Education in America
Back to the Basics
Among mankind’s basic needs – food, shelter and health – HELADA lists education. There are two reasons for this: first, to enhance the individual’s ability to survive and flourish and, second to ensure the success of the society the individual is a part of.
Most HELADAns came of age with the benefits of free, public education. We think this is still the best way. When quality education is available to all, it levels the playing field. The duller among us can gain enough skills to function in society. The brightest – regardless of gender, race, economic ability, or a host of other pre-sorting factors – can excel and accomplish great things.
For this reason, we were troubled by the trend in the US toward privatizing education, as expressed in the No Child Left Behind legislation. NCLB drains tax dollars from public schools and transfers them to profit-driven enterprises. In the guise of accountability, that transfer encourages selecting students so as to assure test success and continued influx of money. Public schools, struggling with reduced budgets, are left to deal with overcrowding and shortages of teachers and equipment. The testing industry gets a boost, but students are ‘taught to the test’ and critical thinking falls by the wayside.
Critical thinking, the ability to understand and process information, is essential to a functioning democracy. When it suffers, citizens are less able to sort out the best courses of action. They fall prey to clever propaganda and information served up in snappy sound bites. They may be persuaded to vote against their own best interests, or, disgruntled with the state of affairs, decide that voting really doesn’t mean that much at all.
education is a core mandate in the US. Although it has taken
years to mature as a system, its roots were planted by the Founding
Fathers. We think it should be nurtured and allowed to perform the role
they knew was essential. Certainly, the election of the first
African-American president of the US – intelligent, articulate,
eloquent, discerning and a product of the public education system –
showed the value of the system and what it is meant to achieve, both for
the individual and for the nation.