Public Education - A Pentagon
By Jonathan M. Hemp, M. Ed.
The demise of public education in America can be traced directly to the social upheaval and decadence of the revolution of the 1960s. Of course, there are and will be exceptions, but they are constrained by that very fact – they are exceptions.
The pentagon – the student, the family environment, the community, the teacher, school administration/government.
First and foremost, the student is at the center, pinnacle, of the pentagon of public education – the individual child or young adult – entrusted to the structure of learning established by the community. The student, physiologically and anthropologically, is a product of genetics and environment.
Yes, we immediately draw the eyre of genealogical debate. Children, not unlike adults, are not universally equal in intellect and/or physical attribute. Inherited characteristics are undeniable, both intellectual and physical. This does not mean that any specific group of children are less capable or incapable of learning. It simply means that learning comes easier to some while more difficult for others, and for a host of reasons. In reality, there is no such thing as a level playing field.
Environmental influences, for the purpose of this essay, include any and all influences on a child that are derived not from genealogical attributes, but from continuous and repeated exposure to everything experienced – by all sensory capability - once the child exits the womb at birth. Environmental influences can be positive, negative, or both.
To deny that some children are better equipped than others to deal with the rigors of education is to deny basic precepts of humanity. While the earliest stages of education – kindergarten through third grade – more closely relate to individual and social orientation as much as education, it is generally recognized that genuine self-esteem, self-assessment, and individual accountability typically evolve in the age group engaged in the fourth and later grades – 9 to 10-year-olds and later. Throughout this span, it is undeniable that some children absorb, adapt, and accomplish more and better than others. Of equal import – some children never quite seem to totally make the transition.
It is within this period of the realization of responsibility that most deflections of accountability are formed – both by the student and by parents/care givers. We more readily recognize resistance to responsibility and accountability on the part of the student than we do to the parent/home life, but over the past decades we have seen innumerous, evolutionary, and typically unauthenticated excuses for a student’s inability to learn.
Does the student take responsibility for becoming a contributing member of society?
We’ll revisit the child’s role in education repeatedly as we address the other components of education.
The student’s academic prowess has a direct and positive correlation to home life. “Positive” in this case means only that there is an unequivocal relationship between the circumstance (family) and the product (student) – it can be either favorable or unfavorable, good or bad. Herein lies the most critical importance of genetic characteristics in a child/young adult – inherent characteristics that can resist negative influences or support positive environmental influences.
No logical individual would argue that the structure of the family in America hasn’t taken on significant variables in the past five decades. Statistics abound that reflect overwhelming social and cultural changes in what used to be “family” in this country. Again, there will be those who argue that the “nuclear family” of post-World War II has been or has not been a significant factor in their success in education or adult life. Statistics, however, bely the innocence of this mutation – a mutation that has occurred both at the hands of individuals and at the hands of socialistic politics. Fatherless homes produce statistical evidence that is irrefutable – across all social and cultural lines.
If we were to allow for a 50-50 consideration in the previously presented balance of genetics vs. environment in the behavioral makeup of “the student,” many of our children are to some extent or totally lacking in positive input from the environmental side. This forces a child/young adult to rely almost uniquely on the genetic asset – a horrendous handicap equating to having one hand tied behind one’s back before engaging the challenges of life.
A positive family environment will assist in equipping a youngster for adult challenges. Conversely, a failed family environment will devastatingly and for the most part contribute to the failure of the youngster as an adult. This imparts a critical barrier to many of our children that is evident in economic and criminal statistics.
Does the family assist or deter the student from becoming a contributing member of society?
Not excluding individual residents, in many ways families are a reflection of the community in which they dwell and the community is a reflection of the families within. It is the residents and families, collectively, that make up the community.
Predominant family characteristics become the predominant characteristics of the community. Debate culture and multi-culturalism to any extent that you wish, it is the families that determine the culture of a community, statically and evolutionary. The attitude towards the education of children is a major component of any culture. Metropolitan cities, where public education is either at the highest risk of failure or may already have failed, by their nature represent the largest number of families with children of school age. The evolution of our metropolitan cities/regions ensures that cultural attitudes will prevail well into the future, some in success, some in failure.
The economy of our nation is dependent on all of its collective assets – communities, large and small. To have great expectations for a national economy when its component parts are devolving into social and economic decay is futile. There is, again, a direct and positive correlation between a failing public education system and the demise of our economy.
Does the community assist in any way in the assurance that a student will become a contributing member?
Academia selects, prepares, and produces our teachers. If you do not believe there is a political, social, and cultural bias in academia, you are detached from reality. Not unlike primary and secondary public education, the political, social, and cultural preferences of the instructor prevail – an instructor whom is 95% of the time inclined to be a socialist (democrat) and who relentlessly injects this bias into any and all instruction. It is essential for a student teacher to be able to recall from the 50% of themselves that is genetic in order to complete training and a teaching credential without the overwhelming bias of their instructors. Fail.
In my own multi-decade teaching experience within the structure of public secondary education, I found it nearly impossible to find an inner-city high school senior who could pass a 1958 Texas 8th Grade Advancement Exam. Many of my students, either gender, entered secondary education as dysfunctional illiterates, very often in two languages. Daily I found myself wondering where the foundational academic assets of these children had disappeared to. Certainly, they must have garnered something from eight years of public education. Certainly, their parent(s) must share in my concern for their child’s educational success.
Challenged daily for my more traditional, conservative approach to my responsibility for imparting the established curriculum upon these young adults, I began to realize just how much of a minority I represented in academia. First and foremost, the vast majority of my peers were union-card-carrying, back-pocket attorneys totally versed in resistance to accountability. Those rare individuals who more closely identified with my concerns than the social majority nearly always stayed silent. Daily staff room discussions more often became debates on pay scale, benefits, excessive sick leave, et al – devoid of any presumption that teachers were responsible for teaching. How dare we “teach to the test.” I can proudly say that I never hesitated to have the academic progress of my own students scrutinized in contrast to those of my peers.
If you understand that 90 to 95% of the teachers in public school and post-secondary class rooms are democrats, in full subscription to the ideology of socialism, then you might begin to understand the failure of public education. So, who is actually doing any teaching? “Wait a minute,” you might say, “you can’t make public education a political debate.” Really? We’ve have allowed, decade after decade, the socialistic encroachment upon public education to prevail, and now we find it difficult to assign politics to education? Moreover, it is at the hands of our evolving metropolitan communities that this strangulation has prevailed and will continue to dominate policy.
It would not be unfair to say that the majority of our metro region public school students are better versed in Black History Month venues or La Raza diatribe than they are in standard testing preparation or high school exit exam curriculum. A decade ago I participated in the observation process of teachers in need of academic strategy improvement. On one such day, I walked into an inner-city (predominantly Hispanic) high school English class, a Latina instructor. Puzzled that the “topic” for an English class was the atrocities of the Vietnam War, I scanned the students in the room to see if there was a prevailing and/or desired reaction to their teacher’s rants. Then I saw it, on the board, in bright red highlighter . . . “vetran.” Needless to say, “termination” was my recommendation. This was not the only case of such bitter proselytization that I witnessed in this capacity. So, again I ask, who is teaching?
It wasn’t always this way. Many of my own primary school teachers were stalwart patriots, daughters of World War I and World War II veterans. Today, our children are programmed with the fundamentals of the anti-war, anti-veteran, anti-patriotic Democrat National Committee Platform: gay rights, immigrant rights, worker rights, non-worker rights, Ad nauseam.
Educational unions are the largest contributors of all to political campaigns. Union membership is required of the vast majority of all teachers, instructors, and professors. Where union membership is NOT required, dues to the teacher unions, in one faux form or another, is mandated and required. Nearly all political donations from teacher unions are placed with democrat candidates. How could there possibly be a political bias in public education?
Federal and state departments of education are nothing more than political battlegrounds. Ineffectual hierarchies of politics-as-usual prevalence. The more politically charged the environment at this level the greater the extent of failure of public education within the communities. Doubt me? You can very easily compare the dismal failures of public education in this country’s metro regions to the marginal yet relative success of those in “fly over” America.
Decade upon decade, we have promoted the politics of the classroom to the politics of the school districts. School boards are elected from the residents of the community – mostly ineffectual assignments of political favor. There are far more community organizers on school boards than there are CEOs of remnant industry. It is these individuals who select superintendents, assistant superintendents, deputy superintendents, assistant deputy superintendents, and on and on. Those responsible for the structure and content of curriculum are selected by school district administrators. Principals are selected by this same organizational structure, who in turn select vice-principals.
This inverted pyramid is the structure we have today, with our individual student at the lowest, bottom portion of the scale. It is here, in the top half of this inversion, that over 40% of educational budgets are spent – 40 cents or more of every education dollar spent before it reaches any classroom, any student. We’re not spending more than any other country on the education of our children. We’re spending more on frivolous salaries and perks for do-nothing bureaucrats who have hijacked the education system for their own benefit – financial and political.
You can’t take politics out of education. The students who occupy classrooms today are the voters and politicians of tomorrow. Our riot-strewn metro streets are full of these “kids.”
The majority of those who commenced reading this won’t get this far. The majority doesn’t care. The majority is incensed at the insulting diatribe of accountability and responsibility. For those who stuck with it, the looming question is “how do we fix this?”
First, it took fifty years of neglect for this circumstance to evolve – it will not be solved overnight. Second, the task will be left to those who are not afraid of a good fight. That precludes the participation of another majority. This is a self-inflicted wound on our nation.
If you have children or grandchildren within your sphere, ask them what they’re learning and doing in school each day. Prepare yourself for a shock – they’re going to present things to you for which you are not prepared. Homework? What homework? Most teachers won’t assign homework because it means more work for themselves. Worse than that, most teachers don’t review classroom assignments – it’s too much work! Ask your children. If you’re a grandparent, don’t be surprised if your own children do not monitor their child’s school work. If your child or grandchild is not held accountable for personal and academic progress, the future, for them and you, is bleak.
Do you know who teaches your child, grandchild? Ever met them? Ever engage in a conversation about the curriculum they teach, their position on social issues, economic issues? They’re with your child more of each day then you are, for many hours more.
Make a point to attend a local school board meeting. Object if ANY such school board meeting is held behind closed doors. Research the individuals that “serve” on that board. Do they actually “serve” the community in their capacity? Challenge the curriculum implemented by the board, the district, the superintendent. What is the difference between “ENGLISH” instruction and “language arts?” Can you do “the math?” More importantly, can your child “do the math?” Are there genuine “science” courses offered your child, or just more “global warming/climate change” orientation? Can your child find Yemen or Libya on a map? Does your child know where to find a map? Ask your child to explain the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. Ask your child if they know how many amendments are in the Bill of Rights. Ask them if they know what the Bill of Rights is. You might also ask your child if they know who the president of the United States is, what political party he/she is a member of, who is the vice-president, how many senators serve in Washington DC, what is the House of Representatives. If you had difficulty with any of the questions above, you might also accept the responsibility for your child’s academic inadequacy.
As a member of your community, do you have a clear understanding and knowledge of the public education curriculum and policies of your township, city council, county/parish supervisors, state education bureaucrats? If not, that’s telling. This is how we got here. We found it easier to look to academia and told them to “handle it – that’s their job.” Well, they did just that. They hijacked this country’s public and post-secondary education. Their unions control education and they control politics – pretty good insurance policy, don’t you think?
Today’s students are tomorrows workers, voters, leaders. Today’s students are also the unemployed, career welfare recipients, car wash workers, and dumpster divers.