Our Broken Education System….and How We Can Change It.
Nevada is currently ranked 49th out of 50 States in K-12 education. This is a national embarrassment. We are failing our children and failing their parents. We are not preparing our youth for the 21st century to lead productive, happy lives and build the future families of Nevada. On the contrary, we are setting them up for failure.
Why are we 49th out of 50? Why is our system of government education failing so badly? The traditional excuse is that we are not funding education with enough money. However, this oft used excuse is simply not the case. K-12 education in Nevada is generously funded not only by the State but by each County and the combination of the two provides a dollar equivalent of over $10,000.00 per year per pupil.
What is true is that certain counties in the State (Clark County and Washoe County) have such poor performance that they are dragging down the State to its 49th out of 50 rank. A rural county, like Douglas County, would be ranked as 28th out of 50, if measured on a standalone basis.
If it is not money, then what is really happening?
We should start by looking at the system itself. Many parents are alarmed at the curriculum that is being introduced and taught in K-12. Parents feel that their children are taken away from them, indoctrinated with strange ideas and turned against them. Parents are not wrong to believe this BECAUSE THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SYSTEM WAS DESIGNED TO DO.
The government K-12 education system is over 120 years old. It was developed in Germany in the late 1800s to train youth to work in the factories of the industrial revolution, to be obedient citizens and to fight wars for Germany’s world power ambitions. The system was brought to America in 1900 by Progressives like Thomas Dewey who is known as “the father of the American K-12 education system.” However, if you research Thomas Dewey, you will realize that he was an ardent utopian socialist who was intent on using a government education system to indoctrinate students to make them more amenable to accept socialism.1 Dewey was part of a faction of ruling class elites who were alarmed at the great influx of immigrants from Europe in the early 20th century and saw a government run education system as a way to take children away from their immigrant parents and mold them into a manageable citizenry. As the famous editor H.L. Mencken said in 1924, public education is “to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.” In fact, Dewey and his compatriots traveled to Germany to study the new behavioral psychology under Professor Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig, it was Dewey and his fellow elites who later imposed the psychology on American education and transformed it permanently from an academic function to achieve high literacy to one dedicated to behavioral and social change.
Many parents are now aware of how the curriculum in K-12 is being used for behavioral and social change because the changes are so “in your face” they are impossible to miss. Common Core was an attempt to federalize K-12 education under the Obama administration and take the control of education away for local school boards and counties. Critical Race Theory is the latest attempt to indoctrinate and divide students into “oppressors” and “oppressed”, rewrite the history of our country, and instantiate cultural Marxism.
What has been lost in all of this is an understanding of the fundamental purpose of education which is to enable a highly literate citizenry that has a well-rounded understanding of their history and culture and an appreciation of how education can advance the happiness and well-being of all citizens. Education has become a repository of harmful dogma, culture repression and false narratives. We have turned our children’s education over to cultural Marxists who see the education system much like Thomas Dewey i.e., as a vehicle for behavioral and social change. The false narrative that “every child needs to attend college” has resulted in the failure of millions of college students who either drop out or attain worthless degrees and are now saddled with $1.7 trillion in student debt that is ruining their lives, preventing family formation and job mobility. This “college” narrative has destroyed the once promising track of education in the trades that provided an avenue for wealth accumulation, family formation and happiness for the middle class.
Where do we go from here? First, we need to recognize that the government K-12 school system is a vehicle for social and behavioral change, not for education. It is a 120-year-old system that was specifically designed for cultural indoctrination and control, instead of literacy and self-mastery. The current system is completely controlled by special interests (teachers unions, administrators, school boards) who have placed their interests above those of parents and children. As such, the current system is completely inadequate to prepare our children for success and happiness in the 21st century. We need a new system, one that child focused. And who knows their child better than anyone? Their parents. The way forward is to put parents in control of their child’s education. Parents pick the school; parents pick the teachers in a system that is funded by vouchers given to parents.
Second, we need to reinvigorate education in the trades. It is important that we elevate the option for children to apprentice in the trades and put it on an equivalent plane to college. The trades provide a great avenue for a great many students to build a successful fulfilling career and build wealth. The fact is, we need more skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen, and unions and corporations need to be encouraged to expand their programs to bring youth into their training programs at a much higher rate. We need specific high school options for the training in engineering, mechanical design, industrial design, Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, and apprentice programs for electricians, plumbers, pipefitters, welders, and automotive mechanics.
Third, we must take a hard look at our college education system. The false narrative, that “every child must attend college” has proven to be destructive culturally and economically, resulting in millions of college graduates with worthless degrees that are saddled with $1.7 trillion dollars in student loans that are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. This policy is a direct result of the federal government policy of providing student loans to any student regardless of the degree sought and their ability to repay the loan. This heartless and foolish policy is destroying the lives of millions of our young people who are saddled with debt, unable to marry and form families, and unable to move because they are stuck in a job and forced to make loan payments. While this policy is destroying the lives of those students who have loans, it has been a tremendous boon to the colleges themselves. Colleges has been generously enriched by this flow of student loan dollars and they have jacked up their tuition prices at two or three times the rate of inflation. Major colleges like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford have $25, $30 even $40 Billion in endowments, all accumulated tax free, yet they are still charging $60,000+ a year to attend. And the sad truth is that 70% of Americans will study at a four-year college, but less than 66% will graduate with a degree. And the colleges bear no risk whatsoever for the fact that these kids failed in college. They got their money.
We find ourselves with a broken K-12 education system and a broken college system, neither of which is preparing our children for the 21st century. This must change if we want a viable future for our children and our country. Step one is that we must demand parent choice in K-12 education. Once the money is under control of parents, then the free market will begin to deliver educational experiences that parents want and that children will thrive in. This has been proven throughout the world in some of the most impoverished countries where private education flourishes when parents have control.2 Schools will adapt, and they will adapt to provide training in the trades when parents have control. Lastly, we need to end the Federal government’s involvement in student loans. The Federal Government has unintentionally created a debtor class that has no hope of repaying their debts. This is unconscionable and immoral and needs to end. Ending the student loan program will rein in the tuition inflation that is rampant in our colleges and universities and force them to compete for qualified students.
1 Crimes of the Educators by Samuel Blumenfeld and Alex Newman, copyright 2014, ISBN: 978-1-938067-12-9
2 The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley, copyright 2013, ISBN-10: 1933995920