You Tell Me: How Do We Fix Our Education System or Can We?

I’m still on an education kick, especially since it seems that’s all that’s in the news right now. These are the headlines in our local paper from the past week:

The latest budget forecast is due out today, and though everyone is hoping for better numbers than we received earlier, nobody is expecting it. My teacher friends are wondering if they’ll have jobs next year, parents are wondering if they’ll have to find extra daycare, should the schools go to a four day week, and everyone is up in arms about the quality (or lack thereof) of education.

Solutions that have been tossed around are:

  • Cutting out Middle School Sports
  • Cutting out Elementary School Music
  • Moving to a Four Day School Week
  • Cutting Staff
  • Cutting Administrator Salaries (that suggestion mostly comes from the public)

I’m not convinced any of these things will fix the public education system, though. I’m not even convinced that more money will fix things.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for teachers and principals. They work hard and dedicate their lives to helping students get ahead. But oversized classrooms and strict testing standards prevent teachers from doing their jobs effectively.

I think another big, but often unmentioned, problem is the lack of support from a child’s parents. Over the years I’ve volunteered in both of my children’s classrooms, and I’m appalled by what I see.

  • Kids are late to school every day (elementary kids, whose parents bring them!)
  • Kids come to school hungry (our school got a grant to provide free breakfast to every student, every day…that’s the first 10 minutes of class).
  • Kids deal with abuse or parental drug abuse at home.
  • Parents make excuses for their kid’s bad behavior.

As long as teachers are acting as social workers for our children, they aren’t going to have the time to teach academics properly. If a child doesn’t have a stable and supportive home environment, how is he supposed to learn? If I were worried about daddy hitting mommy, I don’t think I’d be able to focus on math.

I’m not sure what the solution is. A decent school budget would certainly help, but it’s not going to solve the problem. Until more parents step up and take responsibility for their children’s education, even if it’s just in supporting the schools by making sure their children are fed and do their homework, the educational system is bound to stay broken. Unfortunately, there will always be parents who don’t care, and therein lies the problem. And that makes me very sad for their children.

What do you think? Will money solve our public education problem? Will anything solve it?



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By , on May 15, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{32 Comments}

  1. Karolyn:

    g33k’s post is well written and thoughtful, especially after the fear-based rant from 0be1, but it contains a major logical flaw:
    “If one parent’s income was removed along with expenses that were not necessary, they would probably even out.”
    Sure, probably. If one of the parents was making a living wage. If one of the parents was consistently working full-time. Oh yeah…. if there are two parents.
    I applaud the initial post and all of the conversation that follows, but the worst kind of hypocrisy, to me, is that from middle class suburbanites making broad generalizations about the rest of Americans’ families, lives and options. It’s like everyone in 2004 who asked, incredulously, of New Orleans residents whose homes flooded when the levees broke: “why didn’t they just leave”? Gather some perspective before prescribing a radical, individualistic, libertarian agenda based on moral righteousness, ignorance and fear.

  2. 0be1:

    Bob;

    Setting any politics aside, I commend you for taking the time to post a well written, well thought out post!!! Excellent work, and now much of what you have said I can agree with and makes sense for either party (or anyone really) to see the sad but true facts of our nations education system. If the parents would just care not only about what their children are learning, but get involved in their lives, make a difference, and a positive impact.

    Thank you for your time and actually having a good intellectual debate :o)

    Sincerely,

    0be1

  3. bob:

    0be1,
    Yes, your post was political. Its written in much the same way that I see so many responses on forums these days, which is to assume that naturally, everyone on that forum must be Republican and conservative .Either that or it goes the other way, in that the poster assumes everyone must by liberal and democratic. That’s not the case anywhere. The bottom line is that no- not everyone has the same political opinion. We have a two party system that has failed to work cooperatively for decades mainly over ideological opinions that have absolutely nothing to do with managing the country.As such, it is completely inefficient.

    Personally, I think BOTH parties have done an extremely poor job of representing the vast majority of public interest and clearly have no interest in protecting the middle class. But I digress as I am getting off topic.That’s a whole different problem which will have to be resolved. We simply cannot have “Us against them” or- “Those crazy liberals against those crazy conservatives”. People these days seem totally incapable of being flexible. They choose to fixate on one single thing they feel strongly about and base their entire political mindset around it. That means most people seldom want to see all sides. That has got to change.

    But I digress.The subject is about saving schools and making them work. The universal answer is not to take your kids out of school and home school them.That’s an individual choice which I can understand and respect.But A lot of working families cannot afford to have just one working parent. The majority of kids in this country do in fact go to public schools. So the solution needs to be more on the general level for the general populace.

    I also suggest a refocus on core curriculum. More focus on advanced mathematics and science. More preparation for college and more studies in modern economics. As I previously mentioned, the system needs more money. Hire more teachers, provide incentives for good work. Get rid of the stupid and incompetent No Child left behind program. Improve rural and inner city schools. I say all this because this sort of financial boost should be seen as a future investment- ours. It is absolutely critical that we have the proper tools to compete against countries like China, India, and other developing countries who without a doubt are tomorrow’s powerhouses of economic growth and development. If the system stays as it is and continues to have its funding wither away, we will be a sad, sad country. Yes- I hear everyone say ” No more spending!” But folks- this is one area that we must spend more on. If its seen as OK to spend untold billions and billions on a single model Jet fighter, then why on earth do we spend so little on the education system that in turn generates the minds that helps make those planes, and perhaps makes them even better? Its really that simple.

  4. g33k:

    I believe the name of this blog is the answer – being frugal.

    If American families were not so concerned about having “stuff” and the need to have the biggest and the best, more and more families would see one parent stay home and care for the children and the home.

    We do not need cable television to survive. We do not need two vehicles. We do not need more than one television, or a large one at that. We do not need a huge home in an upscale neighborhood. Our family of 4 lives comfortably on one income.

    After several brain surgeries made it so that I was forced to no longer work, I stayed at home. Hospital bills forced us to get rid of second car, cable, and other non-essentials.

    After we noticed a severe decline in the condition of the public schools in our area and our youngest daughter was repeatedly threatened by three boys who were six years older than her, we decided to homeschool.

    Since then, we have noticed a vast improvement in her education. I know that homeschool is not for everybody, but I feel that if children had more attention at home and more discipline, they would not carry all of that frustration to school with them and cause so much trouble for their teachers and fellow classmates.

    Why was my daughter bullied? Most likely because those three boys are neglected at home. They come home to an empty house every day because both parents are out making money. If one parent’s income was removed along with expenses that were not necessary, they would probably even out. Be frugal – no one has to have brand new clothes. Kids do not need more than one or two gifts at Christmas. If you are a Christian, focus on the real meaning of the holiday, not spoiling your children with gifts. Use leftovers in new recipes. Paint old things to make them new again. Do activities that do not cost money. Going to the park is free, but going to the movies is expensive. And which activity is your child most likely going to remember and grow from? A movie with off-color jokes or playing catch with you?

    Making sacrifices to keep one parent at home and properly raising and disciplining the children will make lives easier for our public school teachers. When a child comes home after school to an empty house (at any age), they get the feeling that Mom and Dad care more about making money to buy stuff than take care of them.

    It may not help with the issues of over-crowding in the schools or budget cuts, but we would certainly see fewer students talking back, cutting class, dressing like whores or gangsters, threatening classmates or staff, or being disrespectful.

  5. 0be1:

    Bob;

    I was not going after a witch hunt, nor was I trying to make a political statement. If you want to assume that is what I was trying to do, then you are allowed your own opinion. I am sorry that some of those kids you went to school with were such an inconvenience to you and the rest of your classmates. Those kids must have also had parents who did not go far in school as well, not due to ignorance necessarily, but because they may have had to go into the workforce early and had to work to survive.

    Point is that most people (I do not care about race, ethnic background, religion, or any other excuse you may think I am trying to use) take education for granted and not seriously. If you would have also read the rest of my post and made an intelligent observation on those comments, you would not have taken it so personal. So if you want me to make it political I will. I assume you voted for a President who still tries to squirm his way around many issues and still tried to be a people pleaser to everyone and throws (wastes more like) gobs of money at problems that really is not what the problem needs. However, if he is handing out, they are willing to take it.

    No matter what label you want to use, I guess we will go on trusting God that we are doing the proper thing by home schooling our kids and let the corrupted public school go down in flames. At least I know what my kids are learning and by who, and that they still learn that there is a God in whom we can pray and trust EVERYTHING with and have the freedom (for now anyways) to exercise these and many other rights that have been stripped from us because too many people have become offended on doing the right and moral thing.

  6. bob:

    “2) Over the years MANY liberals have screamed for looser standards in our world. They have taught the children to be unruly, showed them how to not respect authority, and have demanded that morals and discipline be far removed from the school system. So what did they expect to happen?”

    Ah-ha. So its liberal’s fault. I suppose some of those kids that I went to school with in rural TN, whom often missed class, who didn’t even know how to read in some cases, nor ever did their homework must have had their minds poisoned by liberals, who must have infiltrated their homes and convinced their parents that they should be lax with their kid’s education.

    I’m sorry, but putting a label on a political side as causing the problem is hogwash. The problem of US schools has been brewing for decades, and last time I counted, there have been more Republican administrations in this country’s history than ever there were Democratic ones. But I would be a fool to blame “the other side” just because. So let’s keep the problems confined to the real causes versus going on witch hunts.

  7. As a teacher’s aid, I see many of the problems you discussed. I believe that the lack of parental involvement in the public school system is just a smaller bit of the big picture: we as a society are so gung-ho for big government that some of us believe that it’s the school’s responsibility to raise our kids – because we aren’t doing it ourselves.

    Now, of course this does not apply to all parents – myself included. But those of us who work in the school system, see it every day. You can really tell the students who have parents who are active in their lives and those who are not.

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