Education and learning are two things we value in this household.
We also value things like bacon, really good coffee and hours and hours of sleep but believe that last one is kind of like a leprechaun – mythical.
Sunday morning was a lazy morning.
We had planned on getting random groceries and then going to the creek/park that’s behind our apartment but the weather seemed to have other ideas since the day was dark, grey and cold, with the occasional raindrop.
The TV had been turned to some random cartoon and right before we went to get a shower, I made the mistake of switching the channel to some random news station.
I don’t remember what the show was or who the woman was who was speaking since I was trying to herd two kids into the bathroom. The important part is what she was talking about: broad-sweeping changes to the federal education system. I heard a couple of snippets and most of them involved pouring a lot of money into the system but I don’t remember enough to share here and those snippets aren’t what’s (really) important anyway.
What’s important is it got Tucker and me talking about education and what we think’s wrong with the educational system. The funny/absurd part about this is we were discussing the woes of our country whilst showering.
I’ll take adult conversation whenever and wherever I can get it.
A couple of moments in the conversation stand out to me and be glad I’m writing this the day after since the conversation stretched on for about an hour and I was all riled up and stuff.
- We spend more money on education per child, as a country, than any other country but our kids are far from the highest performing kids.
- We, on a whole, appear to value celebrity and sports stars more than we value smart folks.
- Throwing more money and creating more “mandates” won’t fix an already broken system.
- You can’t fix education until you change what the kids get at home and what the kids’ parents value.
- In order to change what kids’ parents value, you have to dramatically change what Americans put a premium on – from entertainment and frivolity to intelligence and hard work.
I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you place high – attainable – expectations on your children, they will strive to reach those goals. When you set the bar too low – or don’t set it at all – what do you think you’re going to get?
You will have the occasional child who accomplishes amazing things in spite of their parents. And, conversely, you will have kids who, no matter what their parents do, are still going to do poorly in school. But expecting nothing but the minimum requirements, praising athletic achievement over grades and expecting your government to fix an issue that can only be fixed at home aren’t the expectations I’m talking about.
What sucks is I don’t have any real solutions but sure do have a lot of complaints and people could say I’m part of the problem with all my complaining and finger pointing. But ultimately, Tucker and I are only responsible for our two kids and the standards we set for them.
Will we encourage our kids to participate in sports if they want? You bet but they also will participate in non-sports activities. If I have it my way, both of them will take music lessons and if grades start to fall then all things not directly relating to classwork will be killed.
Cause that’s how we roll.
I’m curious about what your thoughts are on US public education.
What would fix it? Is American “culture” really to blame or is it something that’s easier to fix? Do you think the need for more money is the issue or should we be spending those dollars smarter?
Links for further reading. If they’re old, that’s because that was the best I could find.
- Public Schools Spent $9,138 Per Student in 2006 [US Census Bureau published in 2008]
- Per-pupil public school spending 2001-2002 with map
- U.S. tops the world in school spending but not test scores [USA Today published in 2003]
- Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators