What Are Children Being Taught?

An article by Michael Gerson in the Charlotte Observer (July 22, 2012) states, “In 2000, 5 percent of African-American fourth-graders and 7 percent of their Hispanic peers were assessed proficient in math. . . By 2011, math proficiency had risen to 17 percent for African-American fourth-graders and 24 percent for their Hispanic peers.”

That means less than 10% of African-American or Hispanic children who were in the 4th grade in 2000 were prepared to be successful in any career demanding math skills or even to manage their own finances, and by 2011, while there was improvement, still less than a fourth were adequately prepared. Where is the outrage? How bad does it have to get before people understand changes are needed?

Want to know why there is so much unemployment in the minority community? Read the article again. Most skilled workers, not just office workers but carpenters, electricians, plumbers and others, use math every day.  And math skills used to be a prerequisite for college admission, but diploma mills are now in place to sell degrees with no requirement that the recipient actually demonstrates real proficiency in anything useful.

Want to know why so many jobs are going overseas? When other countries can supply skilled workers more cost-effectively than we can, it hurts our economy. The mismanagement of our education system is hurting everyone in this country.

Gerson is generally on target, but I would only agree with half of his assertion that “Public education demonstrates that a highly decentralized governmental system can also be arrogant and mediocre, particularly when parents are denied objective information about outcomes.”

It is true that parents and the public have been “denied objective information about outcomes.” I’d go farther and say the lies told have been so outrageous that they could not have succeeded without the enthusiastic non-reporting of the major papers.

And since this piece was actually printed, maybe it is disinformation, since the suggestion that public education is decentralized is so incredibly off target. Local school boards can control the non-essentials like providing classrooms and hiring staff, but the decisions on the big issues, things like curriculum and required staffing and staff credentials, are highly centralized.

My favorite aunt taught math in North Carolina’s public schools for years and combining her input with information furnished by NC teachers while I was in the legislature, I have no hesitancy in saying the math curriculum taught in our public schools has been dumbed down over the years and the UNC Schools of Education were complicit in the process.

Thank goodness for the classroom teachers who had the good sense and awareness of education history to ignore the “experts” and fads and focus on the needs of the children! Despite their best efforts to substitute paper credentials and portfolios for actual knowledge, the “experts” have been unable to remove real teachers from the educational process. Without those teachers, the damage caused by a centralized system run by “experts” with no responsibility for outcomes would have been even greater.

If an enemy wanted to destroy this country, denying our children the education needed to be productive citizens is a sure way to succeed.

If we want this country to survive, we’d better take a closer look at what children are being taught (or not being taught).

 

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