I don’t know that any sane person in this country would claim that education is unimportant, a useless topic that doesn’t deserve attention in the United States. Everyone can rally behind a child – our mental prototypes picture them as needy and deserving of help, as they are too weak to help themselves. I think this is noble, but if this is really how we feel about our future generations, why is the institution of education being demolished as we speak with virtually no one to save it?
As we speak, American students are lagging behind those in other countries in many subjects. In a study the New York Times cited in December of 2012, it was discovered that students in the U.S. were ranked 11th in fourth-grade math scores and 9th in eighth-grade math among equally poor science rankings. The countries at the top? Countries like Singapore and South Korea. Furthermore, only a small percentage of American students were defined as reaching an “advanced” level in mathematics, while both of the other leading countries were close to 50 percent.
I didn’t write this article to spit numbers and statistics out at people; it should be obvious by looking at the public school systems around us that education is being undervalued in the United States. I live in a right-to-work state, and practically every teacher I had while in public school belonged to the teachers union. Virtually all of them attempted to suppress any sort of disagreement with liberal indoctrination, and I couldn’t count the number of teachers who had complained about how little they were paid.
I was spoon-fed the idea that “discussion should be open” and that all ideas should be “tolerated,” but the false rhetoric became apparent when a simple disagreement on global warming, policy, or the role of government turned into a blood bath. Papers for classes became about gay rights, gender roles, the legalization of drugs, and sexual freedoms. I was disturbed that liberal opinions on these topics were being accepted as universal truths, and were clearly not open for healthy discussion without accusations of bigotry.
Setting aside the obvious political and social biases, it is clear that we’ve stopped expecting students to think for themselves: we’re teaching our future generations not “how to think” but “what to think,”and this transfers over to our standardized scores and our global standing in education. When teachers are more interested in their own personal gains than the education of their students because of tenure or union job security, students cannot be interested and therefore do not learn.
Thus, the ultimate solution to fixing the education problem in the United States lies in eliminating liberal policies toward education; teachers, like most of the rest of us, should be promoted and retained based on merit and job performance, not as a result of union stiff-arming or an increasing inability to fire those who do not (or will not) perform well on the job. I’m not saying that every member of a teacher’s union is awful at their job, I was blessed with some amazing instructors throughout school, but I believe strongly in holding those who are educating future voting citizens of the United States accountable for the effort they put into their jobs.
If we broke the teachers unions now, kept those teachers who are enthused about real education and their students, and began intensive math and science programs around the country (especially in inner-city areas), our global rankings in education would soar and students would be better qualified to make an impact as citizens in their future. This approach would place the United States in the position a world super power should retain, and it would attack domestic problems as well.
Additionally, a greater emphasis and value placed on education would positively affect our economy. When the U.S. is no longer reliant on China, Japan, and other foreign countries to produce advanced technology or other goods cheaply, the necessity to outsource jobs and cut corners could be drastically reduced, or even possibly eliminated. Not to mention the money companies would save on importing goods that could be spent elsewhere and stimulate other businesses. If we correctly raised and educated new generations of Americans to become passionate citizens who would work hard for the prosperity of their nation, many current economic problems could be addressed.
I realize that eliminating teachers unions is easier said than done. I realize that the money needed to spend on such an endeavor is difficult to find in an economy rapidly approaching $17 trillion in debt, and that removing the entitlement mentality from millions of Americans is no small challenge. At least that’s what I figure, but what do I know? I went to public school.
Conner Dwinell | Hillsdale College | @ConnerDwinell