Nov. 29, 1996
The American Education System;
Cause for Rebellion
If Americas Schools are to meet the needs of the twenty first century, they must be reinvented. It is not enough to try to fix the schools; they must be reconstructed in both fundamental and radical ways. The school system must be restructured. The future of the American public school system is significant because the maintenance of an informed and productive citizenry is vital to the future of this country. Historically Americans have strongly asserted the importance of public schools in a democracy and despite growing disdain for the perceived value of the school system, public schools remain central to democracy in the United States.
For more than a century, Americas public schools have been an indispensable source of the countrys strength. Public education has allowed citizens to become productive members of society by providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary for the labor force. Schools prepare students to be literate, informed and reasoning citizens. According to Philip Schlechty, author of Schools for the twenty-first century, Public schools are the ties that bind this pluralistic society into a nation. Our Nations thirty-sixth president, Lyndon B. Johnson, also believed that there is no institution more fundamental to American society and democracy than its public schools.(36)
Public schools are the cornerstone of Americas future. The development of youths knowledge, skills and social dispositions has always been critical to the countrys success. In the next century, Americas youth will play an increasingly important role in the countrys survival and well-being. By the year 2025, one out of five Americans will be 65 or older, and by the year 2040, one out of four Americans will be 65. In less than 15 years, the first baby boomers will reach the age of 65 (Peterson 64). It is clear that the economic success of America will be in the hands of youth to unprecedented extent. It is time to invest in education in order to maintain the American way of life.
In the competitive knowledge-based world of the twenty-first century, the education of Americas youth will be more important than ever. More responsibility will be placed on schools because of greater diversity in classrooms, languages, preparedness, motivation, and the dynamics of the future workplace. Schools also must assume more responsibility because of increasing enrollment. Entering the 1996-1997 school year, there is an all time high enrollment of 51.7 million students in public schools throughout the country (Good 6). Because of enhanced enrollment and technological advances, there is more material that needs to be taught if students are to be competitive and productive in the future job market. Since there are more students and more that needs to be taught, public schools are more important and have more responsibility now than at any previous time.
Despite the need to develop youth as fully as possible, society treats youth in careless and irresponsible ways. American schools are currently failing to provide students with an adequate education. Many public school facilities are out of date, underfunded, and not prepared to handle growing student populations and the advent of modern technology in the classroom. The United States General Accounting Office estimates that about one third of American students, about fourteen million children nationwide, attend inadequate schools (Schlechty 91). Along with crumbling facilities, Schools face a variety of academic and disciplinary hardships. According to a recent USA Today poll, seventy-two percent of Americans cite drugs and violence as serious problems in their local schools. Sixty-one percent believe that academic standards are too low. Lack of discipline and low graduation rates also ranked as one of the biggest problems facing public schools (Edmunds A2).
Nowhere in this country are the problems facing schools more evident than in the nations largest school system. The New York City Public School system handles approximately 1.1 million students in the citys 1,085 schools. Many of those schools are old and in serious disrepair. In 1994 the graduation rate After four years of high school was a dismal 44.3%. That same year, more than half of New Yorks children scored below their grade level in reading, and almost half scored below their grade level in math. The overall dropout rate for all students was 18.7% (Mandel 52).
With the education system in serious trouble, education is becoming a more and more important political issue in this country. It seems that in every election no matter how big or small, education is always an important issue. Both President Clinton and President Bush before him said before their election to office that they would be The education president (Good 4). Politicians often promise more educational programs and more funding for schools, but in unfortunate contrast to their promises, policymakers seem to view spending money on schools as an irritating cost rather than an important investment. In the 1995 federal budget, Healthy Start funds for young children were slashed from $104.2 million to $93 million; in the same budget, military spending increased by $1.9 billion to $264.3 billion. (Pear A3).
Support for public schools is in serious decline. According to a 1996Newsweek survey, education is the most serious concern of Americans, above crime, the environment, and the economy (Smith 41). Because of the public school systems failure to provide children with an adequate and effective education, citizens are beginning to question the value of the schools. Americans are becoming fed up with their public schools. Businesses complain that too many job applicants cant read, write, or do simple arithmetic. Parents fear that schools have become violent cesspools where gangs run amok and that teachers are more concerned with their pensions than their classrooms. Economists fret that a weak school system is hurting the ability of the U.S. to compete in the global economy. And despite modest improvements in test scores, U.S. students rank far behind most of their international peers in science and math (Mandel 66).
With so many complaints about the current state of public schools accompanied by widespread disapproval of the national education system, it is not difficult to predict a rebellion concerning this aspect of society. If the situation does not drastically improve in the near future, there will be an education revolution in this country. Parents will no longer allow their children to be deprived of a quality education. They will demand better schools and or seek alternative ways to alternative ways to educate their children. Private schools will become more important in education, but private schools are not a practical solution because not all families can afford sending their children to private schools. Since the government guarantees the right of a quality education to all people, whatever their financial situation may be, the government will be forced to take some form of action and either improve the existing system or attempt to revolutionize public education in this country completely. At the 1996 National Education Summit the view that American schools were failing was widely endorsed and call for action was proclaimed: Swift action must be taken to address the current issues facing public schools. While we commend those states and school districts that have provided leadership to improve student performance, we urge greater progress, and for others, increased effort. We believe that standards can be effective only if they represent what parents, employers, educators, and community members believe children should learn and be able to do. However the current rate of change needs to be accelerated, and no process or time line should deter us from the results (Good 5).
The problems facing the education system in this country are not going to just go away. In order to fix the broken parts of the system and improve education, there must be drastic change in the system itself and throughout society. A social rebellion will have to take place in order to persuade the government to act on restructuring the education system. To achieve the quality of education that society will demand, the government will have to reinvent the system of public schools. This will revolutionize the way in which Americans are formally educated.
Edmunds, Patricia. Children Get Poorer Nation Gets Richer USA Today
17 August 1996: A2.
Good, Thomas. Educational Researchers Comment on the Education Summit Educational ResearcherSeptember 1996: 4-6.
Mandel, Michael. Education in New York City Phi Delta Kappan December 1995: 52-56.
Pear, Robert. With New Budget, Domestic Spending is Cut New York Times 27 April 1996: A3.
Peterson, Paul. Will America Grow Up Before it Grows Old Education Monthly March 1996: 62-69.
Schlechty, Philip C. Schools for the Twenty-first CenturySan Francisco : Josey-Bass, 1995.
Smith, Carolyn. How Americans View Public Schools Newsweek 17 April 1996: 41-43.
The American Education System; Cause For Rebellion
December 2, 1996