Well, the 2016 campaign, at least on the Republican side, is officially on. Many of the people who think they would make an excellent President went to Iowa last weekend for Rep. Steve King and Citizens United “Freedom Summit.” This is the Tea Party’s dog-and-pony show for the most Conservative Candidates. But the party was very limited in scope since Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Bobby Jindal, et al were not present. As a matter of fact, King called the non-attendees “second stringers.”
One thing that all of the candidates railed against was Common Core. Yes, they all went on about the “exceptionalism” of America, but they all seem to think that education is not part of that “exceptionalism.” They are wrong. Among the candidates were people like Scott Walker who is trying to kill unions in Wisconsin, especially the teacher’s unions. Then there was Chris Christie who gutted $1 Billion from New Jersey’s education budget and laid-off thousands of teachers.
I believe there is an extreme weakness in the American Education Process. It is what the right calls “local control” of our schools. There was a time when I can see that “local control” of the schools was important. But, as times have changed, local control of schools has actually hurt education more than it has helped. In fact it my opinion that “local control” is killing education in America.
When America was young, people did not travel around much. It was an agrarian society. People went to school for fundamentals, but were expected to work the fields after they graduated. As we moved into the twentieth century and urban centers more evolved, manufacturing became another place where people were expected to work. As a result, global economics and even intra-state commerce were never considered in educating children.
Back in the 50s and 60s when I attended school, most people who graduated either went into the fields, factories, fishing boats, or other such occupations. Yet, most children in those days could point to a map and tell you where Portugal was on it. We all learned about reading, writing, and arithmetic, but we also learned about science, geography and history. Everyone received an education that would make them eligible for college if that was their choice.
Many high schools also offered career oriented classes like shop. If you were disinclined to attend college, you could learn a trade that would pay you a living wage. Whether people want to believe it or not, there were national standards that had to be mastered.
With today’s global economy, it is not proper to let local communities determine the curricula for the schools anymore. There are still areas in the country where people who graduate from school are still expected to work the fields, factory, or fishing boats, etc. They have no concern about the global economy their children will be expected to live and survive in.
“American Exceptionalism” as the right likes to talk about is based on the ability of our citizens to be more productive and, basically, smarter than our competition. Innovation, research, invention are all items necessary to continue to outpace the competition in the world. With “local control” of our elementary and high school education, we are losing those competitive advantages.
The primary purpose of education is to prepare our children for the real world. We must educate them in things like literature, science, math, history, and even geography. Without these skills, they are at a disadvantage in the real world. Besides, without these skills, they will never be able to critically think. Critical thinking is what fosters innovation, research and invention.
It is time we stop the stupidity of “local control” of our education. It is time that real standards be set so every student, wherever they live, get the same education as everyone else. Common Core is not a federal government standard. It is something that was put together by states. Many states have adopted Common Core. Many are fighting it tooth and nail.
The real reason this fight is going on is because of the “local control” aspect. Local communities still believe they know what is best for their children. But, they use education as a political football instead of something that is necessary. They use “local control” to change science classes so things like evolution are not taught, but creationism is. They go further to not teach climate change is real and that it is man-made even though all of the evidence proves them wrong.
But, if you live in an area that relies on coal mining, that is not something that you want your children to learn. After they graduate, most are expected to work in the mines. So, you have to teach that there is nothing wrong with coal. Economically, it is a sound point since the whole economy of the region relies on the mines. Educationally, it hampers those who decide to go on to college where they will be competing against students who were not hampered in science classes because of ideology.
Of course the biggest argument against Common Core is that the “feds” are running education. That is always a fear for anyone who really doesn’t like the idea of a federal government. But, as I mentioned above, Common Core is NOT run by the federal government, nor was it created by the federal government.
The paranoia the right-wing has created in this country is killing the very thing they like to crow about, “American Exceptionalism.” You don’t have to look far to see I am right. America used to lead the world in educating our children. It has slipped to about 26th in the world. If we don’t stop the attack on education by the right, we can see that standing slip even further.
Teachers are not the problem. Teacher unions are not the problem. Children are not the problem. The real problem is “local control” of elementary and high school education. Look at reality. How many people on your local school board that determines the curriculum for your child’s education even have a college degree? I believe that you will be amazed how many school board members never went to college.
Whether we keep Common Core, which I believe we should, or go with another version that is even more strict about standards, something must be done to remove “local control” from our education system. If not, the only thing that will be “exceptional” about America is that we will be an industrialized nation with a third world education of our children.
Unfortunately, the attack on our education system by the right makes me think that is their true definition of “American Exeptionalism.” As usual with their agenda, our country and our children are the true losers.
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