Amazing Race

America’s public education system has been completely gutted.  As it stands, it is but a shell of what it used to be.  The social ramifications that will derive from this will be far reaching; because you can’t cut programs, eliminate staff, increase class sizes and expect to cultivate a bunch of geniuses.

Speaking of geniuses… President Bush was the brainchild behind the “No Child Left Behind Act,” but guess what?  No child got ahead!  President Obama was the driving force behind “Race to the Top,” but guess what?  It’s a slippery slope!

Exactly what is “Race to the Top?”  It’s a fund consisting of 4.35 billion in federal stimulus money.  It requires that states enact education reform in order to compete for grant money.  In essence, “Race to the Top” is nothing but a strong-arm tactic designed to: weaken teachers’ unions.  Implement pension reform.  Eliminate teacher-tenure. Do away with the seniority process.  And, lastly, to get states to raise the maximum number of charter schools.  Why?  Because those teachers are mostly non-union.  In critiquing President Obama’s education policy, it becomes crystal clear that “Race to the Top” is more like “Roll to the Bottom.”

Let’s take a gander at America’s report card.  Based on National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, 68% of 8th-graders scored below proficient in math, and 69% scored below proficient in reading.  Further, out of 30 developed countries, U.S. students ranked 21st in science literacy, and 25th in math literacy.  Also, according to the 2010 Legatum Prosperity Index, when comparing higher education enrollment, the U.S. ranked sixth, following behind South Korea, Finland, and Greece. What’s even more alarming, is that in cities like Oakland, California, the high school drop out rate is higher than 40%.  I’m no rocket scientist, but it seems that America is not only suffering a financial meltdown, but an academic one as well.

With no foreseeable “change” in the forecast, people have begun labeling this generation the “lost generation.”  The possibility of them racing to the top is next to nil.  They face so many uphill battles in life that many of them have completely “checked out.” when it comes to academics.  Part of the problem is that they have too many distractions.  Ttoday’s students are dealing with everything from family issues, to peer pressure, gangs, and bullying.  Another thing affecting their school performance is that they are totally preoccupied with technology.

Technology is both friend and foe.  Here’s the skinny on how it can become a distraction.  Tech companies produce every type of gizmo that you can imagine.  Consumers respond like giddy little kids in a candy store.  They relish their new purchases.  The young and the old alike; they tweet, text, chat, and play video games ad nauseam.  If they’re not “sexting,” they’re busy surfing the World Wide Web.  It must be addictive because they browse the Internet like junkies looking for a fix.  They post up on Facebook as if the real world doesn’t exist.  This is the life they lead, and it is counterproductive to the process of learning.

The American psyche appears to be in a choke hold, and educators seem to be at their wit’s end about it.  Many of them have witnessed generation after generation become less reachable, and less teachable.  Who, or what, could be causing this academic deviation?  Community leaders tend to point their fingers at the folks up in Washington.  Politicians, on the other hand, are adamant that this academic deviation is the result of pop culture and poor parenting.  Clearly, someone has dropped the ball when it comes to educating the youth.

The jury is in on this matter, and the verdict is just: He who defunded public education, is he who haveth blood upon his hands!  That said, politicians are culpable for the following three things: Hundreds of schools have closed.  Thousands of teachers have been laid off.  And, college tuition has gone through the roof!  These three things represent the hidden cost associated with the decision to defund public education.

Ironically, with the 2012 presidential election less than a year away, these very politicians will be standing on their corporate-sponsored soap boxes; preaching about jobs, family values, and the importance of a quality education.  Those who are not hip to this empty rhetoric will once again be duped into believing that there’s a “race to educate.”  When in actuality, there’s only a “race to incarcerate!”

Note to parent(s): You cannot rely on the government, you can only rely on yourselves!  If you don’t want your children to end up in the clutches of the system, it’s imperative that you provide them every opportunity to learn, grow, and spread their wings.  As a parent, know that you’re the most important teacher that your child will ever come in contact with.  Also, know that the best education policy that a child can ever benefit from is the one that begins at home.  Therefore, get involved: Keep them laced up.  Keep them on the right track.  Teach them how to stay ahead of the curve.  After all, we cannot expect them to “race to the top” if we have not prepared them to go the distance!

(c) Tim Young

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