THE FAILURES OF THE PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM An analytical view of the triumphs and shortcomings of the American public education system through a domestically and internationally extensive lens Preface : The contents of this body has been written to rhetorically answer the question of educational reformation in the United States, and shall provide the reader with statistics encompassing both internal and international figures, highlighting the underlying necessity of domestic change, as an essential requisite for individual success and the failure of the American school system to adequately prepare its students. Written by Ian Sawh With the passing of Compulsory Education, a series of municipal legislation that held the purpose of creating educational uniformity in their respective states, education itself has become a political matter with all the negative aspects associated with politics intertwining with education. Consequently, the success of schooling has itself become a matter of controversy and debate, as local communities lost a pivotal voice in the educating of their students in compliance with federal guidelines. Before the ushering of the aforementioned reformation era of the education system, attendance as well certain requirements of education were inessential. However, for an understanding of the failures of the education system, a brief synopsis on the history of education itself is necessary. State funded public schools in the United States began to appear during the era of Compulsory Education, however before these standard public schools, the main system of education in the United States were parochial schools. These were schools created by a religious parish (mainly being either Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Calvinists)1 with the intent of instructing children on the subjects of arithmetic, language and religion.
Parochial schools were designed for a specific religious demographic, and were created to foster morality and religious tradition in students. Though, there were criteria for admittance to these schools. To be enrolled, students had to be affiliated with the parish associated with the church. This led to racially marginalized groups at the time, including African Americans and Native Americans to fall behind on the educational front as education for those groups at the time was either disallowed, impractical, or simply unavailable. The predecessor to the parochial schools were dame and vocation schools. The former of which was an Elizabethan era concept. Dame schools were designed to instill practices of etiquette and common home economic skills necessary during marriage, to young women from an early age, with some incorporating basic arithmetic and foreign languages (such as Latin and Greek) into the curriculum. Dame education was explicitly available to paying members of the private sector.
The latter of the two, Vocational Schooling, was an institution in which, in exchange for payment, room and board would be provided to a young male who would also be taught a specific trade by a professional artisan. The concept of vocational schools are still in use today, though they are not gender restricted and may involve formal education, like Vocational High Schools which simultaneously teach a trade and academics. An undeniable effect of the transitioning from primitive educational traditions to formalized schooling is the rise in educated members of society, and the further academic advancement of their respective fields of study.
A lesser valued byproduct of enlightenment is those who are lesser academically inclined to their peers have been forced to take jobs of menial labor as sustenance due to their inability to scholastically excel. Of course, there were also those who possessed the academic aptitude, but simply did not have the opportunity to go to school despite the legal requirement of their attendance. This was in part due to their poverty, and the need for their child labor from their parents, resulting in a systematic cycle of ignorance and destitution.The major failure of the education system is its inability to prepare students for their future, including but not their collegiate endeavors. Most American schools fail to educate students in aspects beyond academia, in fact many do a poor job of educating students in that specific aspect. Home economics courses are vital, yet many schools do not offer such programs.
In addition to this, communication, individual finance, civics & government, first aid and computer science are all examples indispensable skills rarely taught.Though some may argue that school is meant solely for academic purposes, this is in practice incorrect. Life skills are generally taught to children by their parents. Students in most states attend a mandatory 175-180 school days2. The average school day, consisting of 6.1 – 7.0 hours across the United States3. The school day is also (de facto) greater in length if the student participates in extracurricular activities.
All these factors amount to less time spent at home with their parents. In summation, many children are simply not taught skills that may one day have practical use for them and are instead ingrained with theoretical knowledge that may not be of use to them considering the failure to academically prepare students for higher education.Proponents of the argument that schools should not instill life skills into their students, and in turn believe that school is meant for academia and collegiate pursuits only, fail to realize the terrible job that schools are doing in that facet of education alone. According to a study conducted by the board of education; 5.9% of the 3,497,000 students who enroll in high school are expected to cease enrollment4. Though the figure may seem minuscule, it means there will be 206,323 dropouts lacking a high school diploma. By the year 2020, 65% of all workforce employment will require its applicants to possess more than a high school diploma, leaving only 35% of real time employment as actual open opportunities to high school dropouts5.
A high school diploma in the present, and future workplace is a prerequisite for success. Although my intent is not to make the affirmation, a high school dropout is explicitly indicative of someone who will not be successful in life, I mean to emphasize the importance of high school, especially for the pursuit of advanced degrees, and even in menial labor as the requirement for education expands. According to the Bureau of Labour and Statistics, members of the workforce that possess degrees are also less likely to be unemployed, and on average earn more than their colleagues6. Another significant failure of the education system is its inability to dominate, or at the least rigorously compete with other countries in the educational sector. Despite American government expenditures on the average individual student for entirety of his or her academic career totaling to just under $92,0007, the United States still dawdles behind several countries, that spend significantly less on education per student alone. As of the present, the United States is drastically inferior and incapable of educational competition on a global theater.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, despite the United States spending more than ? the financial output of Finland, Finnish students consistently score higher than their American counterparts in the areas of Mathematics, Science, and Literacy8.The framework of the American education system was modeled after the English system. According to the same source (OECD), the English in all three of the same subjects, scored higher than the United States.
The average difference between the two nations is only about 10.3 points however, leaving the United States only slightly lagging behind the United Kingdom. One of the many solutions to the sizable problems of the education system is to approach the topic liberally. Conservatism in the learning environment is not only archaic, but in a world where other countries are developing their educational system instead of clinging to older, provenly ineffective practices, this predisposes future generations of Americans to competition against better prepared and more highly educated individuals on an international scale. This is why it is my belief that the future success of the of United States, is in the hands of its students today. Without wise investment in financial resources, as well structural alteration, the quality of American education will remain diminished, as the United States will continue to lag behind other developing nations, in educational affairs. The inability to change the education system to meet its flaws due to political ambiguity and philosophical disparity will be the most arduous opponent of much needed educational reformation.
This is one of the reasons the education system is currently in its dilapidated condition. Finland is a prime example of success in liberal educational practices. One of the main reasons of the success in Finland is its abolishment of standardized testing. Much of the time in American classrooms are spent in educating students on material that will appear on a test, the biggest of course being the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). The downside of this is the lion’s share of time is spent not in training students in their weak points, but as review for future exams. Furthermore, Finnish children also receive considerably less homework, in some cases no homework. The Finnish school system also promotes equality, and tailored education rather than uniformity among its students. These practices have proven to be widely successful, as the average Finnish student is capable of outperforming many students of many other developed countries.
One of the main reasons standardized testing, one of the biggest ensnarements in education cannot be done away with is due to the politics involved with it. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, under the Bush administration called for standardized testing, and propagates the “One size fits all” educational theory. After the passing of the NCLB Act, teachers were expected to teach coursework emphasizing test taking strategies, taking away allotted time from pertinent class material. Since every student is has different requirements, federal statutes mandating education are unnecessary hindrances that pressure the child’s performance on standardized tests and result in inevitable failure of the child if not crippling his or her self esteem in the process, further minimalizing their chances of success. This is why educational framework should be decided on a municipal level, with state elected Assemblyman representing their educational districts and advocating for their necessities rather than a national model. Politics in education should also be bipartisan, neutral efforts. Though this is not the case, as political parties state their educational platform.
Federal politics involved in education are responsible for few positive outcomes, that mostly being the federal cash subsidies towards teachers, and free lunches to students as mandated in the Elementary & Secondary Education Act passed under the Johnson administration in 1965. Another piece of legislation known as Common Core aimed at instituting a set of standards for students in a certain grade level nationwide. Resemblant to No Child Left Behind, Common Core, which as of 2017 is still active in 37 states, also regulates the class work material discussed by teachers, leaving little room to individualize education, further propagating the “One size fits all” education. In addition to this, it comes with a substantial price tag for states to implement, with it costing California $759,000,0009. This is just the cost of one state, keep in mind.
The entire country of Finland spends $17.6226B (USD) on education annually alone10. Whereas the United States spends over 36 times as much as Finland at $630,000,000 according to U.S. President Donald Trump. Despite this gross overspending there is a drastic difference in quality of education and student performance. This unavailing overspending is not beneficial for schools, and furthermore is a wasteful investment of taxpayer dollars.
America is spending an exorbitant amount of money, yet many students are still forced to use outdated learning resources, this is in part due to an unequal distribution of federal funds to urban areas. Schools in which poverty-stricken students are the majority often receive between 1 and 2% less funding as opposed to those students in richer schools, according to a study conducted by Brookings University11. According to the news editorial “The Atlantic” there is a direct correlation between academic scores in lower property taxes (indicating poorer areas), and higher property taxes (richer areas).
Richer areas receive more money for education per student, in addition to new technology and better learning resources12. According to the same source, the school system of Connecticut spends $6,000 more in educating students of affluent areas as opposed to students of poorer areas of Connecticut. The large difference arises in the cost of property taxes. Most townships rely heavily on property taxes to fund their local education. Though this manner of self autonomy in education is great for students who live in wealthy areas, for students who live in poorer areas this means less money, older resources, and likely lesser paid teachers which leads to a myriad of problems. In districts where African American children are the majority, political corruption like embezzlement are serious issues. Anne Taliaferro, former member of the Paterson School District, of Paterson, New Jersey was found guilty of embezzling over $190,00013 of state allocated funds towards children in the area.
Students in Paterson consistently scored among the lowest in the state of New Jersey on the PARCC exam, aimed at determining the readiness of students for college14. My theory on the reason for these low scores is a combination of poor teachers, insufficiently motivated children, little funding, and the absence of structured parenting. To combat corruption spending on education to be more publicly accessible, with harsher penalizing for crimes of embezzlement and fraud.Teachers though, are also in part to blame for the minimal success of their students. Perhaps inexperienced students, in combination with bad teachers may possibly be the root of academic failure, at least for some students.
According to a 2011 study conducted by C. Emily Freistritzer15, affiliated with the NCED, 26% of teachers only had between 1 and 5 years of teaching experience. The study recognizes this, and says : “The obvious explanation is that older, more experienced teachers are leaving in greater numbers due to retirement, and younger, less experienced teachers are replacing them.” These newer teachers, who are under 29 years of age are statistically likely to possess a Master’s degree level of education16. However, directly from a higher level teaching environment, how prepared are these younger, newer teachers to educate children? Though their advanced degree may qualify them for such a position, a combination of their inexperience and presumably high expectations may not necessarily formulate a healthy learning environment. According to the Department of Education, 17% of teachers resign their posts within a five year span17. Teaching is a strenuous profession, and especially trying of one’s patience, when attempting to organize children.
It is not surprising that so many teachers find they simply cannot, or do not want to teach. It is not my belief that new teachers are incapable of teaching, nor do I hold a bias against new teachers, though there is evidence suggesting that many teachers are perhaps, unprepared for the trials of teaching, and a topic of concern. Some, though not most, public school teachers see their career as a source of income rather than as a calling. What if a major reason we have disinterested students is the lack of a good teacher? Perhaps it is possible that tenured professions should be revoked.
To explain, I must define tenure. Tenure, is a policy that secures teaching professions for the incumbents. Profession security is a good thing, however it may prompt laziness and a sense of impunity in teachers. In a hypothetical school, imagine a new public school teacher. After a certain amount of years, the teacher is tenured.
Regardless of how well that teacher teaches, or how well his or her students perform, that teacher cannot be punished unless a direct violation of the law or school policy has transpired. Knowing this, will the quality of the hypothetical teacher’s lecture diminish? Unfortunately there is no analytical data nor studies performed to answer this, however with the use logic the answer is obvious. However, to speak in absolutes is blatantly inconsiderate towards tenured teachers. For re-iteration, tenures exists for the purpose of job security, however an unexpected yet undeniable consequence of tenuring teachers, is a decline in the quality of education from tenured teachers, and the sense of impunity. The annual starting salary of teachers in the 2012-2013 year was $36,14118. This severe underpayment of teachers is absurd. Primary education teachers have a paramount responsibility of educating children, the future of the country.
They cultivate the minds of young individuals and instruct them in not only academics, but morality as well. Their work is difficult, with a great portion of their day-to-day lecture and in-class activities involving work done outside of the workplace for instance; grading, creating projects, designing course lecture, and other innovative teaching methods, which at times involve out-of-pocket expenses for classroom materials. Teaching is a skill heavily undervalued, and often mistaken as indispensable. However, the reality is: not everyone has the patience, qualification and inclination to teach. So why is it that we underestimate the importance of teachers? Motivated and well equipped teachers are just as important as engaged pupils. In my opinion, lazy teachers are the final flaw of the education system and a major origin of academic failure.
From my perspective of a student, these are the issues of our education system, and why reform is needed. Should the affairs of this body ever be resolved, it is my expectation that a more successful educational system will take form, which in turn shall result in the formation of more highly educated individuals through the public system of education which shall set the stage for a new, more rigorous and competitive American than previously seen.Works Cited 1 https://tinyurl.com/porachial-education 2 Education Commission of States (http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/95/05/9505.pdf)3 National Center for Education Statistics (https://goo.gl/s5LPa8) 4 https://www.mercatus.org/publication/k-12-spending-student-oecd5 http://tinyurl.com/education-statistic6 https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2014/data-on-display/education-still-pays.htm7 https://www.mercatus.org/publication/k-12-spending-student-oecd8 https://tinyurl.com/education-graph9 https://tinyurl.com/educational-cost-california10 https://tinyurl.com/finnish-ed-study/11 https://tinyurl.com/brookings-univ-study12 https://tinyurl.com/article-education13 http://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases14/pr20140515e.html14 https://tinyurl.com/PARCC-results-NJ15 Page 19 : Chart # 10 https://www.edweek.org/media/pot2011final-blog.pdf 16 Page 19 : Chart # 9 https://www.edweek.org/media/pot2011final-blog.pdf17 https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2015/2015337.pdf18 http://www.nea.org/home/2012-2013-average-starting-teacher-salary.html