Comments on The State of the Union and Education, 2011

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Last night, President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech for 2011.  I’m not going to get into whether or not one should support his political aspirations, as it is not germane to what I’m going to discuss.  I do want to talk about education in America, and government’s involvement in same.

President Obama, like virtually every president before him for the past 100 years, makes claims to being an “education president”.  And yet, and yet – education continues to devolve in America.  He said last night that the drop-out rate in our High Schools was about 1/4th.  That’s not true.  Nationally, it’s well over 1/3rd in High School, and in many, many cities, well over 50%!  (The politicians and the teacher unions really do not want you to know just how bad a job they are doing.)

Last night, the President stressed that we need to push education in the areas of science and math.  In this, he is simply regurgitating what George W. Bush said in his own “education” speeches, repeatedly.  President Obama further emphasized the need for this educational drift to fill high tech and good paying jobs.  No mention of the arts, humanities, any other subject.  Nope, just science and math, the battle cry of “no child left behind”, even though President Obama distinctly put down (and rightfully so) “no child left behind”.

Let’s get past this nonsense right now.  Government, apparently nearly any and all government, absolutely stinks at education.  Schools have failed miserably worldwide, after being gifted with an enormous percentage of the country’s available resources.  (And by the way, this includes public schools.)  High tech jobs largely do not remain in the United States, but instead go overseas where people will work for a fraction of what a college educated American is willing to work for.  If you had a business, wouldn’t you save yourself enormous amounts of money in that way?  You would, unless you saw it as some sort of patriotic duty to hire Americans.  I don’t think most businesses are all that patriotic, do you?

This jabber about science, math, high-tech jobs, making teacher’s more responsible, etc,  is all a tap dance that presidents and governments have been keeping time with for decades, and why?  Because they have no answers. And having no real answer, they rely on the one resource they can get their hands on in a ruinous attempt to solve the problem they cannot solve.  That resource is, needless to say, your money.

Please understand, I believe that George W. Bush and Obama are almost identical in this regard, as are the major political parties.  Where education is concerned, it is all failed business as usual and a lot of cheap (well, actually very expensive) talk.  They are fairly good at the rhetoric, these politicos.  Mr. Obama, as have many presidents before him, spoke glowingly of the creativity and productivity and gumption of the American people, all true.  Of course, we are all of those things largely in spite of the educations we’ve received, and not because of them. There are far too many examples of homeschoolers in history who excelled as described, as well as self-educated survivors of schools.  These are more often than not the people who make history.

Mr. Obama did mention teachers, and suggested that poor teachers should be kicked out of their jobs.  A nice fantasy that would generally strip our schools bare of staff, but impossible.  Why impossible?  Because teacher’s unions are brutally protective of their jobs, and will go to virtually any lengths to see to it that even the worst and most abusive teachers remain on the payroll.  After all, that’s what teacher unions get paid for.  They do not get paid to see to it t5hat children are serviced.  They exist to protect teachers, and that’s it.  When a teacher union claims anything else, they simply are spinning their agenda to place an acceptable face on it for public consumption.  So teachers may be (read are) often (read almost always) to blame for failures in our schools – but they aren’t going anywhere.  Not until we close down the schools.

What’s more, last night, Mr. Obama blamed YOU, the parents of your children, for their educational failures!  Yes, he reminded you to “turn off those TVs”, because that’s why your kids are failing in school.  It’s good to know the problem is so simple, and so easily addressed.  I turned my TV off, right after he suggested I do so.

I personally think that TV, video games and the like are the second cousin of the devil.  I always restricted my children’s TV, while they were in school, and I have always recommended that others do the same.   But really, folks.  The average public school has your child for about 5-6 hours per day – and then they issue 1-3 hours of homework!  And kids are still failing, in fact, in greater numbers than at any time in the history of public education.

Recently, a poll was taken of college students.  Yes, students in college today.  What did the poll reveal?  Um – students in college go out of their way to ditch.  That means that they don’t go to their rather expensive classes.  They instead elect one sucker (oops – peer, fellow student, whatever) to attend and record the lecture, so that the rest are free to go about their lives.

I can’t really blame them, given the quality (or lack thereof) of education today.  But what is that free time being used for?  Is it used to improve their minds, their skills?  Often, per the poll, the time was used to play video games.  These are not 12 year olds.  These are (supposedly) college students.

Dear Government, please return to us, the people, the money you have fallaciously taken from us over the past 100 years, under the guise of educating our children.  You have proven that in this regard, you lack any clarity of thought, any real or good intentions or true battle plan that could take our children to the educational Promised Land.  We can help you balance your budget, right now, today.  Close the schools and remove yourselves from the business of education entirely. Want to invest in our children’s futures?  Great!  A fraction of the monies spent on your disastrous current solutions to education could support homeschooling co-ops and groups throughout the country, which would then use the support to target a truly workable education for the children that they know (you do not know these children, not even their names, Mr. Government), and love.

Dear Teachers Unions, please just go away.  You’ve damaged an astronomical number of our children.  Your job is done.

I think the President was right about turning off our TVs.  Let’s start with those times when politics are on the air, either directly, or when they’re being discussed by the all-knowing press.  I think our time, our energy, our money should be invested into pursuits which might actually improve the conditions of our lives.  There are many.  Politics, once self-promoted to be “the art of the possible”, is clearly now a textbook in how not to work together (look at the Republican Party responses to the State of the Union last night, if you still doubt this), and is no longer one of those worthy pursuits.

But education is.  Not “education” as Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush defined it, but actual education is the most urgent of pursuits. It‘s my belief that a civilization that does not get education right is rapidly headed for the trash can of history.

So, what is the real state of our union, regarding education?

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