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Opinion: Five Ways I’d Overhaul the American Public Education System

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I’m not going to lead off with a long preface. Suffice it to say, our education system as it sits presently is a dumpster fire with fuel added each day, and if its many deficiencies are not soon ameliorated, that fire will continue to consume our children. And whether we’d like to believe it or not, this metaphor is apt, as children are mentally and emotionally destroyed each year by this system. This is how I think it should be overhauled.

First, the Federal Department of Education needs to be completely dismantled. It serves one purpose and one purpose only: to push the agenda of whatever party is in power at the moment on our kids. That’s it. Nothing of value is added to education by the existence of this bureaucratic body. It sucks up tax dollars to employ little government minions who couldn’t care less about what they do to students. Disband the entire department.

Next, teachers’ unions should be made illegal. All public sector unions should be made illegal, but as I’m specifically speaking about education here, I’ll stick to teachers’ unions. By their nature, teachers’ unions work against the students. They aren’t concerned with students; they’re concerned with teachers: protecting them, ensuring they receive the best benefits and pay, and working to improve the lives of teachers, regardless of what students need. This fact has become clear over the course of the COVID pandemic, as we watched the government kowtow to the demands of the unions to keep schools closed, as unions went on strike to keep distance learning as long as possible, as unions fought against governments to keep irrational mandates in place without concern for the damage they were doing to students. If we are to have an education system that works for our children, teachers’ unions cannot be allowed to exist.

Furthermore, teachers’ unions protect teachers. I firmly believe that government employees should always be holding onto their jobs by the thinnest of threads, and this should be especially true of those we trust with our children. It should be far easier to terminate teachers for substandard performance or terrible behavior, and this decision should be made locally when it need be made.

Education systems should be a free-market-like endeavor. Curricula should be managed no higher than at the state level, and this applies to standards of performance at each level, as well. No Child Left Behind and Common Core were easily the worst pieces of education legislation to ever be enacted, causing untold numbers of children to be failed by the system, either because teachers passed them along unprepared or because students were held back while classrooms taught to the lowest common denominator. States should be able to market their education systems as a reason for families to move there, for companies to settle there. And within states, localities should be allowed to exceed the standards set by the state for the same reasons.

If there is to be competition between schools, states should fund students, not schools. This idea isn’t new. I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here. Parents should be allowed to take the state funding for their child’s education and give it to whatever institution is going to provide their children with the best education. I don’t believe this point requires any additional explication.

Moving on, the way we approach high school should be completely revamped. Students’ freshman and sophomore years should be almost entirely dedicated to creating functional, informed members of society. Reading, writing, mathematics, and most importantly, civics should be the focus of these years. Education in navigating personal finances and entrepreneurship should also play a large part.

Prior to entering their junior year, students should be allowed to pick a path that they feel suits them. The path would encompass their remaining two years in high school. The first path would be the traditional college route. Provide students with college prep courses, AP studies, and testing prep. Create students who will be capable of succeeding in their academic journeys.

The second path should be focused on trades and technical careers. Apprenticeships, instruction performed by actual professionals in various fields should be offered and, if possible, result in certifications. Courses in metal shop, automotive repair, carpentry, etc, would provide those who desire a pathway outside college a successful foundation upon which to start a rewarding career, something American education has done a terrible job at until now. Not everyone is suited for college, and there are several careers for which college is completely unnecessary—several careers, might I add, that will earn people several times more money than many college grads can even hope to make right out the door.

And the third path should be entering the workforce. Some students will not desire either of the first two paths, and they should be authorized another direction to take. Some students would rather contribute to the overall income of the household, and others may simply want to hit the ground running. At 16 or 17 years old, why shouldn’t they be allowed to do this? Of course, there should remain some academic development during this period, but these courses need not be burdensome and can, obviously, in accordance with my previous critique, vary from place to place, as necessary.

And finally, any and all diversity, inclusivity, and equity directives, programs, and offices should be abolished. Alongside them should also be affirmative action as a means of making decisions for acceptance to universities and all ridiculous, pointless, and ultimately pernicious grievance studies programs that have heretofore been allowed to inject their intellectual venom into far too many students.

This list notwithstanding, I still believe the best option is to nuke the current system and create a new one or for families and groups of families to homeschool their children, thus removing the government from the entire activity. However, if we must deal with a public school system, I believe these changes will help to improve it. This list isn’t exhaustive, though, and I’m sure there are plenty of ideas to add to the list.

This conversation needs to be had, and it needs to be loud and forceful. Your government works for you. Its schools work for you. Make them work for you.

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