Opinion: Save public schools

“Madmen and butchers have no place in the 21st century, and as America continues to face a very uncertain future, we must not turn a blind eye.”

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul

Bryan Staul is a sophomore political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

To say education in this country is broken would be the understatement of the century. American students are falling behind in almost every subject, while children from other countries continue to excel.

The solution from politicians seems to be focused on private schools. Private schools are excellent, but should they be the solution? Public schools are failing, however; it is not the government’s job to abandon public education. It is the job of the government to fix public education.

The public school system in America worked once and it can work again. During the Cold War, America made it a priority to give children the tools necessary to compete with their Soviet counterparts. Math and science became priorities, and the result was the United States winning key Cold War battles such as the Space Race. However, somewhere we lost our way, and education stopped being a priority.

Lack of funds is not the problem. In fact, the U.S. spends record funds on students and it still doesn’t make a dent. The key is not to spend more but to be smart with our money. The structure of public schools is woefully outdated and designed for a society where most graduates don’t go to college.

In modern America, we need more people with college educations because the work force has completely changed. Small changes can also make a difference, such as lengthening the school year. China, Germany and South Korea all have extended school years and they see results. We should also take lessons from public charter schools and apply them to the public system. Public charter schools get results mostly because they are held accountable for the results of the students.

This leads to probably the most controversial and taboo subject of the education debate — teachers. The urge to blame teachers and teacher unions is overblown. However, teacher accountability is an issue. The need to fire bad teachers is paramount. We have to ask ourselves, “What makes a bad teacher?” Until that question is answered, it will be difficult to form a policy around the issue.

Another challenge facing school reform is cutting the red tape that has been burying school districts for decades. The federal government sets one standard, the state government sets another and the local government sets its own. In this mess, the interests of children are lost. The federal government must set one clear standard, and local districts need to have the proper autonomy to meet those standards.

The U.S. needs to realize the urgency of education reform. Without getting serious about the future of our children, we will doom future generations to a world where America is no longer on top. Abandoning our public schools to private ones would be a disservice to equality and would destroy one of the greatest institutions in this nation’s history. It has to be understood that quality education is the solution to ensuring America’s future.