Today's Topic



Rebuilding the American
Educational Process,
Part III

Part I
Part II

Natalia J. Garland

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There are some things we can do to improve American education which will not cost the taxpayers one penny. It is just a matter of using common sense, evaluating past failures and successes, holding public schools accountable for imparting knowledge and spending tax monies wisely, and expecting parents and students to participate in the educational process. Below are some of my ideas on how we can rebuild this process.

Rebuilding the Educational Process

  • Appraise the success and failure of "No Child Left Behind" in an honest and impartial manner.
  • Review the development of American education and culture since Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty."
  • Re-define the concept of multiculturalism to include intelligent judgment and moral discernment.
  • Re-consider the idea of competition as a motivating factor to learn, and consider balancing this with the practice of cooperative learning.
  • Eliminate textbooks that teach or imply anti-Americanism.
  • Re-write textbooks with historical and cultural accuracy.
  • Re-introduce the Great Books of classical education.
  • Re-introduce the teaching of civics to a post-Civil Rights and post-9/11 student body.
  • Reinstate the Pledge of Allegiance in schools that have abandoned this practice.
  • Reinstate a "Moment of Silence" in schools that have abandoned this practice.
  • Re-evaluate the necessity of student confidentiality: re-consider the benefits of posting papers/tests with good grades and rewarding top students with prizes or other recognition.
  • Enforce zero tolerance for cursing and name-calling.
  • Enforce zero tolerance for intimate hugging and kissing between students on school grounds. Re-introduce the practice of protecting girls because they are girls (i.e., sexually vulnerable).
  • Maintain strict interpersonal boundaries between teachers and students.
  • Role-model adult maturity and the love of learning.
  • Extend the practice of school choice to include teacher choice.
  • Offer parents the option of placing their children in same-sex classrooms (i.e., all boys or all girls).
  • Accept alternative certification paths for retired professionals who want to become teachers in their area of expertise.
  • Empower war veterans to become teachers.
  • Empower parents who prefer homeschooling for their children.


Evaluate Past Successes and Failures

If we had an objective study of the history of student programs back to President Johnson's "War on Poverty," such a study would likely prove that lack of money is not currently, in most instances, the major obstacle to getting a good education in the public schools. If politicians, teacher unions, university professors who train teachers, and state credentialing offices really cared about education, then they would support an honest study of the dynamics of educational failures and successes. Such a study would also have to include the impact of illegal immigration on public school systems and on expenditure of monies.

Why does the American public school system continue to deteriorate despite the investment of money? Some schools in other countries are able to do more with less. If we rule out money and resources as major obstacles, then we must focus on improper or improperly applied teaching methods and techniques (cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, student-centered teaching, portfolio development, open book tests, etc.), an extreme and distorted multiculturalist curriculum which has edged out most of the Great Books, revisionist textbooks which emphasize America's historical faults, and a distaste for the instillation of good citizenship.

Improve the School Environment

Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and observing a Moment of Silence (in lieu of prayer) are positive ways to establish the tone and mood of every morning. These two actions unite students and teachers, and signify that school is a special place for a special purpose. These are patriotic and introspective practices, promoting a sense of belonging as well as self-respect. If teachers take this seriously, then the students will follow. How much does this cost the taxpayers? Not one penny.

Teachers also must be assertive and confident in establishing interpersonal boundaries between students. Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or not, girls are more vulnerable than boys. When teachers see a boy and girl 'necking' in the hallways, they should not assume the girl is a voluntary participant. Girls can be pressured and/or threatened by boys to do things they do not want to do. Teachers must intervene and tell the students to break it up and go to class. Teachers must also use good judgment in determining whether either or both students need to be referred to the counsellor or principal.

School Choice and Teacher Choice

Parents, many of whom pay taxes to support public schools, should have the right to decide which schools their children attend. This decision is too important to be based on the geographic zoning rules imposed by school districts. If parents chose their children's schools, then schools with good reputations would attract motivated students and concerned parents. Schools with bad reputations would either self-extinguish or undergo reform. Likewise, parents should be able to meet and/or read profiles of and choose their children's teachers. Teacher choice could be based on criteria such as the teacher's methods and style of teaching, grading scales, homework policy, etc.

Parents should also have the option of placing their children in same-sex classrooms. This could be especially helpful for immature or slower-developing teens, as well as for motivated students who enjoy learning and do not want to be distracted. Energetic boys, for example, might do better in an all-boys classroom taught by a male teacher. Likewise, shy or quiet girls might gain confidence to participate in discussions if they were among other girls. Parents could place their children in some same-sex classrooms and some mixed classrooms, depending on each child's needs. Teachers could likewise teach both same-sex and mixed classes as part of their normal routine.

Although school choice and teacher choice would require some re-organization of transportation and class schedules, the results for the students could prove to be academically and behaviorally successful. How much would this changeover cost the taxpayers? Probably not one extra penny. Some monies might have to be channeled toward the popular schools to accommodate any influx of students but, if the deficient schools closed down or underwent reform, then it would all even out. The real issue might be the transporting of kids from their home to a school in a different zone. This could be partly resolved by use of both school buses and city buses, and by car pools.

Diverse Certification Routes

Most teachers have graduated from college with B.A. or B.S. degrees, and they have taken required courses in teaching methods in order to be eligible for state certification. There are very few 'alternative certification' routes (I think 'diverse certification' is a better term), and not all states or local districts accept alternative certification. What this means is that many teachers are products of indoctrination education as imposed by America's politically-correct university systems.

Not only is the current certification process unfair to people who want to make mid-life career changes or avoid unwanted retirement, but it also perpetuates government control over the teaching profession. If only the university preparation route is acceptable, this means most new teachers start their careers at approximately the same age and then remain working in public school systems with other teachers who followed the same route with them, before them, or after them. This might make the hiring process easier for school districts, but it robs the students of encountering qualified teachers from different backgrounds.

There are well-qualified retirees who have much to offer young people. A retired lawyer, architect, journalist, or veterinarian already have areas of expertise and do not necessarily need more college credits to be able to teach. Alternative certification programs facilitate getting these professionals into the classroom where they can teach as well as share their lifetime of knowledge and experience. What does alternative certification cost the taxpayer? Not one penny.

We can only imagine how differently the educational process might proceed if, for example, Iraqi War veterans were encouraged to teach history or political science. We can only speculate how they might react to revisionist textbooks. If there are billions of dollars to be allocated to improving the public schools, some of that money needs to go to a scholarship fund for war veterans and/or their families. Returning veterans have the potential to upset the anti-American attitudes which seem to dominate many universities and then trickle down into the public schools.

Empower Homeschooling

Parents should be empowered to pursue homeschooling for their children if they believe that is the best for them. Perhaps the real objection to homeschooling is that it is the most powerful form of competition to the public school and state credentialing systems. Parents who choose homeschooling are removing their children from government control, ineffective or inappropriate teaching methods, and the negative influence of student behavioral problems. Homeschooling sends a strong message to schools that their performance is regarded as inferior.

Self-Reliance and Self-Realization

Parents must provide supervision at home and not become overwhelmed by the negative aspects of American culture. Boycott the television. When the ratings fall, the producers of television shows and their advertisers will make positive changes. Parents themselves need to role-model maturity and create a nurturing home environment. Children must be taught self-reliance. Students must accept some level of responsibility for their own advancement when stuck in a deficient school system. It is not easy. But, even in the worst school, there is probably an excellent teacher who shines a light to show the way forward.

During the proofreading stage of today's essay, I happened to pick up an old textbook on social work theory. I came across a paragraph that seemed relevant to some of our current educational problems. See if you recognize the following quotation. It was written nearly 40 years ago.

Social casework, in its very nature (i.e., in its focus on the individual or the "case"), expresses a valuing of the individual in his difference and a belief in his capacity to use help extended through a human relationship to solve problems in a self-fulfilling, socially constructive way. A present tendency on the part of many social workers is to view individuals and groups as "victims," helpless in themselves, needing "advocates" and radically changed social conditions before anything can or should be expected of them in the way of responsible, productive behavior. Can this attitude go so far that social work as a profession may contribute to the weakening of individual initiative, responsibility, and power for self-realization in socially constructive ways? Is it possible that social work may have a significant role to play in keeping alive and furthering the profession's and society's appreciation of the individuality of the person and of his power for self-realization at the same time that it takes an increasingly vigorous part in working toward the improvement of social conditions and the increasing of social opportunity for disadvantaged individuals and groups?
[End of quote.]

That paragraph was written by Ruth E. Smalley in 1970. Smalley was a proponent of the functional school of social work, an approach which most people nowadays regard as being of historical interest only. Nevertheless, Smalley's remarks seem prophetic. If we replaced the words social work with public schools, Smalley's concerns then become applicable to the deterioration of the American educational process. In the provision of money and resources, and in the development of teaching methods and conducive environments, have we lost a belief in the student's capacity for self-propelled curiosity and intellectual discovery? This is something money cannot buy. (Written 08/18/08: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2008 Natalia J. Garland