The recent forays into public education reform from the No Child Left Behind Act, the Core Curriculum mandate, and standardized tests have all placed public education on notice that once again, our policy decision-makers have continued their assault on education. All they have done has resulted in an educational system that continues to fail our youth. From the mainstream Republican stance of what they have done in issuing these mandates, they literally shoved down the public’s throats misguided attempts at education reform. This is nothing more than political expediency. What has been occurring with all these mandates is a continuation of glossing over the real underlying problems facing education in this country. If education was run like a business, there would be far more accountability and structure in our public schools today. But, like everything else, our most stupendous governmental officials have done is thrown tax dollars down the toilet. Meanwhile, our youth are far worse off today in educational standards than the rest of the world.
Someone once said just recently that teachers alone cannot change conditions in our schools. The only way to regain the supremacy we had in educational standards that prevailed in the 1950s and early 1960s will take nothing short of a revolution. When we take a good hard look at the landscape of America today, we find that the US is indeed fractured. On one hand, we have the wealthiest few who control the all too powerful politicians; those self-serving bureaucrats continue to overlook the obvious distress that the majority of Americas are wallowing in. Then there is the majority of the population, those multitudes wallowing in desperation, hoping that somehow someday soon things will get better. Meanwhile, our youth, the future generations of Americans continue to suffer the consequences of failed educational mandates and initiatives by a political system that by its own nature fails to grasp what really is needed to reverse the effects of years of meddling in educational policies that worked for decades before the late 1960s.
Our illustrious bureaucrats always overlook the one key component in education reform where students in all grade levels can succeed. When we really take a close look at America today, we find many children just like Bob and Jane Smith. Brother and sister both are sixth graders at Roosevelt Elementary. Typical children, but their teachers didn’t know until later, their parents lost their home when Mr. Smith got laid off and the bank foreclosed. For over a year, the Smiths have had to live in a two-bedroom apartment in a not-so-nice area. And, with only one income, a minimum wage job at Walmart many a night, Bob and Jane don’t get enough to eat, let alone the proper vitamins and nutrition they both need during the day. When we really stop thinking about what is actually occurring all across the country today, it is unconscionable to think that over one-third of the country’s school-age children are literally starving. The fact of the matter is nutrition really does play the most vital role in a child’s growth and development. But, what is so disconcerting is that those policymakers fail to take into account that food, nutrition, vitamins, and minerals are essential for physical development and health but are necessary for mental growth and mental health in every human being.
When schools today are judged solely on test scores, the prevailing contention is that poverty should never be an excuse for poor academic achievement remains the stance of policymakers. And, as long as test scores are at par, our policymakers continue to be unconcerned if the pantries are bare, the parents jobless or worse yet in jail, and the gap between the rich and poor is more appalling than it’s been since 1929. We now have a whole society of mounting inequality, where the wealthiest few totally ignore, are too blind to see, and just plain oblivious to the harsh reality facing countless millions of children every day.
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Food insecurity of our nation’s youth continues to undermine this nation’s ability to compete in an ever-increasing global economy. But, it is not the only factor the has diminished this nation’s education prominence. When the Common Core Curriculum was implemented in so many states, it dismantled many of the founding building blocks in elementary and secondary education that stood as the standard for over 100 years. This, regardless of all the new technology integrated into school systems, still will hurt generations of our youth. Take, for example, cursive writing. It is now obsolete in the minds of so many school boards. Their rationale is to spend time learning penmanship, where today, all you need is a computer keyboard. The time spent on penmanship can now be used for more useful subjects that are more relevant today. As many of us remember, it was a right of passage for generations to learn how to write. Signing your name is just one of the most useful tools we use today as adults.
This is only the tip of the iceberg in education reform that is already taking its toll on our nation’s youth. When one walks into any public school in Anytown, USA, many a baby boomer is quite shocked to see what is actually going on in our schools. All one has to do is read the latest paper to find that another school-age student was bullied actually to death. Never before has this country been inundated with so many social crises that allow public schools to be a haven for bullying. A moral crisis has taken over in so many parts of the country. It really does underscore that our public education reforms for the past twenty years and counting have only systematically rendered our public school system at the bottom of the heap regarding other developed countries around the world.
In education, especially for elementary and secondary age youth, it is vital that physical education is as important as math or science. A prime example is a private school in New York that mandates the first 3 hours of every day to rigorous physical activity. In doing so, these students, every one of them has excelled exceptionally in core curriculum studies such as science and math. Whether it is competitive sports or not, the benefits of physical exercise clearly show a vast improvement in academics. To have school systems retard or eliminate all together physical education clearly puts our nation’s youth not only at health risks but undermines our nation’s future stability and security. Many a time, it is budgetary constraints that play an external factor in the elimination of Physical Ed. But, the reality is the hard-cold fact that our nation’s youth obesity rates are among the highest in the world. Consequently, all the health risks related to our obesity rates do cost a hell of a lot more than if we mandated Physical Ed. to begin with.
The advent of so much technology, especially the handheld personal computer, has taken its toll on how our youth today are being educated. Gone in so many elementary schools across the country are the days when students were required to stand at the old chalkboard and work out the math or other subject problems. Where the interaction of fellow students and teachers was actually encouraged. What we are witnessing today is the only interaction occurring is on a very interpersonal one. One can understand the importance of self-confidence when students first overcome the fear of standing in front of their contemporaries by solving a problem on the chalkboard. That is not the case any longer.
Today, too many of our youth are classified with ADT, otherwise known as Attention Deficit Disorder. Probable cause, diet, genetics, and many consider their environment also contributes to its cause. Whatever the cause, too many of our youth are all lumped into this category, and too many are prescribed prescription drugs like Ritalin. These drugs do nothing to cure or direct that hyperactivity into positive, constructive endeavors. From a personal point of view took place over fifty-five years ago when my father took control and put me on a path that transformed my life. Back in the Fifties, ADT wasn’t a known diagnosis. All my father knew I was a very hyperactive kid, always getting into trouble. Sometimes I get caught, and boy, that was when corporal punishment came with a hard spank on the bottom. But, most time, I managed to escape unscathed. My parents knew I was the fastest kid on the block.
Nobody could catch me. It was one afternoon thought that changed all that when my father came home from work. One afternoon while watching cartoons on our small TV was when my father pulled me aside and said: “I have a present for us.” He then proceeded to hand me a small wrapped box. After tearing open the box, to my dismay, was a small stopwatch. It was from that moment on I knew my life was going in a new direction. From that afternoon on, my father took me to the old high school track field where I was coached, running 440’s, half miles, and the mile. At first, I loathed going, but with the gradual success at track and cross-country, I not only succeeded in school but got into a major university.
A lifelong pursuit of fitness and a desire to succeed resulted from my father’s influence, help, and encouragement. Today most of our youth aren’t as fortunate as I was. It is a sad commentary on our times that too many elementary-age children come from single-parent homes. A whole spectrum of factors is involved now that weren’t back in the 1950s. What is happening today there really is a sense of foreboding tension, a silent force that is ripping across our moral fiber, a sagging truth of unprecedented demise of morality, liberty, and justice. The world we once knew in our youth is no more. We now face the consequences of our actions and our inactions of what we have done in the name of social liberalization in public education all across the country.
There is another factor in what has happened in our school systems over the years. On a recent visit to one of Tampa Bay’s public schools, it was just to see firsthand what it is like to be a student today. First impressions, they say, are worth a thousand words. Well, in this case, that first impression, I was totally unprepared for what my eyes were actually seeing. Gaining entry was no small task. Nowadays, one has to press a buzzer and state the name and reason for your visit. It would help to call beforehand to make things go a lot smoother. Fortunately, this visit, upon entering, there were no metal detectors that, from my understanding, are the norm in so many other schools throughout the country. As I approach the main hallway, being escorted by a teacher or teacher’s aid through the maze of scantily clad young girls and droopy baggy panted boys cell phones a buzzing I couldn’t tell the difference between the students or my escort they all dressed very sloppily. It is a known fact that today over 40% of students do themselves a huge disservice by cheating on their exams when they have access to personal cell phones in class. If they do it in secondary or even elementary levels, just think of the percentage of students who cheat in college. A very disturbing fact that has a very disastrous effect on business, and our whole economy suffers because of it.
Finally, I made it to the main office, where on a small table in the corner was a stack of papers outlining necessary items each student was supposed to have in their possession. Stuffed into everybody’s backpack were items such as a calculator. Oh, that really amazes me. So much for the arithmetic tables one is supposed to memorize. Next comes the hand sanitizer for our disease-conscious society. Heaven forbids us to forget to use soap and water. Maybe with all the budget cuts, especially in our public school’s soap is a luxury that now is unaffordable. With all the backpacks packed with those so-called essentials as well as the actual course books, I have a feeling that this generation is going to have an awful lot of back problems as they get older maybe, because again of all the cutbacks in the one program that will help more than any others is physical education. Now, one of the first programs to go under the ax when budgets are trimmed. As in so many instances today. One of the most disturbing trends today in our public schools there really are too many administrators. But, we got to cut physical education, arts, music appreciation, and all the other so-called no-essential programs that would otherwise contribute to an overall educational experience.
Now, when one steps into a school, it is more apparent than ever when we walk away with the realization that somehow our own society itself is to blame for this nation’s failings in public education. Silly me, to want our youth to have more respect for themselves as well as others. Two of the four principles this nation built upon Education and Morality go hand in hand. The morality today, well, there practically isn’t any. Sure there are remnants where the morality of generations past holds true but, for the most part, is sadly lacking by the majority of students in practically every public school system in the country.