Sunday, October 23, 2016

A vast educational failure

American education is failing thousands of students every year. But this crisis is not just about poor scores in math and reading. It is a deeper failure, leaving entire generations of Americans without the most basic knowledge of the country’s past and its civic institutions.

As The Daily Signal reported, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s first “Annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Towards Socialism” showed that just 42 percent of millennials view capitalism favorably compared to 64 percent of Americans over 65.

Perhaps more disturbingly, a third of millennials believe that more people were killed under former President George W. Bush than under notorious Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and just 37 percent of millennials had a “very unfavorable” view of communism.

These findings are merely the latest in a pattern of documented cluelessness on the part of the American population about history and civics—even among those with college degrees. This failure to teach citizens puts America’s future at risk and puts us out of step with the vision of the Founding Fathers.

In his advocacy for American education, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence (for those who got the Stalin question wrong), wrote about the necessity of grounding young Americans in a solid base of knowledge about history, lest our republican form of government risk the rise of scheming demagogues and tyranny.

To Jefferson, the people were the ultimate guardians of their liberty—a tall order for those who remain completely in the dark about what liberty means or how it has been curtailed in the past. He wrote of the need to teach students history early in their lives, that “by apprizing them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and nations; it will qualify them as judges of the ambitions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume, and, knowing it, to defeat its views.”

It would be unfair to pin modern historical ignorance on the “stupidity” of millennials, who are generally entrepreneurial, and certainly tech savvy. There is certainly some blame to be shared by education institutions—K-12 and higher education alike.

Instead of merely lamenting the results of this tragic failure, concerned Americans can and should use the tools at their disposal to make things better for the next generations.

The educational choice movement, launched by economist Milton Friedman just over 60 years ago, has done a great job of opening up education options for American families using vouchers, tax credit scholarships, charter schools, and education savings accounts.

These programs have already produced some incredible results, but those who believe America needs to make a serious pivot toward a better civics education should look to growing freedom in the education sector as a way to reinvigorate civics.

“An education system that allows parents … to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.” —@InezFeltscher

For example, The Federalist author Joy Pullmann recently wrote about how a number of K-12 charter schools, which are publicly financed but privately run, have returned to focusing on a “classical education” for students. A Hillsdale College project called the Barney Charter School Initiative has founded 16 schools that focus on distributing “knowledge for and habits of self-government.”

As Pullmann noted, the purpose of these schools is to create an “academically coherent curriculum … that helps form a common culture and an attendant sense of national unity” that has not existed for generations.

Charter schools are not the only opportunity to improve civics education for young people. Innovative  education savings account programs, which give parents control over the money used for their child’s education may open up enormous opportunities for parents of all backgrounds to seek out the right situation for their child.

If states move toward a more universal education savings account  system, all parents will have the ability to seek out customized, quality education options, including civics and history courses. Imagine being able to pay for a history lesson being taught at a local university or on location at a historical site such as Gettysburg or Mount Vernon. Or, imagine, as education savings accounts allow, being able to hire a private tutor to teach a civics lesson, or to pay for on online history course.

Additionally, schools would have to compete for students and would have more pressure to give children a civics education their parents find satisfactory.

As American Legislative Exchange Council’s Inez Feltscher, my wife, noted in a paper about 21st century education savings account reform:

In an [education savings account] world, Hillsdale College, BJU Press [a source for Christian education materials], and college and career-ready standards would compete alongside dozens of other educational visions, from Howard Zinn’s ‘People’s History’ to hands-on learning to STEM-focused blended learning. An education system that allows parents, not politicians and bureaucrats, to resolve the tensions between different visions of the purpose of education is key for America’s diverse republic.

The depressing studies demonstrating rampant historical and civic illiteracy should provoke a sense of urgency rather than hopelessness. Future voters have a right to know what has gone before and we have the tools to make that happen, and parents should have the right to place their children in an educational environment that aligns with their values, civic and otherwise. The turnaround starts with educational choice.


NAACP Votes to Keep Students Enslaved

Charter schools are one of the few bright areas of America’s otherwise floundering education system. Sadly, that’s one of the reasons they are also the subject of fierce opposition. The Left’s utter hostility to school choice was on full display this weekend when the NAACP agreed to ratify “a resolution … adopted by delegates at its 2016 107th National Convention calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion and for the strengthening of oversight in governance and practice.” The board listed four conditions that must be met in order for it to retract its position on charter schooling:

(1) Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools (2) Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system (3) Charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate and (4) Cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet as obvious.

The response from lower-income Americans should be nothing short of outrage. For many children — particularly minorities — charter schooling offers one of the few options they have of escaping the systemic problems associated with inner city public schools. But it seems leftists are more concerned with eliminating all options that don’t include public schools than they are on fixing the problems of their own making. As The Wall Street Journal editors put it, “If these gentry progressives are waiting for urban schools to reform without competition from charters or vouchers they are consigning generations of children to diminished lives.”

Another person who seems willing to cosign generations of children to diminished lives is Hillary Clinton, who columnist John Goodman says “has been inching ever closer to the teacher union view of the world” even though the evidence points to significant improvement in charter schools. According to Goodman:

A Stanford University study found that charter schools significantly improve the performance of children in urban areas and this is especially true for black, Hispanic, low-income and special needs students in math and in reading. Even the very liberal New York Times editorial page endorses charter schools. Yet I have seen no mention of how charter schools benefit students in Clinton emails so far. Oh, but of course. The kids don’t get to vote.
No, but parents can. And they “vote for charters with their feet when spaces are available,” the editors at WSJ write. At the rate the NAACP is going, there’s going to be a lot more stomping in the months and years to come.


Furious parents slam British school after pupils as young as 11 are asked to research essay on ABORTION

Furious parents have hit out at a school after pupils as young as 11 were asked to research and write an essay on abortion. Parents have criticised teachers at Murray Park School in Mickleover, Derby, for setting the project on the controversial subject.

Year 8 pupils - aged between 11 and 13 - were asked to look into UK laws and Christian beliefs on the matter.

They were then set an essay titled: 'The abortion laws in the UK are wrong and should be changed.

'Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain and justify your opinion.'

The class was given the homework a week ago and told to complete it by the end of the half-term holiday next week.

But some parents have slammed the school for setting the essay on such a sensitive subject at a young age and refused to let their children complete it.

One mother, who didn't want to be named, said her son deliberately left his homework on the window sill so she would find it and ask about it.

She added: 'He didn't want to bring the subject up himself and when I saw what it was about, I understood his reluctance.

'Myself and several other parents are concerned that this subject was not age appropriate and in researching the subject, the youngsters would be exposed to issues surrounding abortion such as rape.

'I am not sure that every child will have been taught sufficient sex education to put abortion into context. 'This seems morality-based rather than informative.'

Parents said they had been in touch with the school but received no response and had checked whether similar projects were set at other schools.

The mother added: 'I do not think other schools asks their pupils to do this kind of project on this subject at the age of 12.'

Father Paul Kennedy, 38, of Derby, added: 'I think it's a disgrace that they are teaching such a controversial subject at such a young age.

'They are barely teenagers and yet they are being exposed to extremely sensitive matters, which I don't think are appropriate at their age.'

Other parents took to social media to express their dismay at the decision to set the abortion homework.

Writing on Facebook, Sven Gem said: 'This isn't right yes, especially when 12 year olds shouldn't even be thinking about babies never mind abortions.'

Tania Wilson added: 'My son is 12 in January. He isn't aware of abortions or the consequences/thoughts on this and I don't want him to either.

'I ensure he doesn't experience things that are not age appropriate but understands things like sex ed as we discuss it at his level. 'I agree children need to be aware of how other religions view issues but I feel this is slightly too much for a young age.'

But other parents defended the school and said pupils aged 11 should be mature enough to learn about abortion laws.

Suzey Fletcher wrote: 'My son is in year 8 at this school and he has been set this homework. Initially he said I'm not doing it as no one else in the class is doing it.

'But then we sat down and discussed it so he understood what abortion was and what the UK rules are and how it's viewed in different religions and the reasons why people may choose this option. It was then down to him to pen an informed view of the subject armed with the relevant information.

'I don't see it as a bad thing that kids this age know the facts, I would rather this than subjects that are awkward getting swept under the carpet and becoming a taboo resulting in ill-informed young adults -who god forbid ever find themselves in a situation where abortion is an option and don't even know what it is.'

Michelle Hawley added: 'I don't see a problem with this personally as children now days are having sexual encounters at a young age so surely it's a good thing to teach them consciences and the options available if they did get into that situation.'

The PSHE Association - which provides materials for personal, social and health education in schools - was not involved in this particular project.

But a spokesman said: 'We aren't able to provide information on this particular school and situation.

'But the Department for Education's statutory sex and relationship education guidance from the year 2000 states that 'young people need to be aware of the moral and personal dilemmas involved in abortion and know how to access a relevant agency if necessary'.

'Parents have a right to question what goes on in their child's school but we would expect the best way to resolve issues or differences of opinion is for parents to communicate with the school and governing body directly.'

Murray Park School is a mixed secondary school in Derby which caters for boys and girls between 11 and 16. It had 860 pupils on the school roll when it was rated as 'good' at its last Ofsted inspection in June 2014.  The school previously hit the headlines in 2007 when it became the first in Britain to offer skateboarding on its PE curriculum.

A spokesman said asking Year 8 pupils to research an essay on abortion was 'entirely reasonable'.

They added: 'The delivery of moral and ethical education to young people at the school has been praised by various parties over many years and we are always concerned to reflect on what we do and get this right.

'In this case we have, entirely reasonably, used this topic as part of the KS3 syllabus which requires us to 'explore significant moral and ethical questions and choices' where we feel that groups are ready and able to discuss such matters.

'The task was presented in such a way as to allow students to provide a balanced argument in a response to a statement which is common practice. 'Students were also provided alternative tasks if they chose.

'Whilst we are confident we have acted reasonably and in line with guidelines in this instance, we are keen to ensure that we always work in partnership with parents and will now review the curriculum content in this area across the school.

'We will continue to respect parental rights to withdraw their children from elements of the curriculum and to listen to their views about how our curriculum is structured if they raise these concerns with the school.'


No comments: