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Education bankrupted

By Jim Killebrew

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[December 05, 2013]  In one of the president's State of the Union addresses, he once again mentioned the need to provide more money to our national education system. He talked about providing a good education and bolstering the foundations of the teachers who are working with America's students. He discussed the need for further "investment" into the system that seems broken.

The "brokenness" of the education system in America seems to be manifest in the core of large cities across our land. Students entering high school are dropping out at the rate of more than 30 percent, and some schools are graduating only a little above half of those who start. Racial and ethnic gaps persist, according to the Christian Science Monitor. "Forty-six percent of black students, 44 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of native Americans did not earn a diploma in four years."

Even with those who graduate, there is a certain percent who continue to be illiterate in reading, writing, science and math. History, humanities, geography, literature and other fine arts have virtually fallen by the wayside.

Teachers across our land, even in moderately rural areas, speak of their classrooms being a "war zone" or a place where students are so disrespectful the teachers are sometimes in fear of their own personal safety.

There are countless accounts from teachers who tell of their classrooms where students have taken complete control, and the teacher spends most of the time just trying to protect the weaker ones in the class. As far as the environment being an environment conducive to learning, some have reported that threats, intimidation, fear and overt hostility prevent all but limited, incidental positive learning of the subject.

I wonder what has happened to create the situations in these classrooms across our nation. Where did we turn the corner from the past one-room, multiple-grade groups of students being taught by the teacher with very little resources, to the modern-day multimillion-dollar buildings with certified, educated teachers and teacher's aides being supported by multiple layers of supervision and administration?

I seem to remember countless presidential State of the Union addresses and other speeches when presidents past have said essentially the same thing. President Eisenhower initiated a post-war "Atoms for Peace" program that turned the educational attention toward converting the use of atomic power to peacetime uses. President Kennedy delivered a post-Sputnik-era speech, followed by actions that led to the sweeping proposal of putting a man on the moon within a decade. President Johnson declared that America was big enough to support the reality of guns (war) and butter with his declaration of "War on Poverty." President Nixon supported education with his call for more involvement on energy independence and domestic tranquility. President Ford followed suit with the signing of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975. President Carter created the Department of Education. President Reagan cut the Department of Education's budget by 18 percent, but at the same time talked about providing educational tax credits and enhanced the state governments' power over the local school districts to steer the educational process. President Clinton wanted more "accountability" for the $15 billion being given to the public schools. President Bush signed into law the "No Child Left Behind" Act in 2002. And now President Obama wants to "invest" in America's education to increase the quality of education for the students across the land.

If the past is any predictor of the future, it may be that more money being spent on education is not the only answer. At the same time money has been allocated to the education process from the federal government, state governments and the local municipalities, there has been a drain on moral teaching, school accountability and parental responsibility.

When President Eisenhower began his first term in office in January 1953, students around the nation stood each day and said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. In most instances, after the pledge, the teacher or a student stood in front of the class and read verses from the Bible. In many schools across the nation, after the Bible reading was completed, someone might voice a prayer, or each student was given an opportunity to say a prayer silently.

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The general belief during that era was belief in God, patriotism of the nation, a belief in a common morality, built on a foundation found in the Bible, that taught the Ten Commandments and the Christian faith. Schools taught a perspective of history that America was founded on Christian principles and ideas. From those ideas came common rules of moral behavior based on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For sure, many in the population may not have subscribed to the Christian moral standard, but conventional behaviors in the family and in the schools reflected those ideas and beliefs.

During the ensuing decades, as the so-called "political correctness" groups grew from the atheist groups that wanted to omit any vestiges of Christianity from America's history, an unintended consequence was a void of morality, with a replacement by natural, hedonistic tendencies that stripped God from the "public" culture, forcing Him behind the walls of various church buildings, and resulting in predominant national lifestyles manifested with sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing and similar things. Thus, the condition of America in the 21st century is reflective of the new morality that is lived in a society that operationally has rejected God.

Lest we lay all the blame on teachers, we need to remember the primary responsibility for providing moral teaching is parents. I have said it before and still believe it: "In the Christian living experience, the education of the children first begins with the parents, continues with the parents and ends with the parents. The so-called mandated, public education is only supplemental to parental guidance to learning life."

Teachers have some emotional connection to their students during the course of the school year, but practically no emotional background and history with the children who pass through their classrooms each year. It is a brief encounter to say the least.

Additionally, with the laws the way they are regarding morality, especially related to spiritual morality, the teachers are working with one hand tied behind their backs anyway. In the area of morality, they are likely using texts that slant toward the evolutionary or humanistic perspective, which is oftentimes counterproductive with Christian morals that some parents might be trying to teach. It may not be a good idea to push a "full-force" teaching curriculum on faith-based morality, since choosing the "right" faith would be impossible. But morality based in good citizenship behaviors and beliefs might be generic enough to help build foundations of civil obedience to state and national laws.

At the very least, the teachers ought to be required to teach the rudiments of manners and respect for others. They should reinforce the efforts of their students to learn and do it within a civil environment without disruption. Students should be taught respect for authority, but still within the context of questioning concerns. Students who are unable to conform to a civil learning environment by continuing to be disruptive should be removed and provided remediation until they can learn to participate in a productive learning environment. That is only fair to those who want to learn.

We can "invest" more and more money into our education process, but I believe that our own history has shown that it is not enough to turn the heads of students to find within themselves the motivation and desire to refocus, buckle down, work hard to learn the fundamentals and persevere in an educational environment where respect, manners, dignity, morality and self-control have been given away for the 30 pieces of silver.


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