Education is one of the most virulent, debated, and politically explosive issues in our current society.
No more so than now, as a new embattled and controversial president-elect positions his cabinet to take control of our government.
In order to ground ourselves in reality, here are some facts about education in American history:
- The first “free” school was opened in Virginia in 1635, although most children were home educated.
- In 1642, the first state statute was passed in Massachusetts requiring parents to ensure their children are educated in religion and laws of the commonwealth.
- In 1647, the Massachusetts Law of 1647 was passed requiring all towns with a population greater than 50 families to hire a schoolmaster to teach the children. Note: local jurisdiction versus federal jurisdiction
- John Locke publishes his Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1690. This becomes a basic tenet of American education going forward.
- In 1788, the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It does not include any reference to education or school.
- In 1791, the Bill of Rights is passed. It does not include any requirements for education or schools. In the 10th Amendment, any powers not delegated to the federal government are granted to the states.
- In 1821, the first public high school is opened in Boston.
- In 1827, Massachusetts passes a law that requires any towns with more than 100 families to have a public high school available to all students.
- Horace Mann – the first Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education – becomes the first proponent of public (‘free’) education for all.
- By 1918, all states have laws requiring compulsory school attendance. They are sporadically enforced.
- The Department of Education is created in 1867 and funded by the Peabody Education Fund. Main focus of this fund is to support struggling school systems in the south.
As you can see in the history of education in America up until this point, there is nothing that commands that public education become a replacement for other forms of education. The emphasis is in ensuring that everyone is educated.
Somewhere and somehow, the emphasis changed. The public education system that was originally envisioned by founding thinkers like John Locke and Horace Mann began to mutate; it continues to do so.
- America used to be #1 in high school graduation
- According to many studies over the past 10 years, education in America is faltering and failing our youth at a greater pace
- Many tools are used to measure the health of the American education system
- High school graduation rate – in 2016, our rate was an average of 83.2%, representing a slight rise over previous years.
- America’s high school graduation rate lags behind that of other industrialized countries, ranked 19th in a list of 28 countries.
- America is the only industrialized country where the current generation is less educated overall than the previous generation.
- America ranked 12th in a study of illiteracy among high income countries.
- High teacher attrition rate and a reduction of up to 35% in teacher preparation programs over the past 5 years
- Teacher salaries and working conditions remain low.
- There are whole sections of society that are graduating without the ability to read, write, or do math
Sadly, even as we battle these statistics, no one can come to an agreement. Why?
Mutual agreement is hampered by some of the following issues:
- public misunderstanding
- media misrepresentation
- over-reliance on misdirected studies and so-called ’empirical’ evidence
- lack of appropriate funding
- communication breakdowns related to biased thought processes
- political infighting and finger pointing
- loss of focus
The longer we take to come to a mutual agreement, the farther our children slip.
Our focus must be and remain on our children – all of them. We are not the future – they are.
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