DICK BAYNTON: The Politics of Knowledge

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Dick Baynton

Knowledge is one of the important core competencies of all people worldwide. Nearly all living residents on Earth have some knowledge. Knowledge arises from observation, experience, on-the-job training and classroom teaching and learning at all levels of institutional education. Classroom education starts with pre-school and goes on to elementary, middle, high school, trade schools and colleges.

Here in the U.S. we respect the knowledge that we are the largest contributor to commerce in the world and also the most formidable military power. On the flip side of that coin is our formal public educational system that is ranked 24th in reading, 25th in science and 35th in math by PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), a division of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The data gathered was from 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries.  Although literacy in the U.S. is very high, several other nations boast 100% literacy of their people (ability to read and write). One study indicated that 19% of U.S. high school graduates have trouble reading.

Formal education is included in our taxes but gets more expensive after high school graduation. As an acknowledged leader in creative developments in technology and industry, why isn’t our country among (at least) the top 10? Probably because education has become a victim of politicization in the U.S.

Among other problems, schools have become bastions of liberal, progressive politically correct teaching and learning and our culture has shifted from students living in family havens to ‘random relationships’ and ‘blended families.’ For example a 4th-grade lady teacher told me that in her class of 21 pupils, only one had both a Mom and Dad present on parent’s night at the school.

Teachers in all grades through high school are responsible for teaching courses of study but also teaching manners and basic discipline. Thus, teachers spend some of their time teaching subjects required and some of their time in disciplinary activity unrelated to the teaching/learning process. K-12 educations are generally overseen and guided by local school boards and appointed superintendents and principals of individual schools.

In many school districts throughout the land, teachers unions have become more insistent on increased compensation and retirement benefits than learning results of their students (accountability). The two largest teachers unions NEA (National Education Association) and AFT (American Federation of Teachers) showered Democratic politicians with about $40 million in donations in 2018. This legal arm-twisting (amounting to extortion/blackmail) advocates limiting vouchers and charter schools because unions are not yet in charge politically and operationally.

In order to inculcate students with learning, teachers unions contribute 99.9% of their political contributions to liberal progressive Democratic causes. There are 100,000 public K-12 schools in the nation with 49.5 million students and 3.1 million teachers (there are about 5 million students in private K-12 schools).

New York City Mayor Bill Di Blasio is opposed to charter schools even though a successful charter school network named ‘Democracy Prep’ can’t expand due to his favoritism of teachers union money over educating the diversity of students in the city. As evidence of this flawed government policy, the waiting list to get into charter schools in NYC is 50,000 youngsters (and their parents).

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers a Democrat wants to limit the number of charter schools and discontinue vouchers. Chicago’s ‘Noble Network of Charter Schools’ where 98% of students are Black or Hispanic; 80% of graduates enter four-year colleges and universities while just 42% of graduating seniors from Chicago public schools matriculate to college.

In February of this year, teachers walked off the job to defeat school choice and accountability legislation in West Virginia. In January teachers in Los Angeles walked off the job; about 12% of graduates attend college and more than 60% are not proficient in math and English. An estimated 245,000 students have left the area over the past 15 years due to low performing schools.

Political money is tantalizing but toxic; it comes from teacher’s purses, wallets and union treasuries and buys politicians and government officials’ support and advocacy. Essentially, liberal progressives have taken over education reform. Our politicians and teachers unions are more mesmerized by money than they are dedicated to the goal of superlative educations for our youths.

Dick Baynton