I couldn't be prouder of the recent landing on Mars via procedures and devices that looked like a Rube Goldberg cartoon via Ray Bradbury beforehand. I wonder how many appreciate the science and engineering behind it all?
Some people resent the money spent on the entire space program, but I'm not one of them, I think it reflects the best of what and who we are. I think it also puts to rest the lie about our educational system.
These were American engineers and scientists, educated in America in that same disrespected educational system everyone seems to have an opinion on. Unfortunately a huge percentage of that opinion seems to have a negative bent to it. I'd like to take this opportunity to dispute at least some of that.
I have said before and will continue to make the point that the comparative methods between our countries educational system and those of other countries has one glaring error that nobody seems to ever address. That error is that our schools are compared with only the top 50 percent or higher of all of the students in those countries. China, Japan, all of Europe, all those countries separates children by ability at roughly the middle school level.
In no way, shape or form is every child guaranteed a place in regular high school, let alone college. Testing separates at somewhere between 12 and 14 years of age, those who are given a chance for higher education and those funneled into various trade schools.
Behavior is at least part of it. If a student in any of those countries misbehaves to a point well below the delinquency tolerated here, they'll be put out of school. They will not be supplied with tutors as they are here. The disabled, although taken care of in various degrees, will not be included in any statistics relative to the performance of schools on a track to higher education. They will not be "mainstreamed" if educated at all. We do all of the above then complain that on average we score lower? That's just nuts.
We appear to invent almost everything. Other countries seem to survive by stealing our inventions and manufacturing and selling them to others, in many cases to America itself! Do you know what "outsourcing" really is? It's American companies manufacturing our stuff overseas and selling it back to America. It's still OUR stuff!
I doubt any country in the world could have made that Mars landing. I must repeat that those engineers and scientists were educated here, in our country, in our maligned educational system. If you compare our best to everyone else's best I think we're on top on any category anyone could name. How many Americans attend school in foreign countries to better their education? Even more revealing, of those who do, how many are in engineering, math or science?
Reverse that question and ask how many students in every major college in every major program are from foreign countries? Look at any of our best schools, schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, and you'll see people from India, Africa and yes, China, our so-called rival. Many of those countries manage to educate their children quite well, obviously. But just as obviously for their best and brightest America is still the "gold standard."
We have, as a country, somehow decided that our educational system is going to be used as the great equalizer, the one tool for social engineering to assure equality for all. I have news for those who support that nonsense, and that is that statistics prove that not only doesn't it work but that it is taking literally billions of hours of time and money from our best and brightest with little to show for it.
Schools cannot be used nor should they be used to feed the poor, to supplant poor parenting, to aid what should be social and welfare programs. Tax laws have been abused so that liberal government agencies can force their agendas on localities with the money to pay for it coming from school taxes, as unfair a way to pay for education as one could imagine, a totally regressive tax with no allowances for income as we age and become infirm. I doubt there is any discipline more saturated with a liberal mindset than education with the possible exception of social work, but with a built in support from the population at large most agencies can only dream about.
After all, who could possibly be against educating our children? I'm not either. But I am against spending my tax dollars at an ever increasing and ridiculous rate with most of that money going to hidden social engineering, not education per se. It's not the teachers, it's the system.
I hate to suggest that the people doing the most hand wringing are well aware of this but are using it to get more money for more programs for agendas far removed from actual education. Does Welfare pay for meals for the poor, or do the schools? Does the Office of Developmental Disabilities pay for educating the disabled, or do the schools? Who provides virtual day care for juvenile delinquents, welfare, the Probation Department or schools? If one removes the social engineering from our school systems your taxes would and could be cut in half while performance would improve.
Am I suggesting we should cut all of the above-mentioned, non-educational programs from schools? I have to say for the most part that yes, I am. If in fact there is a need for a large part of the programs currently run through our schools, they should be a separate entity and not paid for with tax money designated for education. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is fraud.
If mentally challenged individuals were educated through the Office of Mental Disabilities, a program spending billions every year, and Juvenile delinquents were educated through the criminal justice system, and the same sort of placement testing implemented that other countries seem to find acceptable, and only our top 50 percent of students were in high schools and being tested, I think you'd find a much better "product" at a much lower price. I also think an awful lot of those maligned teachers would begin to look a lot better.
Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org