Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Dumbing-Down of America

The Endless Loop of Public Education: "Is Our Children Learning?"
The Endless Loop of Public Education: "Is Our Children Learning?"
The Endless Loop of Public Education: "Is Our Children Learning?"
The Endless Loop of Public Education: "Is Our Children Learning?"
The Endless Loop of Public Education: "Is Our Children Learning?"

What we don't want vs. what we need

In the U.S. our children remain on the back-burners for improving learning outcomes and developing successful lives. Most states remain "stuck" in their respective approaches to public education, much as the spinning wheels of a vehicle caught without any traction in 2 feet of mud after a rain storm.

Politics all too often corrupts public education. It has happened in many states.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry recently appointed Cynthia Dunbar to head the State Board of Education (SBOE). Ms. Dunbar is not exactly known for her for her intelligent and open-minded approach to educating Texas children. A significant point: she is one of "those" focused on wanting public schools to teach the Bible and NOT to teach evolution. Enough said.

If that is insufficient to "curl your toes", Texas State Education Commissioner Robert Scott has decided that all high school students will take more electives and fewer required courses under a bill that lawmakers recently approved in May. Fortunately, the required courses he refers to are computer technology, health and physical education; we are NOT speaking about required math or science.

Students will no longer be required to take two semesters of computer technology and a semester of health education, while the physical education requirement has been reduced from three semesters to two. Instead, students will consider taking 6 credits of electives. Supposedly, the reason for this is to enable students to select topics that will aid them in develop skills for entering college. Will it work? Who knows.

The ongoing changes in public education occur not only in Texas, but virtually in every state in the nation. What truly is amazing is that every few years schools are forced via legislative agendas to adapt to another "enlightened" approach to teaching education.

Generally, these changes don't amount "to a hill of beans" and it is the educational core requirements that children need to aid their learning outcomes. Too many children still don't learn the basics well. Many do not read at an appropriate level, know how to spell or how to perform simple mathematics. Many don't know basic living skills either, e.g., how to keep a check book and pay bills, or how to write a simple letter or a job resume. All too often our children do not have significant communication and personal skills.

What we need to do is to teach our children the basics of how to succeed in life and in business. Reading, writing and arithmetic still are the key to learning and teaching our children to enjoy learning is not a priority. So, are we really helping our children to improve their learning outcomes? Not really.

Here in Texas, as in other states, we continue to teach our children to pass certain exams (TAKS) as a guide to and validation of their success. Other states have their own test criteria. Is it working? Hardly. There is a lot of pressure placed on our children, without increasing their learning outcomes.

Most public education programs provide scattered curriculum and inappropriate teaching methods that on the time-line of pedagogical and learning skills remain on par with the enlightenment level of the Spanish Inquisition. Most children are not well-prepared for college, business or life; consequently, most of them fall through the cracks of the imagined success mold.

Mark Twain is credited with stating, "I never let my schooling interfere with my education." How many American children are able to say the same?

How long will it take for lawmakers, educators, and parents to recognize that to improve learning outcomes we must reduce class sizes, promote a love of learning, and teach children that learning is the key to being successful in education, business and life? Otherwise, we merely are passing along our children through the public education system much as in the manufacturing sector where various products move through an assembly line. Mark Twain might have stated that "Products don't get to think much going through the assembly line."

So, if we want to help our children become successful in education, business and life we must provide several basics:

•Encourage children to love learning about all topics
•Teach more of the basics --- reading, writing, mathematics
•Develop communication, business and life training skills
•Reduce class sizes to promote real learning
•While it's nice to provide more electives as options, they are not needed to improve learning skills
•Make classes more interesting by using various methods of learning, e.g., visuals, audio, kinesthetic applications
•Eliminate state exams or don't make them the major measure of success
•Reduce competition among children while promoting group inclusion and real learning
•Evaluate children in a more holistic manner that includes long-term teacher assessment, tests, various learning skills, overall learning outcomes
•Trim the cost of providing public education so that it is more affordable to taxpayers.

In conclusion, it is unfortunate that on the learning evolutionary time-line public educations has remained in the Dark Ages. It is time we reach the Age of Educational Enlightenment by promoting an ongoing love of learning, strengthening the basic core of learning (reading, writing, mathematics), reducing over-sized classes and providing curriculum and teaching methods that will improve overall educational skills and learning outcomes of all children.

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