Education reform needed

It’s considered the American dream, it’s what droves of immigrants come to this country for: education. According to one long-ago politician, “education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Now, I believe that our country is so strongly rooted in its beliefs that it would be impossible to control its ideologies. Instead, I take this quote to mean that without education, we lose the liberty of scientific advancement, the gratification afforded by the luxuries of entertainment and perhaps, most importantly, the status symbol of our country’s power.

According to the Comparative Indicators of Education in the U. S. and other G8 Countries statistical report produced by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2004, the percentage of teenagers receiving formal education in the U.S. lags behind those of France and Germany and ties with several other countries. The golden merit for the U.S. in these pages of overwhelmingly low statistics for the U.S. is that the per-student funding of primary, secondary and higher education is significantly higher in this country than in others. Despite the time that has passed since the publication of this report, it speaks volumes of our educational progress in the past couple of decades in comparison to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, regardless of the trillions of dollars that are afforded to us, our educational system is comparatively tanking.

One key fault of the current educational system is the lack of accountability attributed to teachers. Teachers’ pay should be directly proportional to the progress of their students —not the scores compared to students across the country or even the county, but compared to those of previous years. Marked progress deserves recognition. In my time in the public school system of Georgia, I had many fantastic teachers who invested themselves in their students’ achievements; I also had many terrible teachers who invested themselves in their daily soaps, not their students.

The worst part? Their salaries, benefits and even just public recognition were exactly the same. Our desperate need for teachers may cause schools to hire less-than-adequate educators, but that does not mean their progress should not be tracked the way jobs in other industries are.

The biggest problem is that education gets the specific interest it needs from neither politicians nor citizens. While government is responsible for enacting effective educational policy, families must also be actively engaged in their children’s educational futures, and without a home-based influence, even the best of educations can pass through one ear and out the other ear.

One suggested solution has been the issuance of vouchers for students to leave their public school district and attend public schools elsewhere or enter charter, magnet and private schools instead. In cases of extreme degeneration, shifting students to other school systems works best as a short-term solution; however, it seems that in most cases, vouchers are being established as a long-term solution.

As a result of more students moving into the private sector, charter and magnet schools will experience the overpopulation associated with high student-teacher ratios and poorly distributed resources, eventually causing these schools to tank. The government needs to take responsibility for the schools it more directly funds instead of dumping its educational problems on institutions of the private sector for an overhaul that cannot happen.

Another possible solution is the localization of funding; attempts at federal and even state, funding causes a strain on the spread of money across the nation. Additionally, local governments are more in tune with what is necessary to create educational progress in their communities. However, if not funding, the state and federal governments need to set academic standards and checkpoints for their component governments to achieve; without marked progress within each school district, education obviously cannot proceed.

In the face of the massive economic crisis and the turmoil of global relations, the dipping educational system will only extend the domestic problems and reduce progress in international relations. A stagnant educational philosophy fosters a generation of huge potential and vast opportunities, but minimal capitalization of those benefits. It will only perpetuate a habit of taking things for granted.