As a rock music fan, I enjoy Pink Floyd. But “We don’t need no education” is bad advice for life.
When our kids graduate school, they no longer just have to compete with each other. They now compete in a global marketplace. Not only have low-skilled jobs moved abroad where labor is cheap, but to attract new high-paying, tech-based jobs to America (or even to work online), our kids need an education as good or better than students get in China, India, Israel and other nations. Sadly, our schools are not giving them the tools they need to compete in the 21st century.
I have a friend who owns a printing business. He gives job applicants a pencil and ruler, and asks them to mark an eighth of an inch, a sixteenth of an inch and other simple measurements on a piece of paper. He tells me that no more than one out of ten even has a clue what he’s talking about. If America’s students can get a high school diploma without knowing basic fractions, then all we’re equipping them to achieve is a fraction of the American Dream.
Of course, the cry always goes up, “We need to spend more on education!” But we already spend over $550 billion a year, more than 4 percent of the gross domestic product. If money equaled results, then Washington, DC, should be crawling with junior Einsteins. DC public schools spend over $30,000 per student per year, or $10,000 more than the tuition for an in-state graduate degree from the University of Virginia. Yet DC’s reading, writing and math scores are well below the national average. Money alone doesn’t fix the problem.
Those who are obsessed with “income inequality” want to tear down those who earn more, but have no ideas for helping those who earn less. Well, here’s one: finish high school! Nearly a third of US students drop out. Over their lives, they’ll earn, on average, a quarter million dollars less than high school graduates. They’re also more likely to suffer ill health, get involved in drugs and crime, and die nine years younger. Staying in school benefits both them and society.
But if we want students to learn, then schools have to make them want to learn. To ignite their curiosity and turn them into lifelong seekers of knowledge. That takes both involved parents and competent teachers who are rewarded for good results. Kids need to be taught how to think, not just memorize standardized tests. They also need to be taught real facts and real history, not trendy racist, socialist and anti-American propaganda.
Dropping arts and music classes is the most short-sighted budget cut a school can make. Studies show that music class helps kids do better in other subjects, develop social skills, and stay in school longer. It might also improve the current dismal state of pop music. We must remember that schools exist for the students, not for the teachers’ unions or the education bureaucracy (so open the schools and stop letting the unions keep them closed.) And we need to keep most decisions about education at the state and local levels, with close parental involvement, so they’re made by people who know the students best.
If you think that doesn’t matter, look at all the home-schooled students winning academic contests. Home is as local as you can get, yet those students are more than ready to compete on the world stage. Don’t you want your kids to be?