d drive or extra ram takes the same amount of electrical ability as demonstrated by those of you who put together ham radio sets when you were younger. Children and adults pursue both these endeavors. Today though it's usually one or the other. Is it fair for the ham operator to judge the computer wiz as an idiot because he doesn't display any knowledge of ham radio operation? Should the Internet freak bad mouth a person who built his own system and communicates with people half way around the world by utilizing radio frequencies instead of chat lines? An unbiased person would judge both groups as equally ambitious. Just as an unbiased person would judge America's current children's knowledge equal or better than their parents. There really is no surprise that when a school offers high tech subjects in high school usually one or more of the students contribute more subject knowledge to the class than the instructor. Not necessarily because the student is smarter than the teacher but because the student's exposure to the technical world exceeds that of the teachers.
- Let's start this section with a conflict of interest statement: TFM holds a Master of Arts Teaching (Secondary Education) and a current teaching certificate (South Carolina) and expects to one day teach high school and with any luck coach the golf team.
There exist many different attempts to explain why American students appear to perform so poorly. Most of these theories propose the schools bare responsibility and we must invoke changes to the current system. For the record the single most effective strategy for improving basic education in most school districts requires administrators to reduce the number of students each teacher must instruct. This goes beyond just limiting class size. The development of this point will wait until after an attempt to change your overall perception of the public education system.
Why do you believe our education system stinks? Believing you think it stinks is a pretty fair assumption. Most people think that way. In fact, I've spent much time conceiving methods for curing many of the purported ailments. But the mistake I made was accepting the general assessment. The underlying cause of each ailment of the public school system is the perception does not equal reality. Many differing factors combine to lower the perception. When Jay Leno goes out on the street and asks basic history questions to random people on the street, this can lead to some very funny answers. Should this be used to judge the American education system? Of course not, as a viewer you have no idea how many people they had to ask in order to get a humorous answer. The segment certainly would lose its humorous effect if you had to listen to twelve correct answers between the incredulous. Besides how composed do you think you would be if someone like Jay Leno suddenly appeared and started asking you questions on a subject you haven't thought about for years? Is it fair to construct a judgment on this type of display? Of course not, but can we help but make those judgments; not without deeply thinking about the entire set-up. But what about the studies we hear about on the news that appear to expose the same lack of basic knowledge? These studies don't have as many or as obvious flaws but they don't accurately reflect the intellectual level of our children.
Many of the studies that make the news contain questions that reflect the important information of previous generations. The truth is there is too much information available today to make any single piece of information important enough to demand every American child know that information. This generation more than any other generation will not and should not memorize the state capitals. Memorization of facts develops an important sector of the brain and needs to occur on a regular basis in order for a student to reach full potential but the subject matter memorized needs to be tailored. When you and I attended high school the syllabus could be uniform throughout much of a region. Everyone learned the stories of Ben Franklin, the names of the Presidents, the Preamble to the Constitution, the mission of Lewis and Clark, and the Battle of Little Big Horn. Everyone learned basic math, algebra, trigonometry and maybe calculus. Everyone read Robert Lewis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Faulkner, and Ernest Hemmingway. You probably took Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Today, our academic institutions must present and develop all this information. Unfortunately, if we present all this information to all the students then we won't present the lessons learned in Vietnam or the history of the Gulf War. Who will learn the computer programming languages of basic, c++, or HTML. Believe it or not some schools offer science courses on computer manufacturing techniques or environmental science. Which course will most likely prepare your child for employment? How well do you think you could present these courses if these students were required to learn physics to the same level as the students of 1976?
You can decide for yourself how to manage you child's education but think hard before you demand changes to a system based on a survey emphasizing just one set of questions. When judging a school's academic performance the judge must put aside archaic syllabi and judge only on a reasonable scale of available information. Many parents realize they don't have the practice using the language skills required to work around in the Internet yet their children breeze through complicated syntax as easily as reading English. Putting in a new
An undeserved negative perception of the educational system significantly hinders the ability of the school systems to function to their greatest ability. Unfortunately, there is little reason for any group to advertise the good job currently being achieved. Those who send their children to private schools must bad mouth the public schools in order to gain support for better funding choices to help offset the cost of private schools. Even public teachers and administrators find they get more money to "solve problems" than they would by advocating improving the system. The average American finds it easier to blame the system because they haven't made it to the big time in the United States instead of realizing how difficult it is to become better than average in any system. What proves our education system works is the average American achievements enormously surpass those of the average person of any other society.
This doesn't mean we should become satisfied with the current system and allow it to stagnate. Many of the proposals to improve schools may actually improve the schools. We should look for new and feasible ideas and implement them. But we need to be able to discuss new ideas and implement the good ones without disparaging a system that works perfectly fine for a large majority of the population.
Although we have a pretty good public system improvements can be accomplished. One of the frustrations of my supervising teacher was knowing her worst students could sell any combination and quantities of drugs and to the penny compute the cost in their heads. It wasn't that these kids were incapable but they were unmotivated to learn academic subjects and largely unsupervised in determining the important lessons of life. Realistically, we can expect some kids to become disenchanted with school but we can lower the number of disenchanted by lowering the number of children a teacher is responsible to teach.
A teacher and the schools should not be expected or even allowed to teach students moral values, but the system needs to prevent students from picking up immoral habits. This cannot be accomplished if a teacher's workload prevents the teacher from observing students and becoming familiar with the student's environment. The teacher's position, although not a baby sitter, must include monitoring and improving a student's attitude and motivation. The teacher must also keep all the students engaged in the class instruction, discussions and activities. This cannot be accomplished if districts assign teachers to many students. Teachers must be given the opportunities not only to teach in smaller classrooms as a means to directly monitor the students but as importantly they must also be given the opportunity during the school day to examine assignments and develop proper feedback. The increase in workload a modern teacher must absorb frequently results in that teacher not spending adequate time reviewing homework assignments or even test. This workload often prevents them from noticing when students fail to understand the subject matter. Overworked instructors turn to grading assignments by counting attempts at questions, peer grading, random survey or simply not grading homework at all. High school students quickly discard serious attempts at solving homework problems when an instructor relies heavily on these methods of grading assignments.
Before moving on to a pretty radical proposal for managing higher education dollars let me re-emphasize that the inappropriate negative attitude often displayed toward the education system hurts the attitude of the students and the system in a manner much greater than any of the management inefficiencies in the present day system.
Ok, lets really get into rocking your boat!
This next proposal, a system of publicly financing the entire college tuition and fees for every American will never gain public acceptance. However, this system optimizes human abilities and increases the overall intelligence level of the population. This proposal also fits into the societal scheme for improving police and military efficiency outlined in other chapters.
The importance of completing a college education as a means for an average person to increase take home pay cannot be overstated. However, the current standard of encouraging people to go to college directly after high school wastes resources and most of these people's time. Recently, it also has provided unbearably high pressure on the moral code of good American citizens often leading to choices that negatively effect the life of that student for years to come. Encouraging people to stay out of the work force served a purpose in the seventies when unemployment was high. However, the increase in money available for college served to lower standards of admissions and encouraged the colleges to try and keep more of the substandard students. This
led to lower expectations in the classroom so that now a large portion of college students spend large portions of their time partying, never taking advantage of the educational opportunities afforded to them. They often drop out of school a couple of years into the process with deep emotional scares and large financial
debts. The prospects of these individuals actually fall below others who chose not to attend college and entered the work force immediately. Those that do finish school may reap the benefit of increased wage potential but may still carry the emotional scares caused by entering an environment they don't posses the maturity in which to deal.
We should work to change our system to one that encourages children to work after graduation from high school. Once they become mature enough to appreciate the benefit of a college education then we should publicly finance the tuition and fees of all who wish go to school to earn bachelors degrees. We should develop a system that pays full tuition to a public college or university once a person reaches 22 years of age. The federal government should stop offering any kind of assistance prior to that age and encourage states to follow that lead. If a citizen wants to go to a private school, the funds available for a public education should be made available to help cover the cost of the private institution but only after the student reaches age 22.
A certain number of students may earn immediate scholarships to college based on academic placement. This should be a modest number of the top performing students. Obviously, even today some students are ready to enter college directly after high school and the society benefits from getting these people educated early. We can and should reward those high school students that demonstrate the maturity and ability to perform in high school. Of course, parents with enough money may also send their children to school directly after high school but there wouldn't be any federal assistance available until the child reached 22. The schools may offer athletic scholarships but that money must come from funds other than the federal government unless the student is 22 or older. This shouldn't be too difficult given the income some of these programs generate. Otherwise, they'll have to get participants from the general school population. This will likely elevate the level of play in most sports since the athletes will come from a more physically developed pool of players.
Since we plan to pay for all Americans to attend college you may be wondering if offering a national lottery is the next proposal. No. The next proposal will shock the establishment and worry the AARP. Currently every worker younger than 22 contributes 18% of their income to the social security system. This money could be diverted from one public support system to another. The other one in this case would consist of financing the college tuition and fees of every American. It makes more sense as a public relations matter for people to contribute to a system from which they will draw a benefit in the near future. This should help alleviate the conception by the younger generation that the social security system is a money pit. Better yet, they actually will receive multiple benefits. Not only will they get their tuition, but they will be more prepared to enter college due to their work experiences.
This system really isn't a welfare system either. It is essentially a college savings plan. And we can develop it so it becomes even more so. We will earmark the 9% employer contribution to the social security system to cover the cost of the tuition of all those that chose to take advantage of the publicly financed college education. The 9% employee contribution can be placed into an individual savings plan used to offset the living expenses of the student and the students' family during the time the student attends school. This encourages this age group to compete for higher paying jobs and rewards them for attaining them. It will also encourage proper reporting of income in tip paying occupations. Take as an example wait staff. This is an occupation that heavily employs people 17 to 22 years old. The government encourages reporting of at least some of the tip income by requiring employers to make up the difference if an employee doesn't make at least the minimum wage. Typically an employee will make considerably more than the minimum wage. This income generally goes unreported except for a few new employees and a very small percentage of super moral people. If however, the amount of living expense dispensed while the person attends college depended on the contribution of the student, that individual would work to maximize that contribution. This aspect of the program will also help reduce the practice of paying this age group "under the table". This will help honest businessmen compete against those with fewer scruples. When we get a complete system where honest tax paying citizens are not driven out of business by those willing to cheat the system, we can lower the taxes on the rest of the honest tax paying citizens.
This system provides many benefits to both the individual and to society. The individual gains experience from working for a living. The experience may create a desire to succeed in the college environment just to increase income potential or maybe to advance out of manual labor. The work experience may provide a foundation of knowledge, which the student latter can use to understand the principles of the course of study. For instance a student of civil engineering will more fully understand the concepts if they spend a couple of years working on a road repair crew. Society improves because individuals motivated to learn the subject material offered in college will produce far better products once they re-enter the work force. Society also benefits if we can prevent the loss of individual motivation and productivity caused by the submission of otherwise good students to the peer pressure of the losers in the collegiate environment.
More and more states now offer funding of college education as an extension of the public school system. This trend will spread to many more states in the coming years. We can and should optimize the money spent on this training by not offering this benefit until the individual matures enough to handle the responsibility.