As mentioned in last week’s column, education is the foundation of free and creative thought and the source of fresh ideas and concepts that benefit everybody. In oppressive societies and governments, educational opportunities are suppressed and there are reports of book burning in some autocratic governments. Consider that the literacy rate in Niger is 19.1%, Afghanistan (a theocracy) is 38.2%, Pakistan is 57.9% while China and Russia have recorded literacy rates of 96.4% and 99.7% respectively.
Other building blocks of independent developed nations are freedom of speech, religion and opportunities to excel in any legal and ethical chosen occupation. Important assumptions to be considered are obedience with respect to reasonable laws and conduct that does not encroach on the rights and privileges of others and a free press that is honest and informative to all segments of the population.
There is ample reason to believe that educational success can be measured by comparison with other nations. Last week’s column exposed that failure; our 15-year old students are 40th in math, 25th in science and 24th in reading compared with 72 other countries.
Part of the problem is our changing culture that has slowly but surely removed the underpinning of family structure. According to CDC statistics, of the almost 4 million live births in 2015, 40.3% or 1.6 million babies were born to unwed mothers. According to a recent Gallup poll, 61% of our U.S. population now believes that child birth outside of marriage is morally acceptable.
This means that we are sending our offspring to kindergarten and all other grades with the assumption that the school staff will inculcate manners, modesty and a will to learn with reasonable discipline into the brains of our children. Here’s evidence: a full-time female teacher in a city of about 100,000 told me that when parent-pupil night was held for her third-grade class of 20, the parents of just one pupil showed up and showed interest in the progress of their daughter.
Another example: a 42-year-old male high school graduate found a job in a large Virginia city and was a good worker for several months. However, when asked to write a report he confided that he could neither read nor write. The company paid the expense of enrolling the employee in a city school training class for adults and he learned to read and write in six months.
The national high school dropout rate is about 5.9% with the rate for Whites at 4.6%, Blacks at 6.5% and Hispanics at 9.2%; dropout rates in Chicago and Detroit are 30.1% and 22.6% respectively. A recent Fordham Institute study found that 28% of public school teachers used sick leave and personal days off for more than 10 days each school year all within union work rules.
In the more than 50 years since 1964 and LBJ’s ‘War on Poverty’, we have spent $22 trillion or triple the cost of all wars since the Revolution and the U.S. Census Bureau says there has been virtually no progress in reducing poverty. One of the primary reasons is that we have spent endless effort and expense teaching young men and women the commandments of liberalism: A. How to fill out a welfare application instead of a job application, B. If you prefer not to work, sign up for welfare or get a government job and C. If you are a high school graduate, go to college on Uncle Sam; if you drop out, flunk out, pass out or get kicked out, don’t worry, Uncle Sam will pull you up and out.
Our education system has slipped into the proclivity of redirecting the human, financial and national operational resources away from training students to feeding students, assuring generous retirements for teachers and staff, and rigging the system to pass students regardless of achievement. Free college is available at taxpayer expense to all high school graduates regardless of their abilities to absorb knowledge and seek an independent career. Teachers have unwittingly ceded their former professional status to occupational serfs serving the financial and operational needs and political desires of unions and their warped objectives.
Our teaching and learning at all levels including college, is rapidly backsliding in the bog called, ‘The Washington D.C. Swamp.’