Improving K-12 Education: It's a culture thing
I disagree with both recent posts. I think both the lack of money and lack of qualified teachers are symptoms of a larger issue: our culture itself. The culture of the US does not value education. American culture values money. Americans used to judge each other by what their parents did for a living (not ideal...), now they judge one another by the kind of car they drive, or bags they carry, or size of their birthday parties.
There are two major problems with this. The first is that there are many ways to make money - many of them dis-honest or worse, and education is playing a smaller and smaller role in making money. The second major issue is that government refuses to do anything remotely close to teaching morals in school that would help combat the self-destructive, money-centered culture of the US.
We need to take a hard look at the purpose of public education. Some people seem to think it's about force feeding a specific set of facts and skills to the young. Others seem to think it's primarily about keeping kids off the streets while the parents are working. I believe the aim of education should be to help cultivate young people who will contribute positively to society.
Why is it that so many kids graduate from high school with little idea of what they want to do with their lives? Why is it so common for people to spend years 'finding themselves'? Where did they get lost? Could it be a lack of leadership?
Parents are spending more time working and less time parenting. Children need more guidance to make up for that. Instead we are giving them less. Teachers are restricted from any kind of disciplinary activities. They are not allowed to talk about God. They cannot suggest any kind of moral judgement. We might as well tell teachers to teach the alphabet with only half the letters. How can we possibly give our children complete educations under such conditions?
Do our schools need more money? Absolutely. If we valued education more, schools would have the resources they required, and those resources would be used more effecively.
Do we need more qualified teachers? Absolutely. If teachers were given the respect (and perhaps even the salary) they deserved, and were given the opportunity to really make a difference instead of being treated like a factory worker turning out an 'educated' product, perhaps we might have enough qualified teachers.
We also need to start teaching the things that our children most need: Ethics, Media Literacy, Civics, Philosophy/Religion (to help them 'find themselves'), Finances, etc.
What we need is for our teachers to be unshackled from regulations, protected from over-litigous parents, given the respect they deserve, and lead by principals and superintendants who truly understand what it means to educate a child.
And we need to start respecting education.