Solution for Public Education Problems

For over two hundred years, one institution has served our nation admirably.
It has nourished the potential of gifted individuals, enabling them to
make noteworthy contributions in all fields of endeavor, from agriculture
to zoology. It’s also given millions of others the skills they’ve needed
to earn a living and raise their families. It is the one establishment
that has opened its door widely enough to provide the masses with the opportunity
for a richly rewarding life. It is the one institution charged with making
certain that all the accumulated knowledge of the past centuries is not
lost…that this information is preserved, that it is passed along to each
new generation. It is the one facet of our society whose effectiveness
determines whether our country retains its status as a leader of the free
world. We are speaking of our system of public education.

Yes, public education’s record of achievement is testimony to the soundness
of the concept. In spite of the fact that they are beset by increasingly
difficult problems, our public schools continue to function. But how much
longer can they continue to be effective if we refuse to address their
problems? Critics constantly remind us of high school graduates who can’t
fill out job applications…of 12th graders who can’t solve sixth-grade
mathematics problems…and of the millions who never finish their education.
These situations are all too real; but are they the result of an inherently
flawed system, or are they caused by our failure to make concerted efforts
to improve and modernize the existing system? We submit that the latter
is the case. The basic concept of public education is far superior on the
whole to anything an elitist private educational system provides.

Public education should not be dismantled or even restructured. It only
needs to be updated, to be brought into the 21st century, an approach,
we believe, that will confront and ultimately solve two of its most pressing
problems: (1) lack of teacher support, particularly in providing access
to the latest innovations in electronic teaching equipment and methods,
and (2) disruptions in the classroom caused by a small number of problem

Let’s examine these problems a little more closely. In reference to
the first, technologically our approach to instruction is antiquated, having
changed little since the one-room schoolhouse days. The teacher of 150
years ago was expected to educate, inspire and perhaps entertain a roomful
of students with nothing more than a blackboard, a piece of chalk and a
few textbooks, a daunting task even for that time. Walk into the average
classroom today and likely you’ll see the teacher struggling to accomplish
the same goals with basically the same tools, a near impossible task in
today’s techno-environment. Nearly impossible because today’s students
have been raised on television and computers. Their expectations and attention
spans are geared to electronic media. How can a teacher maintain the interests
of students in academics for six hours a day, five days a week, with only
chalk and blackboard, given that at home most have the latest in sophisticated
electronic gadgetry? How could we possibly expect the teacher to plan and
implement an instructional program that could come anywhere close to the
sparkling presentations the students are accustomed to seeing elsewhere…single
presentations whose production requires the work of an army of professionals.
We can’t. It’s far too much for one, an unrealistic demand. The solution
is simple. We have to provide the teacher with help…help in the form
of instructional media, such as computers, computer software, videotapes,
CD-ROMs and any other relevant materials available which concentrate on
the specific topics found in textbooks and presented by the teacher. Why
shouldn’t we take advantage of the marvels technology has produced to improve
our educational program and enhance the effectiveness of our teachers.

Updating our instructional methods will inevitably update the image
of the teachers. With these aids, they can become directors of well thought
out programs, with ample time to coordinate and plan peripheral activities
for student enrichment. Then there would be time to clearly define learning
objectives and time to plot a course by which these goals may be reached.
Supervisors and administrators should work closely with their teachers
in developing and carrying out curriculum objectives, and the federal,
state, and local governments should take the lead, providing the necessary
funding to ensure that these plans are realized.

The second pressing problem plaguing our public schools, that of disruptions
in the classroom, must be addressed. Regardless of the equipment available
to the teacher, teaching is impossible when there is constant disruption
in the classroom. Most would agree that the teaching of proper conduct
should begin in the home. Unfortunately, too many parents lack the skills
required to teach their children the importance of good behavior. Others
don’t have the time or, sadly, the concern.

To address this problem, we suggest assistance be directed toward the
child and the parent. Alternative schools should be established in each
area. Uncontrollable students would be removed from the traditional classroom
and be required to attend sessions supervised and taught by counsellors
specially trained to deal in discipline problems. Psychologists would also
be available to help those with emotional and drug-related problems or
those with learning disabilities. The goal would be to eventually return
the child to the normal classroom setting. But behavior problems are likely
to resurface if conflicts at home aren’t resolved. Therefore, we propose
counselling services for the parents as well.

The investment in classroom equipment and in the personal services for
the wayward is not insignificant. But can we afford to continue as before?
One of the most crucially important institutions in our society, our educational
system, needs our help. The productive potential of large numbers of people
is being ignored. What will these uneducated cost our society? Plenty.
As someone once said, “If you think education is expensive, you ought to
try ignorance.”

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