We can all agree that education is critical to a child’s development. However, that is probably the only point on which we can agree. These days the very definition of education is inconsistent.
What is education? Is it learning how to read, write and compute? Or is it doing well on standardized tests, not identifying a valedictorian, and making certain people are prepared for the job force? All of the above? Some? You pick!
As a baby-boomer, I was taught English, reading, arithmetic, social studies, history, and science in elementary school. On some days we had physical education and art. We also received Citizenship grades each term. (Citizenship was my personal Achilles heel! I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut!!)
We took one standardized test in the spring each year. Our scores were charted on a graph so our parents could see where we “stood” in relation to the others in the same class. Our teachers reviewed the overall results to determine what areas needed additional attention.
The results of these tests were not reported in the local newspaper, nor were they compared to students living in Sweden! Given the incredible advancements in science, industry and technology since the mid twentieth century, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and state we were well educated.
These days, not only are the test scores reported in the media, but the impending report of the test scores is breathlessly reported! These early reports are accompanied by articles that consider what the schools will do if the scores are not good enough. More articles express concern about how the unions will react. And these spawn even more articles contemplating what might happen dependent upon even more unknown information.
The news is more future telling than reporting these days!
What you will not find in any of these articles are comments on children and learning. Even the articles on pre-school spend more column space on how quality pre-school affects job growth than on preparing children for school.
Education was a responsibility given to the states when the Constitution was written. Over the years local control has gradually been eroded, and now education is controlled (read m-o-n-e-y) at the federal level. According to http://www.governing.com, New York State spent the most, just over $19,000 per student in 2011. That same year Utah spent the least, just over $6200. New York’s graduation rate was 77% and Utah’s 76%. Iowa had the best graduation rate of 88% and spent $9800/child.
What does all of this tell us? More importantly – what does this tell us about educating children?
Pretty much nothing.
If we want to ensure that our children receive a quality education, I strongly recommend that we do not leave educational decisions to the politicians. Politicians are concerned about who gets federal funds and little else.