Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Time to face our education crisis

By Newt Gingrich

School is out for the summer, but as a grandfather and former college professor, the education of our children is never far from my mind. My own grandchildren are young -- ages 6 and 4 -- and have their entire educational experience ahead of them. I saw a report recently that makes me worry about the education system they will inherit. It makes me worry what kind of country they will inherit. And it makes me ask this question: When it comes to educating our children, at what point are we willing to face the truth and declare that the education system created for the industrial era is failing to prepare our children for the demands of today's information age?

If a 21.7% Graduation Rate Isn't Failure, What Is?

The education bureaucracy likes to play a game with statistics. They usually publish data on educational successes or failures only on a statewide basis, so parents and teachers have no way to hold the education bureaucracy accountable where it counts -- on the district level. But a new study sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation took a different approach, and the results it reported are deeply troubling to those of us with a concern for the future of American children.

The study looked at graduation rates on a district-by-district level and found that they are shockingly lower than previously reported by the education bureaucracy. In big-city public school districts like Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Denver, fewer than 50 percent of high school students graduate on time. In three districts, the public schools graduate fewer than 40 percent of their students: In New York City, the graduation rate is 38.9 percent; in Baltimore, it's 38.5 percent; and in Detroit, incredibly, only 21.7 percent of students who enter public high schools will graduate.

Failing Four Out of Five Students

Consider this finding for a moment. If only 21.7 percent of students graduate from Detroit schools on time, that means that 78.3 percent of students fail to graduate. Almost 80 percent of students -- four out of five -- are failed by our educational system. Why do we tolerate this level of failure? The fact is, in most aspects of life, we don't. If a private company took the money from its customers and then failed 80 percent of them, it would be closed in a day.

I am a firm believer in establishing measurable standards of success (or failure) and constantly assessing the wisdom and workability of policies against these standards. One of the most basic measures of the success of our school system is high school graduation. A high school diploma is the minimum requirement for successful participation in American life. The failure of our schools to graduate their students isn't limited to Detroit or to our big cities. Nationwide, it is estimated that three of every 10 students who start high school won't graduate on time. For minorities, these numbers are far worse. One of every two African-American and Latino students won't graduate on time or graduate at all. So dramatic is the failure that today there are more African American males in prison than there are in college -- a fact that is a national disgrace.

First, Save the Children

We've all heard the rallying cries of "Save the Whales" and "Save the Rainforest." My view is that reports on our public schools like this latest one should have us all shouting "Save the Children." Every time we allow policies that favor the education bureaucracy over our children, we not only hurt our children, we hurt our country and our prospects for future safety and prosperity.

Here's a case in point. One of the favorite talking points of the left-liberals is that more money will cure what is wrong with our education system. But here is just one of the facts that exposes this for the lie that it is. Nationally, our education bureaucracy is receiving more than $440 billion a year of our tax dollars to fund our schools, but only about 61 percent of this is actually spent in classrooms. In a state like Michigan, that number is even lower -- only 57 percent of education funds are actually spent on teachers and teaching. The rest goes to the bureaucracy for undefined, unaccountable "overhead." It cannot be overstated, that unless and until we make it a priority to put the welfare of our children over the welfare of the education bureaucracy, our education bureaucracy will continue to consign our children to future poverty and our nation to future failure.

The Valedictorian Who Flunked Out

America has many great public schools and many, many dedicated teachers. And we have more than our share of education success stories. The problem is that too often these successes are achieved in spite of our current education system, not because of it.

I am reminded of a tragic story I heard about the valedictorian at a high school in New Orleans who couldn't graduate because she had failed the math portion of her graduate exit exam five times. She had a near-perfect grade point average -- and had even received an A in an advanced math class her senior year. But when she took the test required of all Louisiana students before graduation, everything her school system had supposedly done for her was exposed as a lie. She hadn't been educated -- she had merely been processed, passed up the line from grade to grade in order to avoid exposing the failure of the very institutions and officials that were entrusted with her future.

Had this story ended here, it would have been just one more tragic tale of how our education system is cheating kids and lying to their parents. But thankfully, the story of this young woman didn't end in failure. Even though she had been humiliated in front of her peers and the nation when the press picked up the story, she didn't give up. She persevered and, on her seventh try, passed the state graduation exam and received her diploma.

America abounds with more energy, resourcefulness and innovation than any nation in the history of mankind. We deserve an education system that nurtures and develops these qualities. I've said it before and I'll say it again: We owe our children and grandchildren an America at least as prosperous and secure as the one our parents and grandparents fought and worked to give us. "Save the children" isn't just a slogan, it's a call to win the future for all Americans, starting with our children. Let's not wait to get started.


Australia: Muslim schools bad for integration

Pupils taught in Brisbane's Islamic schools may struggle to integrate into Australian society, a leading Muslim has warned.

The number of parents choosing an Islamic education for their children has soared in the past five years. More than 750 pupils are now taught in the city's two Muslim schools and the number is set to pass 1000 when the next academic year begins. But Abdul Jalal, president of the Islamic Council of Queensland, says more should be done to integrate Muslim and non-Muslim children. "Segregation is not healthy and I'm totally opposed to it," he said. "The schools have to look at which direction they are taking our young people. How will this generation integrate if not at school?"

Mr Jalal said he supported religious schools in principle, but was concerned about the lack of non-Muslim pupils attending the Islamic College of Brisbane and Brisbane Muslim School. "It's a concern to me and I have made it known to the college's authorities that they have to get non-Muslim students into our schools," he said. "Unless schools integrate with the wider community, bringing people from different races together, then I'm afraid. We are trying to seek ways of ensuring another Cronulla doesn't happen here."

A recent British report on the aftermath of the London bombings said Christians and Muslims should be encouraged to integrate, claiming that the two communities lead "parallel lives". Co-author Asaf Hussain said: "Multicultural policies saved no lives in London on July 7. Britain's population has to become more integrated."

The Islamic College of Brisbane has 550 pupils and next year hopes to enrol 700. But Islamic College principal Dr Mubarak Noor said the school regularly hosted visits from non-Muslim schools and took part in inter-school sport contests. The school has three non-Muslim pupils - two boys and a girl, who has to wear a headscarf in line with the school's uniform policy - and is trying to enrol more. Pupils are taught the standard syllabus, as well Arabic and Islamic studies.

Shahid Khan, principal of Brisbane Muslim School, said it was founded in 2002 with 19 pupils, but today it has 233 and next year will have at least 300. He stressed that his school also took part in inter-school sport contests and visits and is now setting up a scholarship scheme to encourage local Aboriginal children to attend the school. More than half of his staff are non-Muslim. "We haven't closed the doors to others and are actively seeking Aboriginal participation in our school," he said. "We are not isolated in any way. We are trying hard to create good citizens and teach them Australian principles and to be proud of their country."

Mohamad Abdalla, head of Griffith University's Islamic Research Unit, said many Muslim parents opted for Islamic education because of a perceived lack of "ethics and morality" in state schools. "There are arguments back and forth on this subject," he said. "Some experts claim Islamic schools seclude students from the mainstream, but others say Jewish and Christian schools show pupils from religious schools can integrate without any problem."

State Education Minister Rod Welford declined to comment on the issue, but National MP and state opposition schools spokesman Stuart Copeland said: "I don't have a problem with religious schools, but they have to make sure they are producing well-rounded young people. I don't want any school to be too narrow in its focus."



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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1 comment:

Burning Bridges said...

Is it possible that not only what we are teaching but even HOW we measure success in learning is flawed? There is not a career in the world of which I know today that accepts workers on the basis of test scores; it is an interviewer's world out there today. Yet, we are teaching the children today to absorb and regurgitate without properly assimilating the knowledge. As a former teacher of 'psych' and sociology, have you any ideas how to bring back the age of education 250 years ago (in the US anyway) where a college graduate could, and frequently did, change the societal landscape in which he lived?