Monday, August 25, 2008

Back to School

From Kindergarten to Doctoral Programs and Beyond, American Education Is In BIG Trouble

Right Minded Fellow will have lots to say about the current affairs in education from Kindergarten to post-graduate. On all levels, the American education experience is in trouble. The kinds of difficulties, their causes, and their solutions are quite diverse not necessarily having any common themes. However, two things are obvious: parents are not presented with the kinds of choices they deserve in determining their children's' future. Schools are failing miserably on all levels to provide appropriate instruction that will result in well-educated students who've been nurtured in a caring, moral environment early on and then are presented with the kinds of challenging alternatives to develop the knowledge, thinking skills, and values to be prepared for a rewarding well-rounded future. Meanwhile, for many families the cost of a college education is the single most expensive investment they will face. A student could require a thirty year loan that if the student is paying the loan could be saddled with that debt when into the college years of his or her own children.

These are just some things that come to mind this evening:

1. The failure of the public education and lack of alternatives for parents who are dissatisfied with what their local schools provide.

2. The failure to deal with exceptional children appropriately whether a child is exceptionally gifted and talented, has some alternative learning style, or exhibits some noticeable "at risk" qualities, the assembly line nature of public education is failing these deserving kids miserably.

3. Science, technology, math and engineering are all fields that need serious attention. All students need to have necessary computational skills, understand scientific issues as it affects their day to day lives, and be competent in utilizing the technology of the future which is becoming more a part of day-to-day life. As a matter of National Security, the United States must maintain its leadership in all facets of these domains whether it's maintaining our lead in weapons technology to defend us from hostile elements around the world, being on the cutting edge in introducing life-saving medical technologies, or being the chief innovator in product development. Additionally, science needs to defend its turf while being respectful and accommodating to faith-based beliefs without compromising scientific methodology.

4. The Teachers Unions are one of the most powerful enemies of meaningful educational reform. It's fascinating to see how they whine, whine, whine about teachers not being paid enough money while urging its members not to shop at Wal-Mart. HELLO!?!?!?

5. The high dropout rate and unsuccessful achievement scores of African-American students cannot be tolerated. Whether its the dreadful chaotic mess found in many urban school systems where any kind of meaningful instruction is close to impossible to the "polite" racism of, "Oh he's doing pretty well for a black kid," millions of deserving kids are being failed by a system that is making them failures. More young black men are involved on the wrong end of the criminal justice system than attending college. We cannot tolerate that.

6. Home schooling, private and parochial schools, charter school programs, privatization, and new technologies all need far more attention to replace and enhance the public school of the second half of the 20th century.

7. College education is not synonymous with vocational training. While the job market needs far better options for preparing students about the join the work force and retool workers who need new skills and perspectives later on, the intellectual and spiritual benefits of post-secondary education must not be compromised by more utilitarian concerns. While it would be outrageous if accounting or nursing students, as two examples, were not totally prepared to master professional examinations in their field, this approach is not appropriate for most liberal arts and other more creative or spiritual domains. The notion of some kind of national scholastic test for philosophy, the fine arts, divinity, or classic literature would be beneficial is totally absurd. These kinds of programs are vital to help the developing mind learn critical thinking abilities, to work outside the box, and to appreciate the moral and ethical consequences of where the world is heading today. Just recently, the Bush administration's attempt to make the accreditation process more vocationally oriented including the possibility of imposing standard exams for liberal arts programs drove out a brilliant assistant secretary for post-secondary who seemed to really "get it" on the whole big picture of where the post-secondary world is headed. All aspects of educational endeavors after high school need much work. Community colleges are a tremendous resource able to respond quickly to the needs of their localities and economies. On-line universities are prospering. The traditional four year university and its graduate programs are failing in so many ways. First, the escalating cost must be reigned in. Second, the political climate where extreme left wing dogma is censoring the free flow of diverse ideas has become overwhelming in many academic communities. These schools need to be the world's leaders in Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering. They're starting to lose their grip.

8. Education on all levels should be fun! The educational experience should enrich the individual, develop meaningful relationships, and create the kind of appreciation for the gifts of freedom and knowledge that as citizens of the United States, we are so lucky to be able to pursue.

9. Locally, it is unacceptable that Baltimore COUNTY Public Schools have a school board consisting of political appointments chosen by the Governor of the STATE of Maryland. Baltimore County schools provide a classic case study of the decline from excellence in the third quarter of the 20th century to pure mediocrity as the new millennium gets under way.
These are just a few of many themes and concerns, we look forward to discussing in the weeks ahead. From the political to the philosophical to the practical, the discussion is wide open. Let no stone be unturned. Every person from preschooler to retirees are involved.

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