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Education in America

The (Typical) View of Education in American Politics

There is a commonly held axiom that states "education is critical to success". Recently, politicians of a specific ilk have tried to expand that axiom to claim that "a well-educated citizenry is essential to the success of our state." Personally, I agree with the sentiments inferred by these axiomatic statements, but I question whether politicians are the best qualified people to determine what "well-educated" is, or how to measure the "success" that is so frequently mentioned as the end goal.

"From the point on a compass to magnetic north, the point of the needle is moving back and forth."

It is also a commonly held axiom that during election years, politicians of every stripe use education as a political talking point. They consistently make promises to parents and communities about what they will do (and how they will do it) to provide what they believe is "best for the children". Regardless of what name the educational program is given, there always seems to be some political talking head who is arrogant enough to claim that they know exactly how to meet the educational needs of every child in the country in order to secure your vote.

American Education Today

Let's take a moment to take a (highly generalized) look at public education in America. (Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but my intent here is to show "the rule".)

"Basic temperamental, filters on our eyes, alter our perceptions, lenses polarize."

The policies of American public schools largely depend on what various state and local governmental entities have predetermined American students should know and be able to do based primarily on nothing more than their dates of birth. Enabling of these policies since the late 19th century has resulted in requiring students to sit still, walk in straight lines, be quiet, memorize facts, and most importantly, pass standardized tests. The system then applies canned instructional programs to what it designates as appropriately grouped students, but even in the upper levels of primary education (i.e., our high schools), the system allows very little possibility for a student to explore their own unique gifts, or to address any possible challenge that they might face which could interfere with their education. As a consequence of the application of these policies, if the student doesn't quite fit the mold, or if they deviate from the stillness, the straight lines, or the quietness demanded by these policies, then it is automatically the student that is the problem, and not the policies.

"From the point of entry until the candle is burned, the point of departure is not to return."

Admittedly, there have been several notable changes in the last century, but far too much of education today - and most especially public education - still follows this incredibly outdated approach. Children in Texas are not taught how to learn; they are taught how to conform. And the proof of this allegation is in the results that we see in our schools today.

The mark of a good student is one who arrives punctually, follows the routines that have been set for them by someone in a position of "authority", sits quietly waiting for instruction, regurgitates information, and performs tasks well enough to pass a test, thus "demonstrating" a mastery of certain skills along the expected timeline. A predictable and conformed student looks like the "best" student. And while it could have been argued that this was the most likely path to success in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is simply an archaic and failing model today.

It is time for Texans to reject this model and embrace new ideas for education in the 21st century.

Committee to Elect Darren Hamilton
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