This I Believe

John - Piqua, Ohio
Entered on August 3, 2007

The educational system in America is an absolute mess. So many college bound teens leave high school with an educational deficit that the fastest growing instructor need at America’s institutions for higher learning is lower teaching. Kids are so pitifully unprepared that freshman English is required in all majors, just to make sure that students are able to read and write before they get into classes that teach them anything else. The result is the need for five to seven years of college to complete a bachelor’s degree, a four-year degree. Colleges are in the business of higher education but they are still in business. The purpose of business is to make money; so spending seven years worth of tuition on a four-year degree is great for business. If we are to address the problem of educational deficits in America, we dare not look to colleges.

Another place that we cannot seek to remedy educational shortcomings is in the family. If I were to suggest that part of a parent’s responsibility is educating a child, I would be making an insensitive statement at best and at worst I would be the reason that people are not succeeding. How can anyone achieve success if I stand in the way by suggesting that success starts at home? Parents do not need to bother with educating their children that is what school is for. If your child is not performing well in school it is everyone else’s fault. No, we cannot look to an individual for having a hand in his own misfortune because nothing in this country is an individual’s fault. If you do not believe me just look at the most lucrative business in America, tort lawyering. There is no business in America, not even that place with “always the low price,” that brings in the yearly revenue as those champions of the little man.

Smokers are not responsible for choosing to smoke; fat people are not responsible for choosing to over eat and parents are surely not responsible for their children’s education. How could lawyers get rich if people were responsible for their own actions?

I must focus. Today is the day for skewering a ridiculous program. I must save my qualms with the legal profession for a day when I have the time to write chapters rather than pages.

A problem with “No child left behind” is knowing ones place in the grand scheme of things. Who is better than the national government to create policy to fix problems on the district level? Certainly teachers, principals, school administrators, superintendents, and anyone else in a school district that could possibly know anything about the unique needs of the students in that district are not the ones to whom we should turn for input into what needs to be done to fix the problem. After all, what do teachers know about teaching? If they had any marketable skills, they would not have to teach for a living. No, we definitely need politicians to tell schools how to teach and what to teach. After all, we all know that politicians and the government in general are the most efficient and effective creators of policy and that a policy made on the national level could not possibly have an exception in a single school district in the entire United States.

Advocates of “No child left behind” are pushing a policy to get themselves elected. The idea of all American student reading and performing math at grade level within ten years sounds wonderful. Ideas that sound wonderful are the things that get politicians elected. It is not possible to have all people reading at grade level but it sounds wonderful. It could easily be said that my acknowledging that it is not possible is proof that I an abandoning the very students that need me most. Anyone with any sense at all knows that admitting realistic limitations is a long way from giving up. Setting realistic limits is in fact necessary to teach anyone anything. There is no way that everyone in America will ever perform at exactly the same level of proficiency no matter how “standardized” tests purport to be.

Our Declaration of Independence reads, “All men are created equal,” but this does not mean everyone is truly created with equal faculties to read, write, learn, and create it simply means that all Americans have equal access to all freedoms and benefits of our nation. Equal access does not and cannot mean equal results from that access. Teachers teach. The good ones teach to each child’s strength while strengthening each child’s weaknesses. Oh yes, there are bad teachers. I had a few when I was in school and I have worked with a few. In my experience poor teachers have been a super minority. The problem of having a few bad teachers should not be the reason why schools are not allowed to set their own education plans.

The national government is an extremely important aspect of America. It has absolutely no business micromanaging education. “No child left behind” will fail. Great teachers will tire of nonsensical regulations and the educational field will lose them. Children that pass through school during this policy will be drilled with the limited scope of knowledge needed to pass proficiency tests and they will miss out on a full, well rounded education. Ten years from now all students will not read and perform math problems at grade level; however, ten years will put even the most fortunate of executive politicians safely out of office and, therefore, unaccountable for the failed policy. Oh, those crafty politicians.