Education in America

Photo: woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia Commons Children paying rapt attention in an early education setting. Over the coming years, many of them will lose interest, fall behind, or otherwise find that America’s educational system has let them down. It’s a complex problem with no clear solution.

Photo: woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia Commons
Children paying rapt attention in an early education setting. Over the coming years, many of them will lose interest, fall behind, or otherwise find that America’s educational system has let them down. It’s a complex problem with no clear solution.

David Moe
Sun City, Calif.

First, the parents. The last two years prior to my retirement, I drove a school bus, and I became aware of the importance parents play in the educational process. For example, I had one boy who would put his coat over his head and fell asleep as soon as he sat down in his seat. I asked him, “Did you have a good night sleep?” He said, “No, I was up until 3:00 a.m.” So I asked, “What were you doing until 3:00 a.m.?” and he answered, “Watching Sponge Bob.” On a school night? He was tired, and had had no breakfast; how could anyone expect him to pay attention and learn?

Next, the school board. Most school board members are college graduates and naturally they want all children to go to college, so the curriculum is geared to college-bound students. The truth is that only about 20% of high school graduates go to college and only about 10% graduate. So what happens to the other 80%? Administrators want to keep them in school because they get state funding for each student, so they create classes for them to keep them in school, by showing them films and trying to keep them awake, called “Special Ed” classes.

Many people expect teachers to perform miracles and make all of these students college bound, so the government creates standards for them. Naturally, tenured teachers want the college-bound students, because they will have the best test scores, so the new teachers get the other 80%. These new teachers have two choices: stick it out until they get tenure, or quit and go into another field to make more money. Sadly, many of them choose the second.

Some parents have given up on public education, so they choose to “homeschool” their children. My daughter made that choice when her children were small, but having been a public school teacher, I thought it was a mistake at the time, because I was concerned about any college accepting “homeschooled” children. She homeschooled her two children from kindergarten through high school and the result has been that both of them have graduated from college with honors, so I was wrong. However, I have also seen cases where parents use their eldest child to “homeschool” their younger children, so they can both work and also claim their children are being educated.

The solutions are not easy, but I do think more needs to be done for the 80%. Their talents are needed to build homes, schools, highways, bridges, pipelines, etc. Most of these students are intelligent in more practical ways, just not interested in theory and taking tests. All parents know their children are intelligent, but we must recognize that there are different kinds of intelligence and we do not all have the same gifts, thank God. Think what the world would be if all of us were doctors and lawyers!

I think of the Bible verse, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.”

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 28, 2014, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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