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Improving Public Education

Date: 15 January, 2007

By: Chief

Imageany words by many people, myself included, have been spewed forth, printed or otherwise distributed about our alarming and piss poor public education system. The federal government created a cabinet level department — the Education Department — and Congress has enacted umpteen laws and thrown quite literally billions upon billions of our tax dollars towards the public education hog trough. All to no avail.

Not to be outdone, the several states have created education departments, commissions, boards funded numerous studies, enacted lots of laws and pumped untold billions of our tax dollars into public education. Again, to no avail.

You would think with all this government intervention and tax dollars spent our public education would be second to none. But as you, I and most citizens are aware of, our public education system — sucks. Or, flush twice, it's along way to Capitol Hill.

Looking only at our nation's literacy rate and then comparing it to other countries we have nothing to be proud of. We are tied with North Korea. And Russia has a better literacy rate than we do. For that matter so do most European countries. Our kids math and science knowledge is in even worse shape.

Bringing our public education disaster closer to home, New Mexico, my state's public education system has been in the sewer for quite some time. Indeed, according to the 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress report the only jurisdiction worse than New Mexico is — Washington, DC. Ain't that just lovely? If you so desire, you can read the story here.

Obviously enacting numerous laws at the federal and state levels has not worked. The same can be said with the amount of tax money pumped into public education. This also holds true with teacher qualifications, 'in service' training and tenure.

Okay, so how do We the People improve our public education system?

We need to get back to the basics and adhere to them.

Some ideas

Other important topics

In other words — teach kids what they need to know.

But why an educational standard for the K - 12 grades taken from 1950 through 1972 you may ask? Because it worked. Just look at Oracle, Microsoft, Sun, Unix, BSD, GNU, the Apollo lunar missions and the Boeing 747, to name a few. All the people who made those corporations happen, who created a reliable computer operating system (Unix, BSD and GNU) who put our astronauts on the Moon and built the first and still most popular and dependable jumbo jet ever built went to high school from 1950 through 1972. Brilliant minds were formed and no federal or state law such as the "No Child Left Behind Act" was in place to hinder students or impede teachers, administrators and parents. Simple and basic public education. It worked just fine then and it can work just fine now. The results speak for themselves.

Post 1972 government of all flavors started getting to involved. Costs went up, standards went down and academic achievement went to hell. There are some exceptions but they are few and far between. I can think of only three. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-creators of Google. And Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel.

If a student cannot read, write, speak and comprehend the English language, which believe it or not is our native tongue, then having said student take any other class is a wasted effort. The student who is either weak in English or doesn't speak English needs to spend each entire school day learning English and nothing else. Once the student is up to grade level for their age in English then sure, put little Johnnie, Susie, Jose, Abdul or Hop Sing into a class schedule where they can start learning what they need to know.

Furthermore, dissolve practices that hinder learning, hold school district board members feet to the fire, make them responsive to the parents and students. The same is also true of school administrators and individual teachers.

Exit exams are pointless. If a student passes his courses and semester finals then he passed. Period. States which have exit exams mean that the state in question, like New Mexico, has no idea what is going on throughout the various public school districts as there is no single working standard. To put it succinctly — disarray reins supreme.

You noticed I put in both 4H and FFA. If a student is involved in either or both, the grades received would substitute for the general science course.

We also place way too much emphasis on 'graduating with your class'. To me it is far, far more important for little Johnnie, Susie, Jose, Abdul or Hop Sing to really learn the basics than it is having an unprepared child graduate with his or her class and be unable to fill out a job application form. Which currently happens with unpleasing regularity.

What I have listed above will prepare a kid for either college or the work force.

Home school

Now New Mexico's education statute (NMSA 22-1-2 E) for home schooling provides this:

" '[H]ome school' means the operation by the parent of a school-age person of a home study program of instruction that provides a basic academic educational program, including reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science" (Bold added).

We home schooled one of our boys and he was not turned down by any college he requested admittance to.

It also appears, with grief condign, the only part of the New Mexico K - 12 education apparatus which is functioning properly is home schooling.

College is strictly for advanced technical training. No more, no less. For example all advanced math is based off of two things and two things only. First is the numeral system we use — zero through nine (the Hindu-Arabic numeral system) and secondly algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus are built from or derived from basic math — multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. To put this into perspective when was the last time you used algebra or negative numbers in your day-to-day routine? Most people don't.

Will not knowing algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus prevent a kid from attending college? No. That is what college is for. To teach kids advanced technical training for the field they so desire to enter.

But not having a very firm knowledge in English, basic math and basic science sure as shootin' will prevent a kid from enrolling in college.

Let us say for the moment that I desire a degree in electrical engineering. To be sure I will be taking classes in advanced mathematics along with certain advanced science classes. I can fully understand and appreciate that. At the same time there is absolutely no reason for me to be required to take any class that has nothing to do with my want of a degree in electrical engineering. Generic classes such as health and hygiene, basket weaving or sociology have utterly nothing whatsoever to do with electrical engineering. A "well rounded" education is a fancy phrase for keeping excess professors on the payroll — at We the People's expense. The same could be said about high school teachers as well.

Considering that Washington DC, is on the very bottom of the educational food chain in terms of academic achievement the Congress has absolutely no, as in zero business, imposing its will upon the several states. Additionally there is no express power in the Constitution to allow for such federal meddling. The several states need Congressional intervention about as much as they need a case of terminal hemorrhoids. Which is, come to think of it, about all that Congress is — a case of terminal hemorrhoids.

The most important thing is getting our hands on the education standard we desire to use. Once we have that and amend it to our particular school district the rest will more or less take care of itself. Yes we will have to watch and make whatever changes are required. Not necessarily 'nice to have' changes, but only required changes. And we should never be in a hurry to change something. Ascertain what actually needs changing because whatever it is factually does not work. This takes time, of course. However it is vitally important not to change on a whim.

Our kids future is in our hands.

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