Rising Above The Gathering Storm, a major investigation of the security crisis, concluded: “It is the unanimous view of our committee that America today faces a serious and intensifying challenge with regard to its future competitiveness and standard of living. Further, we appear to be on a losing path....The standard of living of Americans in the years ahead will depend to a very large degree on the quality of the jobs that they are able to hold. Without quality jobs our citizens will not have the purchasing power to support the standard of living which they seek, and to which many have become accustomed; tax revenues will not be generated to provide for strong national security.”
Alan Greenspan summed up the national impasse best: “If you don’t solve [the K-12 education problem], nothing else is going to matter all that much.”
Nearly 30 years ago, we heard the exact same message from the famous Nation at Risk report, which infamously concluded: if a foreign country had created the public schools we now have, we would regard those schools as “an act of war.”
This prestigious governmental study decided that the schools were so bad, they were something only an enemy would wish upon us.
This view sounded over the top in 1983. That seems not to be the case. A lot of experts, now including the Council of Foreign Relations, are saying the same thing again and again. The big question is why our education officials refuse to take corrective action.
For the people of Hampton Roads, there is an obvious irony.
We are surrounded by forces whose mission is to protect our country and this community (including Norfolk Naval Station, Fleet Training Center Dam Neck, Fort Eustis, Langley Air Force Base, Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Oceana, the Coast Guard Integrated Support Command, Fort Story and Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. Wikipedia, in fact, says that “The Hampton Roads area has the largest concentration of military bases and facilities of any metropolitan area in the world.”)
But throughout the community we have forces whose mission seems to be the exact opposite--to undermine the community. That’s precisely what our public schools are accused of.
Is that too dramatic a statement? Consider the evidence. Recent National Assessment of Educational Progress scores said that only one-third of fourth graders (and eighth graders as well) are proficient at reading (and also math). The other two-thirds are already finished, academically speaking. They are below proficient and many will eventually be members of a huge army of dropouts and functional illiterates.
On international testing, the United States, despite vast spending, scores roughly 20th, 25th, or 30th on every subject.
Why can’t our schools perform the simple task of teaching all kids to read and do basic arithmetic, and making sure all kids know the difference between north and south, where the Nile is, and what a million is.
All of this stuff is easy to do. But our Education Establishment claims this job is just too difficult. Children are just too dumb. Parents are just too uncooperative. The society is too full of distractions. In short, our Education Establishment confesses its inability to do its job.
So who will be our Superman? The movers and shakers in our society are not moving and shaking. Particularly, in a part of the country filled with military, our military appears incapable of confronting this problem. The Pentagon complains but doesn’t do anything decisive. Groups of retired officers write editorials in the paper that don’t address the fundamental reforms we need.
The business community doesn’t provide the leadership we need. They are blindly telling the public to support the Common Core Curriculum when that’s often just a rebranding of the bad ideas that caused the problems.
For a brief reform plan that does address the fundamental problems, see “A Bill of Rights for Students 2012.” (Late news: a tea party group plans to introduce this plan to Virginia's General Assembly. Stay tuned.)
Bruce Deitrick Price is an author, artist, poet, and education reformer. He founded Improve-Education.org in 2005. His specialty is explaining the flawed theories and methods that tend to make public schools ineffective. He has more than 250 education articles, videos, and book reviews on the internet. Price believes that the country's schools could be much more successful at less cost. Children should learn to read in the first grade; they should learn basic arithmetic by the fourth grade; and in every grade they should be learning the essential foundational knowledge that every citizen needs in our complex society. Price is the author of five books and has had several one-man art shows. He is listed in Who's Who in America 2012. He is a member of Mensa and PEN. He graduated with Honors from Princeton.
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