Will the No Child Left Behind Act Solve Problems with Our Education System?

Everybody should be concerned about our education system! This is not meant to infer there is something drastically wrong with the system. The point is this; education changes every day and so does our society needs. The education system has to be in constant flux to meet the needs of our children. Years ago, I remember reading a report about the beginnings of our public education system. The report emphasized the fact that public education coincided with the industrial revolution. It continued talking about the purpose of public education to be a training system to prepare students for “jobs” because of the industrial revolution. The school buildings were designed to look like the factories the students would eventually work in. It was a very interesting report! Our economy has been changing very rapidly in the last 30-40 years. People don’t work for one company for 40 years then retire. In their working years, they will change “careers” 3-5 times and that’s not talking about job changes. In the United States, a lot of our factory jobs are being out sourced (off-shoring) to foreign countries. This means the worker is going to need retraining to work in another field.

Now, what about our current education system? Is it working? Is the No Child Left Behind Act the answer for our children’s education? When the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was developed, several states protested. Are these states right to protest? The federal government exerts control over the education systems of the states’ school with the threat of withholding needed funding if they do not comply. This takes away local control of the education system and mandates states to comply with regulations that may not be in their best interest. As a parent of children in public education, I am particularly concerned. On a broader spectrum, I am concerned whether or not I have children in the system. The children in our schools are our leaders of tomorrow. Will they be prepared? Although being from New York, I only attended school there during my high school years. During my elementary years, I attended school in Germany. With my father being in the military, I attended American schools while he was stationed abroad. When I was in the 4th grade, a German friend of mine who was also in 4th grade in the German school system was studying for acceptance to college. Their system was set up to place the student on track for college or vocational training as early as the 4th grade. This was many, many years ago but it lodged in my mind as an important feature of their system.

My mother use to talk about how great the education system was in New York when she was young. New York’s education system failed to grow and adapt. What worked in the 30’s and 40’s was beginning to slip in the 60’s and 70’s. I was absolutely appalled about 10-12 years ago when my mother told me that 7 vice principals were being fired because they were illiterate! What happened with a once top of the world education system? The NCLBA is concerned about performance of the schools and the teachers. It’s one thing to criticize and it’s another thing to assist those with the daunting tasks of providing education in these constantly changing times. One of the first outcries I remember from educators is “where’s the funding to do this?” Another was telling teachers they now have a new set of requirements to meet. Teachers already have to keep up their continuing education on their own time. Where does the problem really lie? Does Congress have the constitutional right to pass the law (NCLBA) in the first place? According to Article 1 of the Constitution they don’t. If you look at the history of the founding of the United States, our forefathers did not want the federal government to have powers to control and overpower the states. The federal government was to be small and was meant to keep the states united. The states were supposed to hold the bulk of the power.

The establishment of public education in the 18th century was designed to maintain control over the public more than to educate them. With this in mind, how many times have you heard adults comment that nothing I learned in school was useful in the real world? When I was a freshman in college, there were 2 statements I heard from seniors that really stood out. 1. When you leave here and get a job, the first thing your employer is going to say is this: “You know all that stuff you learned for the last 4 years, forget it, now let me tell you what you need to know to do your job! Those last 4 years was so we can see if you can learn.” 2. The “A” students will stay at the university and teach. The “C” students will go out and start businesses. The “B” students will go and work for the “C” students. There are professionals that say the education system is all wrong because it doesn’t teach you how to think but instead it teaches you how to memorize. If this is the case, someone still has to think to give us something to memorize. It is the “C” student that did not excel in the educational system that has the creativity to make changes to our surroundings through creative business application. Sometimes we need a wake up call. I know someone that went through college and graduate school with no grade lower than an “A”. He was prime to staying in the education system and teaching (which was his intent). He stepped outside of his environment and was rudely shaken to his boots. Although still teaching, he found out that the world did not revolve around Philosophy (which is what he was teaching). After learning this truth, he went back to school and started over. He graduated with a degree in computer science and now he is a problem solver instead of a teacher of theory. We come to the real problem.

Can the teacher control the classroom? I ask this question because there was a time that we expected teachers only to teach. We didn’t expect them to have to be in the discipline role and dealing with out of control children. We didn’t expect them to have to wonder why Johnny has a black eye and a cigarette burn on his forearm. We didn’t expect them to spend half of their time writing IEP’s, meeting with parents and setting up additional meetings or testing. Someone should let the teacher know that their original role was not education but to control the public. We do need to go back this far then come forward again with an adequate educational system. Is this possible? We really don’t have another choice if we want to get education on track with the needs of the 21st century. Part of the problem we are seeing is not identifying the purpose of the public education system. Some of the concerns that are expressed are related to the fact that there is an underlying belief that the role of the education system is to maintain control over the population to prepare us for socialism. One individual expressed it this way: when the federal government got involved in the education system is the time the education system started to decline.

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