Most Americans have benefited from free public education, but in this era of exaggerated political rhetoric, many are unwilling to pay higher taxes for schools. It’s the most expensive item in the state budget and the first thing politicians want to cut.
All too often, professional educators are left out of this conversation and politicians want quick results and do not recognize the importance of preparing the next generation for international technology and global markets. Hmm.
The history of American education is full of reform movements, but rapid changes in technology have rendered traditional notions of educational reform obsolete. In the 1600s, religious groups sponsored most learning opportunities, and in the 1700s, educational institutions for nondenominational learning were established at Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Academy and Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia. Then, in the 1800s, elementary schools became available in many parts of the United States, and textbooks like McGuffie’s Reader set the standard for students who might go on to state-granted colleges.
By 1900 teacher training had taken place. “normal school” However, most areas did not require formal teacher training. Young men taught before they went to college, and young women until they were married. In some states, schools were funded by property taxes, but education funding was not available everywhere, and many children did not attend school at all.
However, those who graduated from high school and college had a significant advantage over those who did not. A national standard had to be established to determine when and how credit could be earned to graduate from high school in America. The National Education Association established Carnegie credits as the standard for achieving satisfactory grades in high school courses required for graduation. At the beginning of World War II, less than half of adults in America graduated from high school. Currently, 90% have a high school diploma.
Since 1950, America’s public schools have weathered a cultural storm around the inclusion of people of color, the inclusion of Americans with disabilities, and the acceptance of gender-ambiguous individuals. A politician said: “More Phonics” “Academic Accountability” “Equal Educational Opportunity” “Have a moral compass” “Golds 2000” “Teacher Merit Allowance” When “No child was left behind.”
But politicians are not paying attention to all the changes in the world’s emerging economies and technologies. Americans don’t care what’s going on in foreign countries or how workers prepare for competition. We do not realize that there will come a time when our young children can easily learn foreign languages and sell products to people in foreign countries.
We do not recognize the need to be able to use the metric system to more effectively produce and sell products that do not count feet and pounds. Too many people don’t realize that science isn’t perfect, but science is the best we’ve developed to understand pandemics and climate change.
It’s time for teachers to join the political conversation about education.