Thursday, January 3, 2008

My humble ideas to better educate American kids

As you know from my previous posts, I place education as the #4 biggest priority of the next president, after national defense, providing a decent economy, and assuring judges rule fairly.

We must note that if our nation is not secure, we have no demestic issues to worry about. If we have a poor economy, we can't afford to spend money on domestic issues. If judges are ruling unfairly, it doesn't matter what we do.

And, if we fail in educationg out children, we will also fail to lead the way to greatness into the future, something we have continued to do since the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

The road to the future is through our children. And therefore, I think it's of utmost importance that our next president focus on improving education in the country. I'm not concerned with how it got to be the way it is today, nor what persons are responsible. The task at hand now is to simply fix the problem

One poll I looked at, I think it was a recent issue of Parent magazine, revealed that about 80% of Americans believe more money needs to be thrown into education. The poll did not go into why parents think this, but I'd surmise the reason is because they believe more money would solve this problem. I believe this is not true; that money is not the issue here.

I've read these statistics in many places, but since I just finished reading "War on the Middle Class" by Lou Dobbs, I will use his statistics.

High school drop out rates have been rising steadily over the last 30 years. Today we spend nearly $8, 287 annually for each child in our public schools
  • Thirty years ago we spent nearly half that, and we were the #1 most well educated country.
  • he U.S. is currently ranked 7th on the list of best educated countries
  • Only 40% of high school seniors are qualified to take college-level algebra
  • Only 56% of all high school students take or exceed the recommended core curriculum for college bound students.
  • The bulk of education spending goes to the bureaucracy, not to the students, not to teachers, not to schools. This is where most of the money is going. It is being wasted.
  • The U.S. pays its teachers less than other countries by almost a tenth.
  • Currently, the average teacher pay starts at $29,000 and maxes at about $47,000. This is not much of an incentive for people to want to teach. Many teachers quit each year because pay is so poor.
  • Greater than 90% or dollars spent by teacher unions to lobby Washington goes to democrats, yet they have not solved the problem. Are they to blame then? Doesn't matter.
  • As a general rule of thumb, while politicians claim our schools are good, many have a tendency to send their children to private schools.
  • Teachers are not provided raises based on merit, but seniority. This provides no incentive for them to go above and beyond in educating themselves and their students.
  • Since many businesses are now hiring people from other countries for high tech jobs because they expect far lower salaries, they are taking away these jobs from Americans. Thus, Americans who have these jobs are being laid off, and the unemployment rate in this area is at 7%, higher than the national average of 4%. Since the unemployment rate is so high for these jobs, students are choosing other fields of study. This is scary, and, according to Dobbs, is especially bad for the future of our national security.

  • While people complain that George Bush hasn't allocated enough money to education, the money allocated to education has in fact doubled under GWB.

I could go on, but I think you should get the picture of how poorly our schools have become compared with other nations. This is going to hurt us in the long run because these other nations are going to be leading the charge to the best technologies and, ultimately, the most high tech weaponry will be invented and perfected by other countries.

You can imagine what this would mean to the future of the current Super power.

Because he is a journalist doing his job of reporting these facts, Dobbs, in his book, made no effort to provide theories as to how to better our education process. However, I have some ideas I think would work.

  1. Congress needs to make it illegal to take money from education lobby's. This would force Congressmen to make decisions that are good for all Americans, as opposed to the people they are receiving money from.

  2. Money allocated to schools should be sent directly to state governors, bypassing all the middle-men and bureaucrats.

  3. As many bureaucrats as possible should be fired. Why not, they have failed in their job anyway.

  4. Each state should decide how to allocate education funds in their own respective states. States that come up with good ideas will have the most well educated students, and states that have failing students will want to copy ideas of the states that work.

Ideally, that's as far as the next President has to go. It makes more sense for governors to have control of education, as opposed to some person sitting at a desk in Washington telling every school in the United States to do this and do that or "I know what's best for you."

However, what's good for some school in upstate New York may not be good for some school in a small town in Alabama. It makes more sense for someone closer to the problem, like state governors, to be making decisions of who gets what money and for what.

Besides, a little competition between the states would be great. It is true that good old capitalistic competition has made our economy the best in the world. Thus, competition would be great for what ails our educational system.

The states can make all other decisions. And, since the middle men will be gone, and since Congress can no longer take money from educational lobbyists, more money will be available for the states to give teachers raises to increase the incentive for students to choose the teaching profession.

How should the governors allocate this money? Some of them might create school voucher systems, where parents get to choose what schools to send their kids to. I really like this idea, because it would create competition between schools. Any kind of competition, I think, is good.

If schools are failing, then parents will send their kids somewhere else. The schools that are failing will have no choice but to adapt a better system, or close shop. Eventually, we would end up with the best schools, and the most well educated kids.

However, I don't think that school vouchers is something the president should force on States. I think, as is written in the 10th Amendment, that what's not in the Constitution should be left to the states, education included.

If a state wants to stay the course they are on as far as education is concerned, then that's what they should do. If they want to try something different, like vouchers, then that's what they should do.

Keep in mind that I am not an educator, nor a politician, but these are my ideas as a parent. Whatever we are doing now is failing our kids and our future. It's time our politicians, our next president, do something to the benefit of our kids instead of their own political purposes.


mindful2040 said...

I was searching the web looking for other people that were a bit surprised by what has not been talked about in any great length during this presidential election process. Themes such as taking the opportunity of globalization and a weak dollar to see if we can viably increase the potential of the good old USA to be a producer of goods. To expand this potential, rather than seeing it further diminished from American companies, only to rise up again in a different state under the direction of a foreign corporation. Isolationism is probably not the best answer, but a deliberate, informed debate on the costs and benefits of increasing our manufacturing base is certainly worth the entrance fee. Now....what does this have to do with education? In all ways as it turns out. For if some likeminded people of ability and influence could move this idea...perhaps crazy idea....forward....and other people could join the team and add even more value to the debate to the point that an actual solution may come to be. A solution that all involved felt priveleged to be a part of. Now with this type of success, some of these people would only naturally think of other areas...tangential areas...vertical areas....and someone would understand that the larger picture of what they are a party to is in making America great again. Not as in a world power great, but a great nation that created wealth in a respectable matter and moved the ability to benefit from this wealth to all corners of the country. An invisible but powerful veil of purpose would a wildfire...started by an idea and a group of people with the vision to make their country better. To return to the values of our forefathers that had the courage, the will and the values to give birth to this country. As this veil moves around the country, I would expect that leaders of various disciplines will take an interest and shepard this veil and see the benefits of this veil and take action to see that action was taken and more improvements made. Along this path, there would certainly be a group that can turn news fodder into true great principles and see up close the true challenges faced on a grand scale. A grand scale of problems, inequality and derisiveness that results in nonethingness. This group has just witnessed great things in the manufacturing center and are without compromise and without excuse. This group will get to the real issues. Will tackle them with force and pride. And will wave the flag that symbolizes the believe that THIS COUNTRY CAN NOT BE GREAT WITHOUT EVERY CHILD HAVING THE POSSIBILITY OF BETTERING THEMSELVES...Imagine a country where any family could live modestly, comfortably and happily because there were people willing to take this age old issue straight on, on a macro level with experts. Do we want to be a country of materialistic people that don't value what they have? As the greatness of the nation diminishes either through the quality of the average person's life or in the place America has in the world, the nagging, burning, itching, sensation is the knowledge in your mind's eye that there is absolutely no reason for this. Perhaps all of the clammor about IRAQ, Economy, Global Warming has open the door to what we are talking about here. Now is the time to stop the sliding and carry that flag back up the mountain and plant it at the summit and look down at the parent's with jobs that can pay the bills in their modest, but full, rich and happy lives, whose kids KNOW they have so many options in their future in a country this great. When we lose the ability to teach, get the respect of and get the full potential out of our children, we only see that flag and its pole sliding down the mountain with noone to stop it. But I see a different ending to that movie. I see the children running by the thousands to pick up that flag that they are so proud to have represent them, and carry it above their heads back to the perch on the Summit. This is the America we can have if we want it and can work together.

Allen said...

Right On - Upward Education - Upward America - Competition Works