A simple search of the internet will reveal that the U.S. ranks among the lowest in math and science literacy in our public schools among developed and developing nations yet we spends more per student than anywhere in the world. The question is how is this country to continue its leadership in technology and as an industrial nation as other nations quickly catch up and pass us by? For decades we have been arguing over how best to increase the literacy and graduation rates of our public schools. While we have made some modest progress Asian and European nations now outpace us in education and are on the verge of surpassing us as innovative technological and industrial nations.
I fail to see why this does not make more Americans mad at ourselves for failing to provide a better future for our children to compete in the global technological marketplaces of tomorrow. All I see is finger pointing and people working against one another. Our nation is like a patient in triage bleeding to death while doctors argue about the best way to stem the bleeding. We are way past the stage for discussion and need a united front on action before the patient bleeds to death. But the preponderance of evidence clearly shows that the U.S. is in trouble.
It takes a generation to prepare our youth for the future of tomorrow yet we have barely scratched the surface after a generation of arguing. Yes we were once the unchallenged superstar in economic growth and technological advancement in the world but the writing is clearly on the wall that our edge has greatly diminished and others in the race are about the surpass us. But we yet have a game-plan for helping the next generation compete on an equal footing in a global market.
Our progress to prepare the next generation for the future is proceeding at a snail’s pace while other nations are racing ahead of us. It seems to take many decades to get anything done here. Women finally got the right to vote in 1920 yet still have not achieved equality with men in the workplace. Blacks were freed from slavery in 1865 but it wasn’t until 1964 that Congress finally passed the Civil Rights Bill. Yet Blacks today are still struggling for equality. We knew since the late 1960’s that the U.S. was falling behind the rest of the world in public schools education so such programs as “No child be left behind” were implemented. Yet our children continue to be left behind the rest of the world. As we struggle to raise the level of education for under-performing schools those that do well do not improve significantly so the entire system is only geared to maintain an almost stagnant standard. Yet the rest of the world races on.
These are becoming desperate times and I feel it is time to take more drastic measures. Since public education is failing to serve the needs of the next generation I think it about time we give serious consideration to school vouchers to give our public schools some serious free-market competition and present some of our poorer kids better educational options. But I believe that vouchers should favor families in most need. Those households below the poverty line should get the greatest voucher amount equal to the amount paid to their public schools. Then the voucher should be issued on a sliding scale inversely proportional to household income until it exceeds maybe $100,000 per year. This allows the very poor who send their kids to underperforming schools to have the option of sending their kids to better private schools and assumes the rich have the financial resources to do so on their own. Vouchers should only be issued to schools which have been certified to meet literacy standards set up by both federal and state governments and do not espouse the overthrow of the government.
I’m a fairly liberal person but when it comes to education I feel the end results justify the means. We need the next generation to be ready to compete in a global economy. The only way this is going to happen is if they receive the educational foundation necessary to take them into the highly competitive technological world of tomorrow. Otherwise we condemn this nation to a future of mediocrity.
The problem with vouchers is that they are very often the source for educational scams that plague students seeking ways to improve their prospects in life. Private universities and vocational school are supposed to accredited institutions too, but there are countless cases of quasi-certifications that have allowed many such schools to rake in huge profits from those who can least afford the expenses and often with government assistance as well. Vouchers for school age kids are no different. The money distributed in vouchers should really be invested in supporting public schools that benefit all. Privatizing the educational system for those who seek economic profits is no solution a dire problem that affects the future of society.
Thanks Stan for your comments. In the 20+ years I have favored the voucher option in addition to public schools, I have heard all these arguments against vouchers. And in all that time our schools continue to rank among the lowest of developed and developing nations. States like California are funneling a disproportionate amount of money into boosting schools in poor minority areas with very high truancy and dropout rates with drug and gang related problems. By any measure education in these communities is an utter failure and there are no other options. A few charter and privately funded schools have done miracles for a small number of students such as the East Side Charter School in DC and the Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto. But such schools are far too few. Most children in these communities are destined to grow up with little more than a 9th grade or lower education. Vouchers offer these kids alternatives and hope. Yes there may be a few scams but the vast majority of private schools will be legitimate. I propose that all vouchered schools be accredited by the state and federal government to assure that students test to a standardized level on key subjects for accountability. We currently have numerous such public schools whose students utterly fail standardize tests. I consider such public schools scams since they fail to teach students as intended while raking in tax dollars. As for raking in huge profits these vouchers will be no more than that paid to public schools. Public schools have been failing for many decades even in non-poor communities and there is no end in site. Students abroad usually find U.S. schools easy even when taught in an unfamiliar language. Incandescently I attended the last 3 years of high school in a Catholic school in Asia in the late 1950’s where poverty was common. I was shocked at how advanced they were compared the the education I received in the U.S. even in English grammar, reading and writing. I was put back one grade. Had I continued studying in the U.S. I never would have considered going to college to study Electrical Engineering. So I speak first hand about education abroad and going to private school.