John McDonald

Blogging about politics, life, and the web

What Happened to Education?

September 3rd, 2009

In a quest for accountability and the theoretical benefits of turning students into standardized data plots, the state of Florida has gone crazy trying to prepare classes for the test – at the cost of every thing else.  If any state has seen the effect of the Bush brothers on education, it would be us who kept Jeb around as a governor for most of the years George held the Oval Office.

As No Child Left Behind became a national policy, we were in the lead with our own standardized testing procedures.  Within a few years, FCAT went from a theoretical concept to the primary focus of our public school factories.  Despite a lack of evidence suggesting the focus on math and reading tests have improved scores in those fields, I’m starting to hear anecdotes from students and teachers about all of the things that have been left out.

Its long been to the point that you’d be hard pressed to find a full-time art, music, or drama classroom inside our 2,000 student enclosures, but things have been reduced even further in the last few years to the point where many students never see these creative classes on a regular basis.  Instead, artistic educators are treated as babysitters on those occasions when schedules conflict or otherwise have to be changed at the last minute.

But the erosion hasn’t stopped there.

Social sciences are now starting to fade from the agenda.  The effect is most notable with younger children who have only been in the school system for the last five or six years.  If you thought Americans were bad at Geography before, wait until you see the next generations come of age!  They may have Facebook friends across the world, but many of them won’t be able to find Mexico on a map.  Forget knowing the history of Mexico or even the United States – these things simply aren’t evaluated on the standardized tests because social sciences don’t have easily defined objective answers like 2 + 2 does…

And while I’ll be the first to admit that our schools have fallen behind in math and science, this is no reason to deprive young minds of the big picture presented by the social reality that makes our civilization possible in the first place.  In an increasingly globalized economy, students need some kind of look at the world around them.

Even in reading classes, spelling is never emphasized.  I don’t even know how you can teach people to read and write properly without a fundamental focus on how the freaking words are spelled!

Well, I wish I had a good conclusion for this rant but I’m left feeling cynical.  There is so much institutional momentum holding back the reforms we need that its practically impossible to even name the solution(s).  Looking at the balance sheet, its clear that our national priorities are with banking and war – not education and the real economy of people, ideas, and production.

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