Perhaps things will change when the Democrats select a candidate and each party designs its platform. But I am increasingly despairing of the likelihood of either party fully and honestly addressing the national crises in education.
I say “crises,” plural, because the problems are so profound and varied. Why my despair? Because I see so little evidence that the real issues will be confronted and that real solutions rather than band aids will be proposed. Eight years of No Child Left Behind have removed much of my optimism.
What then are these various issues? Here is a partial list: (Woodrow Wilson had his 14 points — so here are mine)
1. Overcrowded classrooms
2. Gang violence in and around schools
3. Lack of well-trained teachers
4. Inadequate teacher salaries
5. Dumbed-down curricula
6. Test-driven curricula which devalues critical thinking
7. Anemic, if any, arts programs
8. Inadequate – if any at various schools – after-school programs
9. A shortage of qualified, committed principals and leaders
10. Teacher burn-out and turnover
11. High student drop-out rates – particularly in low income neighborhoods
12. Unsafe neighborhoods for inner-city children and youth to journey to and from home
13. Fear and depression of students in under-performing schools (See L.A. Times article, April 26, 2008)
14. Poor performance of USA students on international tests
The list could go on and on. Yet, in all the primary debates of both the Republicans and Democrats hardly any of these issues were discussed and no one had the temerity to suggest that correcting the above would require additional taxpayer revenues. Such honesty will not garner any votes.
On the positive side, all these candidates have position papers on education and each of the three have outlined various reforms ranging from providing incentives to schools to offering arts education programs to reforming No Child Left Behind.
Of course, none of the three so much as hint that any sort of any reform will cost the taxpayer a nickel. And, of course, real reform cannot occur without providing funds to address the above 14 points. My readers probably find this recurring theme a bit tiresome, but I cannot help reiterating my mantra – increased funding isn’t the only answer, but without it there are few answers that will work. If we can spend 16 billion dollar, a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, then surely we can address the above 14 points! Surely!