Friday, February 24, 2012

The Decline of Public Education in America

The Decline of Education in America By Sean Taylor

The public education curriculum in America in the past was different yet in some ways better compared to today. If we look at a copy of the 1880s McGuffey Readers, most observers would be amazed at the complexity of the poetry, prose, stories, vocabulary, and great authors. "Was an 1880s fourth grade public education superior to today's?" Reading the McGuffey readers, practicing Ray's Arithmetic series, and mastering spelling and writing, (Spencerian) cursive is probably above the ability of many high-school graduates, yet most 4th graders could do it with ease in the 1880s. School in the 1880s had a very narrow focus and they would teach it to mastery. Today we are the opposite with a very wide focus and almost no mastery. The three Rs?!

Teaching every child to READ and WRITE well, as the top priority is lost in today's large classrooms with a million educational objectives and never ending additions/changes to curriculum.

I guess if you are teaching in an affluent school or have parents that are totally dedicated to the rigors of a quality education your opinion will vary greatly! If public schools have declined? I do not work at a Lake Wobegon school, so my perspective is not rosy or shiny. Many parents and students today are to blame for a lack of educational vision, academic perseverance, quality manners, honor, and or resiliency. The mind set to seek the best in them selves and their education is lost on many parents and students today. George Washington Carter taught himself to read with great determination and perseverance by using a Blue Back Speller. He made great sacrifices to achieve his goals of getting an education. Self sacrifice is not on the radar of many of my students and parents. The students that shine in my Title I classroom have great vision, resiliency, courage, honor, manners, perseverance, and it’s the parents that get credit for being the great teachers! The values they inspire in their children ensure a bright future!

Has the character of society changed that much, and is this one cause or reason why education is declining in America?

High school used to be called Latin School! They were developed to be college preparatory schools. Boston Latin School, founded in 1635 was the first public school in America. The curriculum of the school was centered in the humanities, its founders sharing with the ancient Greeks the belief that the only good things are the goods of the soul. Edmund Burke referred to America as exemplifying the "dissidence of dissent." From its beginning, Boston Latin School has taught its scholars dissent with responsibility and has persistently encouraged such dissent. Students in these Latin public schools, if they had the ability to attend, they could study Latin, Greek, German, French, Physics, Geometry, Trigonometry, and even Calculus.
Every generation has its own vocabulary but we are truncating English as we are progressing into the 21st century to the point that it Impedes success. 21st Century communication takes rigorous training and thousands of hours of on task practice! Will this generation have the endurance to meet the challenge?
"By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter.”

Teachers have the wisdom, we choose by what method's our children will learn. Shinning a LIGHT on the flaws of society and working to fix them is what great teachers do! Teachers are not sneering or judging at the decline in public education we are fighting to fix them.! We have 50% of our at-risk students dropping out of school, and it starts in first and second grade! many students lack academic skills and yes character skills that cause them to fail! The parents, teachers, and students are all responsible to teach perseverance, manners, resiliency and the mind set to seek the best in them selves and their education. If the parents and the students are not working towards that goal, the teacher will work like Sisyphus, and that serves no one. The statuesque of ignoring the problem is not working! The teachers are teaching so to blaming them is not going to work today to fix the problems!

Today the solution seems to be to warehouse kids until they drop out!

My solution is doing what they did in Finland 20 years ago; let the teachers have the power to make educational decisions. My solution is doing what they did in Finland 20 years ago; let the teachers have the power to make educational decisions.

How bad would kids be, if they left high school with just the ability to read, write and do math well! Maybe a narrower focus is the key to quality! Computers, art, music, and the subjects that enrich are important but the world demands competence.

1 comment:

  1. Political aspersions aside, education has been on the decline since government, beyond the school district level, decided they had to become involved. The educational needs of a student in farm country or cattle country are both the same and different from a student in an industrial area or a strictly urban environment. The core subjects certainly need to be stressed to all. On that there is no argument.

    Once those are mastered the student must decide on a life path and prepare for that. Should the student choose to be an educator then a broad based education is the foundation with extra emphasis upon the subject to be taught later.

    But perhaps the student wishes to work on a farm or in a factory following in the footsteps of a parent or grandparent. The core is still mandatory simply so that the student will still be educated in a way which will permit them to feel normal and function in society. Beyond that then whatever math or trade skills necessary to permit entry and success in the field chosen would be more important than say a course in The Music of Mozart or the paintings of Van Gogh. (although those thing could make the persons life more culturally rich)

    My mother constantly is critical of herself for "only graduating the 8th grade" as she puts it. I did some research and found the standard 8th grade exit exam for her time period and it is an eye opening experience. By today's standards her "simple" 8th grade education puts her about on par with someone about two years into graduate school. At 84 she routinely completes the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle without ever reaching for a dictionary or other reference materials.

    Has education in America slipped? Yes.... and if fell off a cliff after slipping too.


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