Friday, October 10, 2008



By Fahim A. Knight-EL

American education has become obsolete and outdated and is failing not only the American students, but it is a direct compromise of America's future. If America is depended upon this next generation to be the leaders of tomorrow and to ensure that our nation continues to have a prosperous future and remain somewhat competitive in this new global society; there is going have to be a need for a drastic overhaul of the present educational system in order for it to survive deep into the 21st Century. (Reference: Alvin and Heidi Toffler; “Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave”).

The inner cities schools infrastructures are depilated and decaying—encompassing poor facilities and are plagued by a gamut of social issues ranging from ill equipped teachers, teenage pregnancy, gangs, truancy, disproportional high dropout rates, drugs and alcohol issues; the suburban schools aren’t much better and a sense of disillusionment serves as the order of the day. (Reference: Greg Mathis; “Inner City Miracle”).

Teachers and students are more concerned about their safety and security, which in most cases education and learning have taken a back seat to safety. This writer can remember that Newark, New Jersey public schools approximately eight years ago had deteriorated under long term Mayor Sharpe James (he was recently convicted on Federal charges of abuse of governmental powers) had become so ineffective in providing a quality education for its citizens that the Federal Government was about to step-in and manage and operate Newark's Public Schools under a Federal Mandate; this would have been unprecedented. However, this is not only germane to Newark but almost in every urban city in America it is the same trend; you could find these same problems in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Atlanta, New York, Los Angles, Chicago, Detroit, Gary, East Saint Louis, Memphis, Miami, Boston, etc. No one really wants to assume responsibility of working to resolving America's educational crisis. (Reference: Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, & Rameck Hunt; “The Bond”).

So failure is inevitable and America will create a permanent underclass that will be the feeding grounds for the thriving Prison Industrial Complex and may be this is all part of the conspiracy. This writer knows that Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain have no solutions to rescuing American education, but they both signed on to give some of the wealthiest banking and financial investment firms in the world $850 billion dollars of the taxpayers money and America's education is in shambles and is in dire need of being rescued by a government bailout. This writer would like to have seen this money go toward enhancing American education as opposed to those den of thieves.

Former Presidential Candidate Ross Perot said in 1990 stated, "I believe the education crisis ranks right at the top. I would put second only to our economic problems here in this country. You're at the bottom of the industrialized world in terms of academic achievement. We have the largest number of functional illiterates in the industrialized world. I would give it a much, much, much higher priority than the problems that take all our time in the Middle East. If we the same level on education that we have on the oil problem in the Middle East, we'd have the finest schools in the world" (Reference: James W. Robinson; "Ross Perot Speaks Out: Issue by Issue, What He Says About Our Nation--Its Problems and Its Promise" pg 75).

Right at this moment it looks very bleak and unpromising that our educational institutions are creating a product that has not met the academic training and intellectual preparation or prerequisites that is needed to exceed and succeed within the global market. There is perhaps a gamut of causes and problems that we can pinpoint to; that have contributed to the decline of America's education, which all of them may possess a sense of legitimate credibility and plausibility. This article will not necessary focus in on that area but will cite some as part of our discussion, which to validate our thesis. Where did we go wrong?

Our society based on our world leadership ranking—which stemmed from our privilege position and the sense of entitlement that went along with being Americans—what president Nixon called a “One World Superpower” has placed us on a dangerous course; in particular as we transitioned from various historical time periods such as Feudalism, Pre-Industrialism, Industrialism and now into this present of being part of the technological age of information—each of these economic eras would impact our worldview. America's political, economic, social, military, etc., success created a false sense of national and international American-Centric culture that covertly perceived the world as evolving around the American culture and our so-called world dominance definitely created intellectual, social and economic arrogance with inside and the outside of our nation on all levels. (Reference: Alvin and Heidi Toffler; “War and Anti-War; Survival at the Dawn of the 21ST Century”).

The past creative ingenuity which was eventually replaced with apathy and a high level of complacency and by time the Cold War had come to a end in 1989 the educational achievement gap between nations of Western Europe and the United States was evident by how Western European schools and students at that time were ranking considerably much higher than their United States counterpart. Thus, over the last twenty years we have produced a generation of low academic achievers and the scary thing about this phenomenon, is that it continues to gain negative momentum as America's education continues to deteriorate.

This writer is very much concerned about these implications because he has a ten (10) year old daughter who is a fifth grader on the elementary school level and if the U.S. educational system is failing, we have to ask ourselves, how does that factor into the future of my daughter and our ability to provide her with a quality education that will give her and millions more children like her, in this country the necessary tools to compete against a formidable and prepared students coming out of the Far East?

We learned the basic rudiments of education and for our generation there was nothing more vital than having to master the 3 Rs—Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and I can remember my mother drilling me with the 3 Rs; she thought it was important and imperative to my educational success. The concept of literacy when it came to computing, reading and writing was non-negotiable in our home and in the school setting; today on the average American children perform below grade average in these three most vital educational areas and although our society have made a transition, this writer is of the belief that these three subjects and/or disciplines are still the foundation to function in the arena of ideas. They were of extremely valuable and of importance yesterday and perhaps are even more valuable today in our children's educational pursuits. (Reference: Calvin Mackie; “A View From the Roof—Lessons For Life & Business).

Minister Louis Farrakhan in his most enlightened book titled, "A Torchlight for America" stated, "By all measures-literacy, the dropout rate, test scores, plans to attend college and the cultivation of truth and principles among today's youth--the school system has failed. It's hard to understand how my generation, born in the thirties and forties, was least able to read and write, yet America has made so many advances in the society since then, but today's generation is less able to read and write than mine. As mentioned earlier, it is estimated that from 10% to 20% of Americans are functionally illiterate. The high school dropout rate has reached 30%, and of those who return, only 80% of 19 to 20 year-olds gain their high school diploma. Today's students can not point out, on a map, the countries that are in the news shaping the course of world affairs . . . Education is vital to each individual's life chances and the quality of the society as a whole. . .If America does not wake up and recognize the consequences of perpetuating the current system of education, then the country's fate is sealed. If America is unwilling to destroy the old system of education in order to create a new system of education, then America's status as a world power will quickly fade away in a generation or so." (Reference: Louis Farrakhan: "A Torchlight for America' pg 45-46).

Imagine those children who live in developing nations under adverse political, economic, and social conditions, but are academically out performing American students in spite of their environment and condition; not to mention students from Japan and China who stands head and shoulders above American students when it comes to academic achievement. American society on a whole has become spoiled and lazy and we have lost our competitive drive to move beyond mediocrity and once again demonstrate our ability to be world leaders in all endeavors. Who would have thought that the United States would be borrowing money from China and we now owe Chinese $500 billion dollars in loans and counting? These people are not complacent, they are highly motivated to achieve within this global economy. (Reference: Joel Kotkin;

This writer can remember just twenty-five ago—America, our nation was in the top five percentile in international education ratings and this writer witness our nation slip to number twenty-five (meaning there were 24 nations ahead of the most technological and developed nation in the history of humanity—America) and at the same time America slipped from being the number one creditor nation in the world to becoming one of the largest debtor nations in the world. But here is the contradiction, our public policy which is carried out in our foreign policy favors spending trillions of dollars in two unjust wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The hypocritical United States Congress, both Democrat and Republicans continues to vote to give this damnable administration more money to wage these imperialistic wars while America's poor and oppressed continues to be scapegoat for wrecking the United States economy and simultaneously American education is dying a slow death. (Reference: Alvin and Heidi Toffler; “Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave”).

How about this one, we can pay and athlete thirty (30) million dollars a year to entertain us? Yet, American teachers on the average are paid a measly forty-seven thousand dollars annually and is responsible for intellectually developing our most vital national resource—the responsibility of educating our children. Why has American education been such a low priority and so negated by the most prominent nation on the planet? There is no wonder America’s students are lagging; I do not blame the students for their failures, but our public policy has rendered its own American education as obsolete and in effective. (Reference: Claud Anderson; “Black Labor, White Wealth).

They have deemed stockpiling military armament and reckoned war as being more profitable and beneficial to the stability of America’s immediate reality, than investing in its own long term future. David Halberstam in his book titled, "The Next Century" stated, "I said that most of the people talking about national security in this country were ill equipped to do so because they lost touch with country, that national security was no longer an index of weaponry (essentially a missile and tank count), if it ever really was, but a broad array of factors reflecting the general state of national well-being. It included the ability of a country to house its people, to feed them, to educate them, provide them with opportunities in keeping with their desires in education, and to instill in them trust and optimism that their lives were going to be valued and fruitful. Those in Washington were so fascinated with realpolitik and weaponry that they tended to forget that the just and harmonious society was, in the long run, also the strong society." (Reference: David Halberstam; "The Next Century" pg. 14).

East Asians—China, Japan and India have proving to be much stronger in mathematics and science, as well as in technological fields than America, In particular and Western Europe in general. My wife and I are very much involved in my daughter's education and consider ourselves as active parents. However, it is difficult for us to remain optimistic about American education; the first thing this writer noticed over the last six years of being engaged was that the curriculum was outdated, which speaks to the heart of America's failure to incorporate those practical and neo-theories and by not doing this, it was perhaps only showing forth evidence that they were unaware of the global societal transition that had taken place.

This writer himself had studied Jean Piaget, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Lev Vygotsky, Maria Montessori, John Locke, Abraham Maslow, Spencer, etc., and valued these educational philosophers for their intellectual contributions. But society has made a paradigm shift and old methodologies may have to be tweak and in some case outright abandoned, as being antiquated and is no longer relevant and applicable to where we are right now. .

This writer also immediately notice that the concept of discipline and a respect for authority were non existent—America’s legal and jurisprudence system had crippled the teachers and administrators ability to enforce rules and discipline without fear of being smacked with a law suit (criminal and civil) this alone has negated the power dynamic and has giving adolescence and teenagers more rights to perpetuate ignorance and go unmitigated; more so than the teachers having the right to demand a little more from their students than mediocrity. This unwritten dynamic becomes a power play in the overall scheme to teach and no doubt this variable is compromising learning.
(Reference: Glenda Hatchett; “Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say”).

This writer grew up in an era where teachers had the right and authority to enforce rules, in which corporal punishment was not shun upon or frowned upon and although it is unacceptable in most school Districts throughout America today, it got our undivided attention yesterday; in fact the teacher was the "badest" Sheriff in town and he/she carried a big stick and they meant business. Say what you may, they got results from these measures and years later many of us learned to appreciate the overall love and concern that these strict disciplinarians imposed. Lessons first bullshit second.

America education has falsely empowered children by giving them too many damn rights to the detriment of them being educated. They even have a right not learn and in some states at sixteen years of age they can legally dropout of school and eventually become a statistic. This writer was explaining to his daughter that he actually received spankings in school for unruly behavior and my daughter could not imagine or believe this was true. It is very difficult for teachers to teach in an environment where there is no discipline being exercised and teachers lack the overall authority over the students and institution. We in United States consistently read about teachers, schools and school districts being sued by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for violating students civil rights while American education continues a downward spiral to a level decadence.

President George Bush initiated the No Child Left Behind policy; it only served as a good slogan and a catchy theme, but lacked tangible substance to close the American educational gap, between blacks and whites—poor and rich and have not come near closing the international educational gap that exist between America, Western Europe and Asian nations. Poor and oppressed children were left even further behind under President Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy.

American education is much worst since President Bush took office in 2000 he never viewed education as a priority. He lured people to sleep especially Christian Evangelicals with his Faith Base Initiatives— so-called bridging church and state (treading the United States Constitution which clearly separates church and state). These Christians heard Money and God in that exact order, which was suppose to be earmark to parochial church based program—this was a big plank for the Bush administration that never happened on the scale that everyone anticipated.

There was nothing more evident than in 2005 Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in American history which ravaged New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. This disaster exemplified and exposed many social and economic contradictions that were nicely hidden in America and Katrina led to the highlighting of the disparities that existed within one of most advanced and technological societies in the world. Some of the images that were televised around the world on CNN and other news outlet gave a glimpse to the international community of social and economic divide that still exist in America even in 2008. The world got a firsthand look at mostly African Americans that were devastated by this natural disaster. The visual scenes of blacks, as far as the images that were broadcasted were equivalent to someone viewing this situation and would have probably automatically assumed these were images from Africa or some other developing nation like Port-au- Prince, Haiti perhaps the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. (Reference: Andrew Hacker; “Two Nations: Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal”).

No, this was America and this writer cited this as an example, of the social and economic divide that exist—which as a microcosm that speaks volumes relative to America's educational woes that has reached pandemic proportions. The problem with America's education is that our government has truly neglected to address issues of poverty and social disparity which has led to the failures of its urban schools. The status-quo doesn't want look at it from that perspective because it will require the redistribution of wealth and resources as the only real solution of going to the root cause. The poor and oppressed have been condemned to a life of misery and this position reverberates to explaining partially why there is not a sense of urgency to invest and rescue American education from the abyss. (Reference: Claud Anderson; “PowerNomics”).

Tavis Smiley of National Public Radio spearheaded and edited a valuable publication in 2006 titled, “Covenant with Black America” stated, “If the effectiveness of education rests on such resources and they are unequally distributed, it is reasonable to anticipate that the effects of education will be unequal. The achievement distribution data highly with data on access to these forms of capital. Our notion of affirmative development is grounded in possible approaches to offsetting the negative effects of the mal-distribution of access to these forms of education-related capital. While the most direct approach to the solution of mal-distribution would involve the redistribution of income, wealth, and related resources, it is not reasonable to expect that such a radical solution will resonate with 21ST Century America. It is possible, however, that even a compassionate conservative society will se it to be in the best interest of the nation to organize its social institutions and its services so as to remove the negative affects such mal-distribution on the academic and personal development of its people.” (Reference: Tavis Smiley; editor “Covenant with Black America”—piece authored by Edmund W. Gordon; pg. 30).

This writer was engaged in an intellectual discussion with the former Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools system Dr. Howard Fuller and is presently on the faculty of Marquette University. This writer has tremendous respect for Dr. Fuller who did yeoman's work in the Civil Rights Movement in Durham, North Carolina under poverty program and Operation Break Through. He fought the racist North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms relative to public policy and the injustice of Jim Crow laws that were pervasive in the south. Dr. Fuller is one of the faces behind promoting educational vouchers; he believes this will allow a balance and a level educational playing field by allowing parents to use public tax based funding to shop around and pick the best educational arrangement for their child be public and/or private.

However, Dr. Fuller's solution does not go the root of America's educational dilemma as a whole; the power to change schools subtly implies that this is the ultimate solution to our collective children acquiring a wholesome education. No, the problem is a lot more complex and pervasive when it comes to public education.

Former President Bill Clinton stated in his book titled, " Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century" stated, "I Signed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act to help empower teachers, principles, and parents to change the way schools work--with cutting-edge technology, fewer federal rules, challenging academic standards, and increased parental involvement not just in schools but in their child's daily learning. Now we must do more to make sure education meets the needs of our children and the demands of the future. First and foremost, we must continue to hold students, teachers, schools to the highest standards. We must ensure students can demonstrate competence to be promoted and to graduate. Teachers must also demonstrate competence, and we should be prepared to reward the best ones and remove those who don't measure up fairly and expeditiously. In the same way we should reward the best schools and shut down or redesign those that fail, and especially those that are unsafe." (Reference: Bill Clinton; "Between Hope and History: Meeting America's Challenges for the 21st Century" pg. 43-44).

Our educational problems and predicament should render this as a matter of national security and it should be receiving the same attention that the Middle East and oil is getting. Our future will be doomed if we allow illiteracy and low academic achievements to go unmet and unchallenged and our failure to act compromises our nation’s future ability to continue compete on the same level. America gave their children too much and did not require anything to showing themselves approved. Education is the life blood of any civilization and the ability to sustain itself will depend on how education is utilized to create and/or advance upon pursuing beneficial political, economic and social institutions that will set new nation standards and rekindle a competitive spirit which to engage in the global market arena. (Reference: Noam Chomsky; “Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest For Global Dominance).

We perhaps live in the most illuminating time in the history of humanity; thus, having more access and availability to information unlike any other time in human development. The Internet has served as a powerful tool by breaking down informational barriers and is allowed to function without boarders giving people readily access to information. It has allowed humanity to engage in un-sanitized and unfiltered intellectual acquisition of knowledge, which is not controlled by corporate sponsor mediums—no doubt a good thing. Yet, American students are still missing the mark and failing the grade in spite of the powerful Internet and have become the perfect candidates and the poster the children for “dumbing down” America. They are scoring even lower on standardized testing and have a poor foundation in the 3 Rs—reading, writing and Arithmetic. Many American students can not count, write and read and are highly ignorant when it comes to world geography; has anyone told them they must think global.

Fahim A. Knight-EL Chief Researcher for KEEPING IT REAL THINK TANK located in Durham, NC; our mission is to inform African Americans and all people of good will of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpret the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlighten world will be better prepared to throw off the shackles of ignorance and not be willing participants for the slaughter. Our MOTTO is speaking truth to power. Fahim A. Knight-EL can be reached at

Fahim A. Knight-EL

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