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Journal Journal: The Fall of Education in America

The sad state of education in America is very sad indeed. Years of wrong teaching philosophy, and educational systems geared towards building a skilled labor force for labor's sake and perhaps also for the military; and not for the sake of education have had disastrous effects on the American people. For comparison, American schools spend 50% more money on education per student than does Finland, and yet the USA rank in educational skill is in the bottom 20% versus Finland being near or at the best, among those for whom statistics are available. The Finnish systems seems to have some similarity to the philosophy of Charlotte Mason, in that a thorough education is given to all. In fact I think most Western European and major Asian countries (China, Japan, S. Korea), have strong educational systems. There are of course exceptions in Europe.

The educational system of the early (US) American society, built a country of exceptional people. It was this traditional approach to education that, I believe helped to make the USA the power it is today, or was. I see, and foresee, a rapid decline in US power, in all areas except military might. Obviously it doesn't take a lot of highly educated people to build a huge military power, it just takes abundant resources (natural and human). Although it does also require sufficient technology.

I see that a correction is taking place in the US education, but not sufficient to undo the harm done. Generations upon generations of Americans have had poor education. In picking up a 19th century US sixth grade literature curriculum, you will find a coursework not obtained, by public education standards, until the college level. In short, a person graduation sixth grade (and possibly his or her last grade) in an 1890 USA school would have had a better education than a graduating US high schooler today.

I find it further disturbing that there is no real choice, other than home schooling, in the USA to give a child an education on the level of 19th Century America or of modern day Finland. My local Catholic school offers only one foreign language, Spanish. I had four languages by the time I graduated High School. These were all by my own choice, except for Spanish which my 5th & 6th grade teacher choose to do one his own initiative. I now have a bare comprehension in 10 languages and fluency in one, not including artificial languages. I am however the exception and not the rule.

USA standards in other areas of education are equally dismal. Standardized testing in the US and the general testing in US schools is predominately by: multiple choice, true or false, and fill in the blank questions. This does nothing to promote actual learning and retention. A system of oral or written essay exams is far more effective at truly testing knowledge, but not easily adaptable to mass produced and graded exams. Further complicating American lack-luster education is a lack of well paid and highly competent educators. This is not to detract from those in our American system. One must be truly motivated and dedicated to be a teacher in America, due to the poor pay and extensive abuse hurled upon them by parents. I would almost rather be a trash collector than a teacher in the USA. I'd certainly make more money. Teachers in primary schools should require Masters degrees and pay should be commensurate to the need for excellence. The pay should be high enough that an overabundance of people want to be teachers and thus allow the colleges to only allow the best into those programs and schools to hire only the best. If the USA is to survive, this is going to need to happen eventually.

Perhaps if US corporations and government focused on improving the educational system, there would be much less need to import workers. Unemployment would decrease, as the demand for foreign workers subsided, and as a world-wide demand for US workers increased. Then perhaps we wouldn't see 15% to 33% unemployment rates in US cities. Don't believe the official numbers on the unemployment rates which don't account for the: chronically unemployed people, those who have fallen off the unemployment roles, and those who have stopped looking for work, for starters.

It would not be a difficult thing to put together a successful plan to bring the US educational system up to Finland's standard. First, an overhaul of the educational system would need to be done. Education in the US has always been a State's right and should stay that way. There are already Federal standards in place, and this is where the change needs to start. A National essay exam should be instituted, to be administered at the entrance to 9th grade perhaps. To ensure a level of competency before students are allowed to drop out. A national core subject area should be made, including the requirement of a second language. Part of this change should include a change in testing at the state level to an oral or essay format. Secondly, funding for teacher pay scales increases should be made with the design to bring teachers pay up to a commensurate level. A time line should be planned for bringing up teacher certification to a master's level. Finding the money for all this should be easy, since we already outspend the Finnish. All that needs to be done is to find the waste in the current system and replace it. This would generate approximately $25,000 per student that could be sued to increase teacher salaries and improve existing schools. Even if you only take $1000 of that money per student, you could double teacher salaries. Who wouldn't like to be a teacher for $50,000 - $120.000/yr? Teacher's in my school district make about $40,000 on average. So even if only $5000/student could be save by modeling Finland's program, the US educational system could be fixed. Even if nothing could be taken away from what is spent, it would be easy to fix, by simply taking 1/10 of 1% of the military budget and diverting to the educational system. Of course if that much was taken, we'd probably have money left over that could be used to help poor families get healthcare or something else useful society wise.

Look at how easy it is to fix the education system in the US? I'm sending a copy of this to my Congressional representatives. Not that I have any hope they will listen, but if enough people did so, perhaps there would be hope.

However, it looks as though I will probably be home schooling my child. Unless and until the system is fixed or I get a job in Finland or someplace with a rational education system. So remember, when it comes to education, "think of the children", and also the teachers.

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