Kids are all right without state, federal help
I read your “U.S. future bleak” column with a smile of recognition on my face. Mr. Jeff Ackerman, the same things were being said a generation ago about our education system. Australia, England, many Latin American and European countries, among others, only educate those that pass the test for college. The residue do not go on to “higher” education because it is not available to them.
The solution is to only educate those that pass the test. “Americans should not try to educate all of their children,” was the cry then as it is now. “We will fall behind the rest of the world.” Some will say, “Times are different.” And, indeed they are. The truth of the matter is that the cream will always rise to the top.
That is true in America and in all other countries. We still set the standard for the world. Check out the textbooks in science and mathematics in the school libraries of the world. They are mostly written in English or are translations of books written by English language authors. Why is that? We live in a relatively free society. Freedom and the right to excel is available to all, even those who mature later and do not excel in high school (or could not have passed the test).
Why is the competition more noticeable now? Because basic education systems in other countries have improved. Many countries haven’t previously had a state-run education system at the primary level. Many still don’t. Their education systems are principally run by private concerns for the families that can afford to pay.
The result of better and more universally available education in these countries is that more are qualifying for “higher education.” Is that bad? No, it is good. What the report Mr. Ackerman cites expresses is the fear that all the good jobs will go overseas. “We live in a global economy,” they say. It is true that the computer has greatly improved communication. But the leap to our becoming a second-rate country and economy is highly speculative. Why? Because there is a culture and language difference. I can hardly understand an East Indian who speaks British English calling me from India for a U.S. company.
It is true that most countries are educating their students in spoken American English, but it is not their primary language. And why are they learning English? Because we still have the highest standard of living in the world. Europe is catching up. And they, like us, have to compete with third world countries in the marketplace. Most of the jobs being farmed away are low level jobs, which pay better wages for those taking the jobs in third world countries. As time goes on, that will change. I do not fear the future as you seem to and the report seems to encourage.
As I look at the list of counter -measures “we must take if we are going to compete,” they are almost all wrong. They resort to the procedural manipulation that has kept from competing companies from competing with us. The federal control of education in this country has bust, and always will be. Why? We know that socialism doesn’t work. Centralizing education at the federal level is a bad idea. It doesn’t work, is always more costly and it leads to the deterioration of superior education programs. It inevitably leads to scholasticism, which leads us away from thinking and making innovative changes to learning facts for the sake of passing the test.
I do approve of paying teachers more, however. Standards and curricula assessments are best handled at the local level by teachers. Several of the other recommendations would send us backwards not forwards. Take, for instance, the “Provide high quality universal early childhood education,” recommendation. Most of those who are recommending these programs haven’t been in the classroom for decades, or ever, and are impervious to the child’s capacity to learn at that level of maturity. It sounds more like “Brave New World.” Our system works very well, thank you. It would work better without federal, and in many cases, state interference. The report that has caught your eye isn’t new, Jeff. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Keith Miller lives in Penn Valley
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