“Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of society and weaken our nation.” Nelson Mandela
Parents naturally want the best for their children. They want them to acquire skills and values that enable them to become respected and contributing members of society. They also want them to be able to utilize their unique talents and desires to make a good living.
In the years following World War II, America’s education system enjoyed the almost unanimous confidence of the American people. Today, there is almost universal dissatisfaction with America’s education system in spite of enormous investments.
The modern world is extremely complex, and we need an effective and efficient education system that identifies and develops the unique abilities of each student. What grade would the American education system receive today for quality, effectiveness and efficiency?
Effectiveness – assesses how well the skills of America’s graduates are aligned with the needs of employers and how prepared they are to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
Efficiency – determines the quality (educational excellence) of America’s education system in relationship to the effort and money allocated.
In order to evaluate the quality, effectiveness and efficiency, we will assess and grade a number of factors that affect it. These factors include:
- Guiding Principles – Does the education system have documented principles? What is its purpose and how does it align with parental values? What is in-scope and out-of-scope?
- Consensus of purpose – Do the people who work in the system understand that system’s role, mission, objectives, values and standards? Who determines what these are?
- Accountability – Are the people working in the system motivated, dedicated and held accountable for our students’ successes or failures? How are they influenced? Do teachers’ unions have a constructive or disruptive role?
- Curriculum and Content –Are the curriculum and content aligned with America’s core values and the guiding principles of our education system? Who has the authority to change content?
- Accessibility and Equality – The mission of the Department of Education includes equal access. What is the definition of equal access, and is that confused with uniformity?
- Support – How committed are the American people to supporting our education system?
- Hierarchy / Organization – America’s Education System is highly decentralized. Is this effective or should it be more centralized? Are there forces working to centralize our decentralized system?
The diagram below illustrates the American Education System. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) is at the top. The DOE was created in 1867 under President Andrew Johnson. Its original purpose was to collect information and statistics about the nation’s schools. Today, the DOE functions primarily in a support role to the states and local school districts.
Theoretically, the states and local school districts have autonomy and function independent of the federal government. The Federal government however, provides grant money that is often contingent upon the states and school districts operating in certain ways.
Many not-for-profit policy organizations on both the Left and the Right have heavily influenced educational curricula and practices at both the state and local school district levels.
Parents and students see the education system from a bottom-up view. Each individual school district chooses the curriculum and determines what is taught in public schools. In the case of public schools, parents can voice their opinion but have little influence upon what is taught to their children. If they can afford it, private or charter schools may be an option. But legislators have resisted sending government funding to private or charter schools.
Many public schools, especially in Democrat districts, have decided to teach new theoretical interpretations of American History and cultural concepts like Social Justice and Identity Politics. The College Board / Advanced Placement provides curriculum frameworks of what should be taught.
KEY EDUCATION ORGANIZATIONS
Below are some of the key organizations of America’s Education System with missions and goals.
U.S. Department of Education – The primary functions of the Department of Education are to “establish policy for, administer and coordinate most federal assistance to education, collect data on US schools, and to enforce federal educational laws regarding privacy and civil rights.” The Department of Education does not establish schools or colleges. Unlike most other countries, education in the United States is highly decentralized, and the federal government and Department of Education are not heavily involved in determining curricula or educational standards. This has been left to state and local school districts.
ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. ED’s 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to:
- Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, distributing funds, and monitoring how those funds are used.
- Collecting data on America’s schools and disseminating research.
- Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
- Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.
Florida Department of Education – serves as the single repository of education data from school districts, state and community colleges, universities, and independent postsecondary institutions. It administers a statewide reading initiative for Florida’s public schools and the community groups and volunteer organizations that support them. Their goal is to have every child able to read at or above grade level. The department enhances the economic self-sufficiency of Floridians through programs and services geared toward college, workforce education, apprenticeships, job-specific skills, and career development. The department manages programs that assist individuals who are blind, visually impaired or disabled to succeed either in school settings or careers, thus encouraging independence and self-sufficiency.
Florida will have an efficient world-class education system that engages and prepares all students to be globally competitive for college and careers.
- Higher Student Achievement
- Seamless Articulation and Maximum Access
- Skilled Workforce and Economic Development
- Quality Efficient Services
The College Board is an American nonprofit organization that was formed in December 1899 as the College Entrance Examination Board (CEEB) to expand access to higher education. While the College Board is not an association of colleges, it runs a membership association of institutions, including over 6,000 schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organizations.
Advanced Placement (AP) is a program in the United States and Canada created by the College Board which offers college-level curricula and examinations to high school students. American colleges and universities may grant placement and course credit to students who obtain high scores on the examinations. The AP curriculum for each of the various subjects is created for the College Board by a panel of experts and college-level educators in that field of study.
We are teachers, faculty members, principals, social workers, superintendents, district administrators, deans, artists, non-profit leaders, law enforcement officers, and much more. We work in higher education, Pre-K-12 schools and districts, community organizations, governmental organizations, and businesses.
Members of the Network agree on a four-part mission to advance Education in Democracy
- provide access to knowledge for all children (“equity and excellence”);
- educate the young for thoughtful participation in a social and political democracy (“enculturation”);
- base teaching on knowledge of the subjects taught, established principles of learning, and sensitivity to the unique potential of learners (“nurturing pedagogy”); and
- take responsibility for improving the conditions for learning in Pre-K-12 schools, institutions of higher education and communities. (“stewardship”).
- GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Because the American Education System is as decentralized as it is, there aren’t guiding principles that everyone across the country agrees with and adheres to consistently. While this enables local school districts to tailor their approach to the unique needs of their communities, it also allows activist groups to influence and enforce de facto standards on the education system. This has provided an opening for politics to invade our education system, and caused grievous harm to our students and society as a whole.
As with most guiding principles, they begin as inspirational values and become convoluted and corrupted over time. Especially now, given the highly polarized era we live in, consensus eludes us at every turn.
Teaching students how to think – America’s greatest strength is the ingenuity of its people. This can only produce positive results when people are taught how to think (creative thinking skills) and not what to think (indoctrination). Our education system seems to be more concerned with creating a uniform society than allowing diversity of thought. The people in the system are welcoming what they consider orthodoxy (aligned with political correctness) and restricting opposing viewpoints. This is preventing students from developing the skills required to think for themselves. As John Stuart Mill stated in a classic essay, “He who knows only his own side of the case, know little of that.” True progress is achieved through Socratic and Scientific methodologies, not indoctrination.
Grounded in the U.S. Constitution (Civics not Democracy) – The U.S. Constitution is the guiding principle of the United States of America. While it may not be perfect, it was a model for the rest of the world and the reason America became the greatest country in the world. It includes ways to modify or enhance it if needed. Teaching students that it is insufficient and flawed leaves us without any guiding principles to unite us.
No Activism or Politics – Since the civil rights amendments in the 1960s America’s education system has placed more focus on activism and politics than on developing skills for prospering in modern society. As a result, graduates are not gaining the skills that employers need. Some people may be drawn to world affairs and politics, but these students should be directed to Political Science, Political Philosophy, or World History. Political ideologies should not detract from life enhancement skills.
Support of Parents – The role of education should be to support the role of parenting, not to replace or offset it. All those employed within the Education system must be trained and held accountable for staying in their lanes, which is teaching specific skills.
In order for principles to be effective, they must be documented and available to everyone affected by them. The U.S. Constitution embodies the guiding principles of America. These simple, basic, documented principles are as relevant today as they were in 1788 when our Constitution was fully ratified by the States.
- CONSENSUS OF PURPOSE
One of the disadvantages of a decentralized education system is a lack of agreement on the guiding principles. This lack of direction enables states and local school districts to set their own agendas and opens the door for external influence by politically motivated organizations.
Lacking guiding principles, local teachers with an exaggerated sense of their knowledge and importance could lead children in an unhealthy direction.
While the benefits of flexibility and autonomy at the state and local level far outweigh the advantages of central oversite, there are concerns that need to be identified and addressed. The primary concern is that outside forces can exert undue influence over our children through indoctrination. Not addressing these concerns will have potentially catastrophic consequences to America’s future.
Without a consensus of purpose and guiding principles we are left with chaos and lack of a unified direction. America has agreed-upon principles and values as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. America’s Education System needs guiding principles in support of the U.S. Constitution.
Education is the path to our future. Failure to provide principles leaves a vacuum for enemies of America to fill the void and set an alternative direction. That direction will disparage the Constitution and encourage a global vision that benefits them.
One of the fallacies about Democratic forms of government is that if popular opinion desires something, it can and should be done. This is considered populism or “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.” Viewed through that prism, many education system workers feel they are representing the will of the majority and act accordingly. Frequently, their efforts are based on political theories and ideologies that go against the U.S. Constitution, human nature, common sense, and what is best for the students. This is extremely dangerous and must be corrected
The way to resolve this situation is to restore accountability into the American Education System. This means clearly documenting the learning principles and standards for which education workers are responsible. It also means building a system that links promotions, salaries, and continued employment to these standards and metrics.
- CURRICULUM AND CONTENT
In order to evaluate the curriculum and content of America’s education system, you have to first clarify the purpose, focus, and metrics for success. Traditionally, the purpose of education was to guide its students to live a prosperous and fulfilling life while becoming an integral member of society. The purpose of the modern education system seems to have gone way beyond the traditional purpose. The modern purpose seems to be to reshape society by reorienting our students into a different kind of global citizen.
The traditional purpose concentrates on the student and has a greater probability of success. The modern focus is politically motivated, revolutionary, and is highly subjective. Under the modern approach, the students are pawns in a larger revolutionary movement and their success is subordinate to the success of the greater cause. Evidence of this new modern approach has already become prevalent in all levels of education including elementary, middle, high school and advanced.
The curriculum and content will be drastically different, depending on the purpose that is integrated into the system. Under the traditional purpose the scope is more limited, while under the modern purpose it is much broader and comprehensive. For example, morality is somewhat subjective and under the traditional approach is left to the family or religious organizations. Under the modern approach morality is politically driven and incorporated into the overall goals, which could be drastically different than those of the parents and religious organizations.
This difference in content is most obvious in the different interpretations of American history.
- Progressives are promoting distorted theories that portray America as having a deeply flawed past which must be redeemed.
- Conservatives are promoting traditional history that provides a comprehensive view of America with all its flaws as well as its great successes. This approach provides truth and balance and enables students to make their own interpretation.
How the different purposes impact differences in curriculum and content
|In-Scope||What to think – Progressive Ideology Support of global concepts (social justice) Progressive morality (inclusion) Political Activism, equity, identity and interdependence||How to Think – Critical Thinking Skills Support of the U.S. Constitution Reading, Math, Science Life Skills – Life-long Learning Liberty Autonomy and Self-responsibility|
|Out-of-Scope||Contradicting viewpoints The potential of a supreme being Conservative ideologies American greatness and pride||Indoctrination Religious doctrine Activism|
- ACCESSIBILITY AND EQUALITY
The majority of funding for public schools comes from local property taxes. For people with children, the quality of the public schools is an important factor in where they decide to live. As a result, communities that have greater wealth can invest more into their public education system.
America has experienced a significant growth and evolution over the past century. This includes counter-urbanization, where many people and businesses moved from the cities to the suburbs. In addition, many big cities have been mis-managed and experienced considerable corruption. This has resulted in many school districts becoming rundown and lacking sufficient funding to recover.
Creative Destruction is a characteristic of Capitalism which encourages competition and positive evolution. But there is a significant downside to people who are impacted by declining cities with decaying support systems.
- SUPPORT OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
The American people on the whole, have a deep love for children and for America. Growing up in a free market society, they understand the value and importance of an education that allows each student to reach their unique potential and achieve a high standard of living. They also expect efficient and effective schools that are held accountable for the quality of education that they are providing.
However, the challenge is that too many people have taken advantage of the compassion and commitment of the American people. These people constantly say they need more money to provide a quality education, but then fail to deliver on that promise when more money is obtained.
Because the public school system lacks adequate accountability to the parents, it too often teaches content that is not focused on making the student a successful and integral member of society.
Charter and private schools receive little to no funding from the government, but they are more accountable to parents’ demands. If the parents want this kind of education system, they must pay tuition in addition to paying taxes for the public school system.
- HIERARCHY / ORGANIZATION
America’s education system is highly decentralized. This is designed to give the states and individual school districts the autonomy and flexibility to structure the system to meet the unique needs of their community. There are strong political forces in America that feel the people in rundown cities should receive the same quality education as the more prosperous communities with more effective government. This has created a movement to standardize curriculum and funding which would achieve the benefits of a centralized education system. This conflict is the same that is at the core of our overall political debates and the future of our country.
A measurement of the most educated countries is through the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Countries for Education list. These rankings were based on three factors: a well-developed public education system, top-quality education, and whether respondents would consider attending university in that nation.
Based on this list, the United Kingdom comes out on top as having the world’s best education system. In second place is the United States, about 70% of graduates go on to a higher education program. In third place is Canada, followed by Germany and France. A different list, the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive study, ranks Finland as having the most well-developed education in the world.
Ironically, the table to the right shows a different story. Despite the United States having the second-best education system globally, it consistently scores lower than many other countries in benchmarks such as math and science. According to the Business Insider report in 2018, America’s education ranking was 38th in math scores and 24th in science.
While America has been spending more money (even adjusted for inflation) on education than it did in 1980, the United States’ education rankings have been falling by international standards over the past three decades.
IDEOLOGICAL BATTLE FOR CONTROL
Americans are generally very trusting of people in authority, especially those within America’s Education System. But should we be more skeptical? As we have observed throughout history, children and education systems have been the first battleground for establishing and maintaining authoritarian forms of government. Regretfully, children have frequently been used as pawns for greater control or devious intentions.
This saying of Peter John Kreeft (born March 16, 1937) is all too relevant in today’s society, especially in America’s political and educational system.
Kreeft was a professor of philosophy at Boston College and The King’s College.
Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as the first and founding head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia, and later the Soviet Union, became a one-party socialist state governed by the soviet communist party.
As Americans we must always be aware of enemy forces that are trying to replace America as the dominant power and moral leader of the world. Our education system is the first battleground that has the greatest long-term implication. As such we must remain extremely vigilant over the things our students are being taught.
John M. Ellis’s book, “The Breakdown of Higher Education,” provides a detailed explanation of how America’s education system has evolved since the Civil Rights Legislation was enacted in1964. In an effort to rectify the problems of the Jim Crow era, the country began placing an inordinate emphasis on affirmative action and diversity programs. These programs generated a high demand for activist minded people to be recruited into universities to oversee these programs. In 1969, a survey performed by Carnegie Commission on higher education found that 45 percent of university faculty were left or liberal, 27 percent were middle of the road and 27 percent were either moderate or strongly conservative. Because of the new hires, by 1999 the ratio was between 5 to 1 or 7 to 1 in favor of left of center professors. A 2006 survey indicated the ratio grew to 8 to 1.
Today, America’s university graduated teachers are carrying these Progressive theories and ideologies into the elementary, middle and high schools. Our younger students are now being taught that activism is an admirable profession. The not-for-profit activism industry has become one of our country’s largest job creators. Activism without sufficient understanding of what you are fighting for is revolution, while activism based on extensive expertise of a worthy cause is constructive reform. Activists who no longer have a cause, find or create new causes.
Revolutions are extremely difficult to start when people are satisfied with and have pride in their country. To combat this, American history classes have shifted from accurately portraying America as an evolving country with flaws and great successes to one that is fatally flawed and requires a reformation. This destructive distortion is being encouraged in many places within America’s education system. Howard Zinn’s book, “A People’s History of the United States,” was written in 1999 and has been a resource for this distorted theory of American History. Since then, there have been additional false theories which are being taught as accurate interpretations of history. These include the 1619 project and Critical Race Theories. These resources are driven by ideology and clearly intended for revolutionary goals. They have created Social Justice Warriors focusing on destructive concepts like Identity Politics.
Restoring traditional and accurate history will help move America onto a more constructive evolutionary path toward a more perfect union. This will lead to greater unity and help us be a greater role model for the world. However, continuing in the current direction will likely lead to more turmoil, conflict, a weaker nation, and a dystopia.
Learning Circle Discussion
It would be an understatement to say that Americans are paying too much and not getting what they pay for with America’s education system. It’s actually worse than that because our children are being taught things that are harmful to them and disruptive to our society. The problem is that the system and its employees are not being held accountable to a set of guiding principles that are aligned with our U.S. Constitution. While there are decided advantages of a decentralized education system that supports state and local flexibility and autonomy, our education system has been corrupted by a political ideology that is destructive to America’s core values.
Questions to Consider
- Is a decentralized system the best approach for America’s Education System?
- What is the role / boundaries of parents vs. educators related to morals and cultural norms?
- What are the most important guiding principles for America’s Education System?
- Are there people driving or within our education system that have evil intent?
- To what extent should political ideologies be promoted in our education system?
- Should our education system encourage students to be activists?
- Is there adequate accountability within our education system?
- Is there a role for teacher unions in schools? Do they benefit the students?
- What reform would have the greatest impact on our Education System?
- Should schools be teaching Critical Race Theory?
- How should the education system deal with racial diversity?
- Is it important that all sides are represented in education systems? What levels?
- How should civics and democracy be taught in schools?
- How should American History be taught?
- What is the proper balance between equality and uniformity?
- Is America’s education system having a positive or negative impact on America’s culture?
- Is school choice important? What is the impact on public schools? How should money flow?