their good intentions. Education for them was more objectionable, they had no expectation otherwise. I have done the re-education myself, questioned practically everything I learned. For my own sake. The truth has bored the facts that Global Warming was built on myth and illegitimate science. The due diligence scientists are taught to expound before publishing findings was sacrificed for a social/civic objective. The science was used to provide the “facts” to justify public policy. This of course did not stop the vested individuals from calling us “climate deniers” in hopes of shutting us up. This practice is extremely dangerous to the health of any society. I am also sure the textbooks have not been corrected to reflect this. How have we been lead astray? Where did the divergence take place? You should hanker to guess – my answer would return the aftermath of government involvement.

The Federal Department of Education was formed in 1979 under esteemed President Jimmy Carter. Let us test a metric I am developing. Observe the results of government involvement in arenas of life that were not a part of the enumerate powers of the Constitution. One such area is mandates on education – taxes/fees levied to finance such affairs. The dynamics of such meddling should produce impoverished results whilst monotonically increasing costs. The Heritage Foundation highlight such contrast in a December 2011 Factsheet titled “NATIONAL EDUCATION STANDARDS: An Exit Strategy for States“. A chart illustrates the poor return on investment (ROI).

The costs from 1970 to 2006 increased 123.6% while the reading assessment scores increased 3.5% for 8th-graders and 6.2% for 4th-graders, respectfully. So Federal standards for excellence are right on par with other government controlled facets of our society. Baseline budgeting is safe for the Teacher’s Unions and school administrations because money is directly proportional to student’s intelligence – right? Depends on what you want to believe. If you question the automatic increases you want stupid kids and/or poor teachers … that is unless you understand how to make or even read a graph (that has become a lost art in-of-itself). Because the graph suggests the opposite.

I will be one of the first people to question President Bush’s No Child Left Behind policies. They fail the fundamental tests of allowing maligned accountability. You can just teach to a test to get your money – so make the tests easy enough to get good results (or have test changing parties if you are in Atlanta). Simple. A win-win, you get your money and the kids think they are smart! Obviously it is self-evident that this is an incredible failure of government trust. President Obama, of course, has his own variant of a centrally-planned policy called Common Core Standards in close association with Race to the Top Stimulus Incentives. I personally need to investigate what incentives are created and destroyed with such a mandated policy. By that I mean – you[States] are free to not participate but do not expect your Federal education check that we have taken money from your citizens to provide. The relationship of money-results trend, established above, has extrapolated since 2006 – by evidence stated by a USA Today February 2012 article. I would like to highlight the concluding article quote:

“The nation will have to look elsewhere for ways to improve its schools,” Loveless says.

Here – Loveless, Tom is a Brookings Institute researcher. TheGuardian also did an article back in December of 2010 highlighting the findings from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Below is their ranking chart.

With this study, the United States ranks 14th in Reading, 25th in Math, and 17th in Science. What have we lost? Where did our critical thinking skills go? Where is our creativity? I tie it to the cultural rot persistence throughout our society. We do not want to work the hard way. We have chosen to use our station in the world to languish at the top. To do less with our technological superiority instead of staying hungry to stay on the edge. The modern complex world in which we live suggest we should be told what and how to think. As an aggregate we are losing the number of independent thinkers and replacing them with mind-neutered robots that can only regurgitate what they were told in the exact way they were taught.

So how can we increase our education ranking and improve the drive for students to succeed in the classroom? I happen to believe free market competition would work in the education sector just as it does in the commercial sectors. Allow schools to competed for students. Give parents the ability to take the per-student costs for their child’s education and shop for the best school. This incentive would embolden the school administrations to hired good quality teachers at higher wages due to the demand for their services. Likewise, the other schools would have to follow suit and increase the quality of education at-large. Capitalism applied to education – the dynamics are just as sound. The increased quality will then reduce the cost to the parents/guardians. Perhaps the per child cost could be refunded back or taxes reduce to meet the aggregate decrease? All these things are speculation, but it would be movement in the proper direction. In the mix of public schools, I would also support Charter Schools to provide choices to parents as their economic situations improve. Statists are always about right-to-choice. You would think they would be all for making kids the smartest they can be – but they very much favor the central planned bureaucratic system. It allows blame to be spread and accountability to be lost.

The response to the lack-luster success of the American education is seen by the rapid increase of home schooling. Part of this success is the impact of widespread internet availability. Great curricula have been developed to customize the education to the child. All of these solutions are assumed to occur with responsible parents benevolently monitoring their child’s education. That obviously is not true in today’s society – for every child. Many “parents” use school as a day-care. Schools have morphed into grocery stores and pseudo-parents. The government, as such, has chosen to double-double and provide more services. This only increases the likelihood of public schools to be forced to take on more duties for the kids – for their sake. That is attempting to fix the symptom without addressing the root of the problem – poor parenting – which is systematic across our culture. You are locked into perpetually creating a better idiot – like we like to say in engineering.

The Normal Distribution of intelligence is something unchangeable in society. Some kids are smarter than others. The feel-good culture today promotes the dumb kids over the smart kids. You can only move as fast as your slowest. Is that efficient? Is that proper? Is that even smart? NO! Those who can not keep up should be held back to ensure they ultimately get it and can succeed in life – that is the goal of education. The school system today pushes kids who are not ready through and spits them out regardless if they are ready for the world – all the while telling them they are smart and special. Then the poor kid gets fired from his first job because he lacks the basic skills to work. After all, it is more expensive to the collective if you are held back and have to repeat a grade. Only a system that can challenge a student as they progress will produce a collection of emerging adults ready for life and all of its adversities. Anything less is nothing but a race to the regular, the middle, the helpless. Should we be surprised that is where we currently are situated – the middle?