American education is fast becoming the wasteland of human potential. Everyone is concerned about elementary and high school academic standards. Across the country, states are revising academic standards and are trying to revive a dying, inept, American education system.
Clearly, there are a number of institutional issues that need to be addressed. Declining scores on standardized tests, declining SAT scores, tenure, antiquated curriculums, social promotion, poor learning environments, drugs, alcohol and violence to name a few variables.
However, probably the most important variation in the success of American education is the parental piece. How many parents are really committed to their child's educational growth and development? How many parents who are already heavily burdened will make his or her child's educational success a priority?
American education has been declining for as long as the American family has been declining. Unfortunately, both major social institutions are on the brink of total failure. We seem to be setting up the American student for disaster.
In most other highly industrialized nations, education is a leading priority. Students are motivated to excel and reach certain academic standards without compromise. The schools prepare them to reach their potential. Their parents have a refreshingly positive relationship with their children's schools. Parents and teachers work collaboratively on behalf of their children.
In our country, many of our schools have become war zones. Teachers and administrators are oftentimes held hostage. Parents are at cross-purposes with administrators and are spending too much time rescuing their children for inappropriate behavior. A growing number of parents are reduced to lying and covering for their children who are out of control.
American schools need to reclaim their identity. They need to be safe, wholesome places for children of all ages to grow and become all they want to be. Every public school must create a learning environment that is safe, technologically well equipped and competently staffed so that every child has a chance at a comprehensive academic education. Every child should be empowered on his or her career path with the tools to succeed and find happiness.
Recently, I had a conversation with my sociology class on American education. These thirty college coeds had a lot to say. They ranged in age and background. They openly admitted that when they were in high school for the most part they were not highly motivated to study and to learn. I raised the question why?
Some of their comments were startling, especially students educated along the "Gold Coast." The consistent response was that "high school was not intellectually stimulating." They were bored and frustrated with an approach to education that they felt was shallow and inadequate.
They also spoke about how many high schools were graduating functional illiterates. It troubled some students that fellow classmates cut sixty percent of their classes as seniors (classes required for graduation) and brokered a deal with the teacher or assistant principal to get undeserved credit and still graduate on time.
Others spoke of educational incompetence and the lack of accountability in schools in every arena. Examples of teachers' incompetence and lack of respect for students was raised and how most schools had no protocol to confront those concerns.
Still, in fairness other students talked about certain teachers who turned their lives around and/or saved them from total human destruction.
Our schools possess such untapped potential and possibility. We all know teachers and administrators who have literally transformed thousands of lives over the span of their careers. How wonderful for those students who were fortunate to find their way into those classes and schools.
However, what about those growing number of students who want to drop out and do? What about those who see school and learning as a colossal waste of time? We have not motivated them to critically think or helped to empower their growth and development.
Instead we have stifled and destroyed countless students potentials and possibilities. We need to transform the educational landscape. We must reclaim our schools and reposition them within the heart of every community. Our financial resources must reflect not only this repositioning, but also staffing and teacher competence and experience.
Our students need to be challenged on every grade level and in every discipline to become all that they can be. We need to hold them to a new standard of intellectual competence that will not be compromised. When students graduate from an American public high school, they should be able to read, write, communicate and critically think on a senior high school level. For their sake and survival, we must not water down that expectation.
Parents, teachers and administrators have to find new ways to collaborate and support each other in this vital enterprise we call education. We must eliminate all traces of racism, classism, intolerance and prejudice. We must fertilize the environment with respect, tolerance, truth, integrity and honesty. Every student, no matter what his or her background, should be treated equally.
Quality American education (which should exist in every public school) must be our bridge to tomorrow where every willing student will possess the tools for success, fulfillment and happiness.