The role that the educational system should play in the live of people is to educate them to be conscious, critically thinking individuals who do not passively accept knowledge but question the knowledge that is being taught to them. Education should be taught to give students the skills and intelligence they need to understand the world and how the world works in order to survive in it. However, the American educational system has been known to produce students whom are woefully ignorant about the world and different cultures. One of the reasons is because the educational system in its current state does not leave much room for critical thinking but trains individuals to be docile, worker bees in a global economy that keeps the status quo wealthy and "others" barely making it. The problem becomes evident if we look at the varied curriculums and subjects that are being taught. There is a lack of emphasis on academic learning, and the only thing that matters is high stakes testing. The schools in this country have become swamped with fuzzy curriculums that assume that through constant testing, students will be prepared for life in a new global society . . . whatever that is.
I recently had a conversation with a co-worker and we were discussing how African-Americans were treated forty years ago and I was amazed by her naivety about the subject, considering the fact that she was a college graduate and an African-American. From the moment I entered college, I was eager to explore the history of African and African-American history from a view point that did not make them seem sub-human and college affords students that opportunity. I could not help but wonder what type of history and sociological classes she had taken; from her conversation, none. But the sad truth is that when most people make the decision to attend college, it is for the purpose of reaping economic rewards, not for expanding one's consciousness.
In order for the educational system in this country to produce students who are not clueless about its history and the world surrounding them, it should be restructured in several ways. Parental involvement should be mandatory, just as school attendance for students is mandatory for graduation. Lack of parent involvement is an enormous contributing factor to the current failing educational system. Parents need to instill in their children just how detrimental a lack of education is to their future. Teachers are wonderful people who can take students from the top of Mount Olympus to the cold and desolation of Antarctica but they are there to teach, not parent. Many teachers spend a great deal of their class time disciplining children and playing babysitter, two things that are not a part of their job duties. Teachers need involvement from parents in order for the educational system to work and education begins at home.
Funding for the educational system should also be restructured. Public schools are traditionally funded by property taxes which results in a very unequal distribution of educational opportunity. Communities that are wealthy have more funding for their local schools than those who do not. This situation directly affects the quality of education that children in urban and poor rural areas receive. The No Child Left Behind Act will only make it worse because of the required testing and public reporting of results. When parents are buying a new house, they want to live in a school district that has strong test scores. This drives up the property values in those areas, meaning that only affluent families can afford to live in the top performing school districts. This means more property taxes to those areas, while the lower performing schools lose their funding if they do not meet federal standards. There should be a fair tax system for education that is not based on property taxes of homeowners. Government funding, for the most part, is distributed to the various schools by state and local governments and there is huge disparities in this funding based on race. According the text American Education by Joel Spring, there is a gap of more than $1,000 per student nation wide based on race, with large states like New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, who lead the nation in their unwillingness to fairly fund education (Spring, pg. 77). Children should not suffer because of their economic background or ethnicity and public education should make no distinction between rich and poor, or black and white. Every child attending a public school should be granted an equal education. Equal funding would grant teachers the proper resources to better educate students. School choice and the privatization of the public school system would not be a factor because under my plan, the educational system in America would be fully and equally funded by the federal government and closely monitored. With the influx of money pouring into the educational system from the government, schools would change dramatically for the better because that is the biggest issue in most public schools: lack of money.
The educational system's curriculum would be changed in order to fit in with the nation's melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. From elementary to high school, students are bombarded with facts and figures about wealthy, white men as if women and other minorities do not exist or contribute anything worthy to the history of America. No wonder so many students blank out historical facts: they do not care these fact because they cannot relate to the actors in the story. Student should be required to take courses that have will give them a more in depth understanding of the world surrounding them, courses that will discuss the history of marginalized and oppressed individuals in this country and around the world. They should be required to read books that make them think, not just process information for the next test. If more students understood the values and cultures of people unlike themselves, it would not be easy or maybe even possible for the government to lie and use propaganda techniques to lull the masses into believing everything was okay and its leaders competent. High stakes testing would be eliminated because most of the tests are designed by people who do not have a clue about the demographics, ethnicities or economic backgrounds of the students who are to be tested and these tests are biased against minorities and the poor. If students are to be tested, extra tutoring would be available to students, at no cost to the parents.
Having competent teachers, board members, and administrators are also a vital part of restructuring the educational system. Having qualified administrators and board members who know and enforce standards and guidelines is important. What are the qualifications for an administrator? Are there required qualifications? These are the questions that need answers. Just because someone has obtained a degree does not make this person the best for the job. Board members should not be chosen because they golf with the mayor; all board members should have a Master's degree in Education or have an extensive social justice background. As for teachers, the educational system should make sure that the best teachers are chosen for the positions and evaluations should be given frequently. This would give parents and the educational system a chance to find out what is wrong and what is needed to correct the problems. Public education needs teachers and board members that actually care about the children and their education, not individuals who want the perks of working for school system: summers and holidays off, steady raises and a fat compensation package. American children are suffering due to the inadequacies of the individuals involved with the educational system.
The "culture of poverty" theory that has been used by several politicians to explain differences in learning between different ethnicities would be exposed as a blatant attempt by the status quo to "blame" individuals for their poverty if the educational system was restructured to meet the needs of all students, not just the wealthy. Huge educational gaps between poor students and wealthy students do not occur because the poorer students have adapted to their poverty-stricken existence but because they do not have resources needed to succeed in school. If students have to deal with textbooks that are outdated, lack of toiletries, and computers from the late 1980s, their opportunity to advance academically is dismal and their chances of dropping out of school likely.
In a just and an equal society, the educational system I have discussed would have already been implemented decades ago but it has not and more than likely will not. In a hierarchical society such as in America, there will always be someone on the low end of the totem pole and the best way to do that is through the mis-education of its most vulnerable: the children. The neglect of the educational system in the US threatens the economic well being of the entire nation. Unless the inequalities in education is diminished and its system totally restructured, the wealthy gap between the rich and the poor will continue to widen and the US will be infamous for being the nation of the undereducated. Spring, Joel. American Education. (2006). New York: McGraw-Hill