I am the product of the public education system. I will admit that with no ounce of shame and all of my dignity intact. Sure, we deal with the rigors of the system with the subpar lunches, the teachers inundating our backpacks with homework and the innumerable moments where we found ourselves unsure of what was to do next. And yet, it was worth it for many of us.
However, many kids do not have the same access to proper education in many locations. This can extend across many cities (Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit) and many of the big cities have struggled for years.
Many of the brightest students have been sucked into more prestigious, more private institutions inside or outside of their cities, leaving many school districts with poorer results as a result.
We lag behind most major nations in various metrics. The solution? There are many ideas. But there is far more to this issue than meets the eye.
First, let's just establish how dire the situation is and how we are not really poised for much change anytime soon. The United States, for all its blustering about greatness and exceptionalism in the states, ranks 14th out of all education systems in the world. The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) ranked the United States 38th out of 71 in math and 24th in science.
We are the greatest in the world? Fine, we allure people to attend our institutions — if they are our universities.
These have also suffered and had some very obvious, stark declines over the past decade. Our ability to properly educate our children has not just stagnated, it has ended with many declines across the board. It is alarming.
Now, there have been many previous solutions proposed over the years. One previously advanced was the concept of establishing more private schools outside of the public system, as well as homeschooling to exercise greater local control over students. Needless to say, this is caused by a lot of sentiments from various religious individuals who feel that God has exited the school system due to decisions to remove school mandated prayer and creationism from public schools, as well as not funding private religious schools.
From experience, I learned the world was created in six days and that women were made from the rib of Adam.
How does that benefit our students? To contradict science in such a fashion? To indoctrinate children without giving them the freedom to actually consider what they'd prefer?
There are some other options that have been floated as a result of this objection. One particularly attractive option has always been the idea of having charter schools publicly funded, operating outside of the confines of the public school district, providing students with other schools beyond the public schools. Charter schools, however, have their issues including accountability, program content and their true purpose.
A great example of this is ECOT, a school in Columbus, Ohio.
This school operated for years without any significant oversight from the state. This school took over 180 million taxpayer dollars from the state. And yet, the performances at the school were below average, to say the least. Only 39% of their students graduated in 2014. Now, there was a remarkably high enrollment at this school, which makes their numbers look better. However, this masks the greater issue.
Charter schools are worried about their bottom line and the investment they put into the institution first. That is paramount for them.
What solutions are there? We need to improve so much of our system. Better funding for our schools, better pay for our teachers, making a community that cooperates and coordinates with all educational institutions. We need to work on a lot as a society to reinforce our system. This would even include better funding for supplies, school buildings and cultural changes.
Not suffocating kids with homework and preventing standardized tests from being the main gatekeeper for higher education.
Many kids are being suffocated by this system, and we have suffered a stark decline as a result. From cuts to education, mediocrity being awarded and special interests hijacking the education system, we need an education system that works for everyone — for the kids in the suburbs, the kids in the rural areas and the kids in the big cities.
We need a reboot and a revitalization of our public education system. We have seen it work in nations like China, Finland and many others. It'll take more than funding — a cultural change is in order. With both, we can create a public education system that benefits all students in all places in our great nation.