CHILDREN NOT ALLOWED TO LISTEN TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: BUT AMERICAN EDUCATION IS ON A STEADY DECLINE
By FAHIM A. KNIGHT-EL
This article is more about American education than the form of government that we live under as citizens of the United States of America. However, in order to do this topic any justice before this writer could assess and evaluate American education, it became necessary for me to lay the groundwork that led up to me delving a little into the meaning of our constitution and principles of our democracy. But on the surface the two topics might appear to have little correlation, after all this article’s primary focus was education and children learning. Perhaps if it was not for the controversy that was swirling around President Barack Obama desiring to speak to school age children, it would not have been necessary for me to approach this topic from the reference point of government and political science. This writer could have stuck to the discussion of the plight of American education minus the need to discuss politics. Nevertheless, this writer finds it totally appropriate to begin this topic by briefly discussing government and law.
The United Sates of America proud itself of being a democratic society where it is so-called governed by the masses, which is reflected in the will of the people, at least this is what my teachers taught me in eight grade civics class. We learnt how important the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitutional Convention (1787) were to our present day nationhood and the freedoms that evolved from declaring the right to sovereignty. Thus, at the foundation of our democracy was the Thirteen Colonies right to sovereignty and independence, which led to formalizing the United States independence (expressed in the Declaration of Independence). That eventually manifest itself in the establishment of the legal and jurisprudence document—U.S. Constitution which to guide and govern this newly made Republic. These two documents by far represented the impetus and the foundation of Americanism and are endeared by all Americans and held in high esteemed within U.S. history.
The U.S. Constitution is no doubt one of the greatest documents ever written within the history of any modern Republic. The Framers defined what life liberty and the pursuit of happiness meant from the inception of our established Republic. It equally defined the rights of the individual and State and more so than that, the constitution was geared towards protecting those rights on every level. This has always afforded the citizens of the United States with certain legal and jurisprudence freedoms in which to approach our outlook on life without the threat of fear or intimidation from our government, if we criticized or disagreed with our government, at least in theory we are not put in front of a firing squad. Many foreigners would die to live under the U.S. form of government because of how it is structured (at the basis is supposed to be freedom, justice and equality for all) and the rights and privileges it afforded to its citizens.
But after this week of events, I became a little perplexed and somewhat a little less optimistic about the fundamental freedoms that I and others have come to enjoy while living in the United States. I have advocated the rights to maintain and expand civil liberties and have never been comfortable with government encroachment upon curtailing or lessening these rights which is spelled out in our constitution. Our right to dissent, is even protected under U.S. law and this is one of the beauties of our nation’s democracy. However, this past week of events relative to President Barack Obama desiring to speak to U.S. Students and the type of opposition that arose from right-wingers, it was appalling enough for me to question whether or not we are deserving of such freedoms to make certain choices. This writer also wonder were we headed for a Civil War or was this opposition to President Obama speaking to American school aged children rooted in a much older social dilemma—American style racism. What else could it have been? It absolutely made no sense when you objectively look at the state of American education. Our students are in dire need of someone to encourage and challenge their mediocrity. The students have more rights than the educators/teachers and this alone has destroyed the educational balance of power and created a negative paradigm shift that has reverberated throughout our society. This has somewhat fostered low expectations and mediocrity has become an acceptable standard inside the classroom.
The president after-all has school age children himself and this was no old cranky commander-in-chief who doesn’t have children in the educational process. But this issue of education has to be real even for the president and this writer do not think we can play political games with our children’s future. School districts and states are going to have changed the rules relative to curriculum—first order of business must be making learning applicable to a curriculum that is geared towards global projections. Women are running the schools from top to bottom and this has been an ineffective trend and has been partially responsible for placing American education in this predicament. This statement is not to suggest that women can not do an equally and effective job as men in the school systems, but here is the problem men are virtually invisible in most public school districts and we can not blame female educators for this dilemma.
We have to bear some of the responsibility for ignoring the educational crisis and not finding ways to engage this collapsing social order. Yes, there presences, physicality and their approach to the field of pedagogy would have a different social and psychological demands on learning expectations from male students, in particular and all children in general, more so than female teachers—nurturers by nature.
How do we make the National Teachers Exam (NTE) and the licensure process to expand beyond the limited and stringent requirements and allow men in the classrooms without all the bureaucratic red tape—this is a state of emergency? Men who work in the private and public sectors should be recruited and hired to teach on both the primary and secondary levels and offer their life and professional experiences in the school system. The financial compensation should be lucrative and competitive, if we can bailout some of the wealthiest crooks in the world Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Bear-Sterns, JP Morgan, AIG, Wachovia, etc., giving this den thieves over two trillion dollars. Thus, why can’t we compensate bankers, lawyers, scientist, computer scientist, medical doctors, engineers, writers, politicians, etc., for their professional expertise by bringing them in the classrooms of America; this would be a relative small price, which to save America’s education and work to put us back on track. American children have become lazy and un-discipline when it comes to learning.
There can not be a good learning environment, if educators and educational professionals have lost control over American educational institutions relative to discipline and there are no real initiatives in place of taking back the classroom and the school systems from unmanageable and young social deviants. This sector is smart enough to quote you the law and policies as it relates to what you can say and do in the realm of disciplinary procedures, but imposing enforcement relative to learning, is a limited option to the educational professionals.
In the 18th and 19th Century there was a religious obedience correlated to the educational process and the religious structure or sacred culture implored values, mores, folkways, morals, ethics, etc., tied behavior and discipline more to the obedience of God (this helped define right and wrong and we got more learning mileage from our children)—and in Europe the State and Religion wasn't always necessarily separated like our jurisprudence system is structured within the United States of America.
Teachers and educators are failing students because they do not know how to reach children and therefore, the educational process is more about going through the motions and receiving a paycheck, as opposed to demanding learning, which has to be the highest priority on all levels of teaching. Why do not we model our national school system after Japan and China which is highly successful in getting the most from their students when it comes academic performance? Surely tomorrow's American children will be competing with them for an equal share in the global market. There use to be this argument of private versus public education in which many maintained that children received a better quality education, if they were enrolled in private institutions from K-12. This may have been true yesterday, but American private schools are not fairing much better than there public counterparts.
But the track that American education is presently on, our children will not be prepared to take the lead as we move further into the 21st century and this will render our nation as being even more consumers and non-producers in the coming future—looking for other nations to be the next inventors, international bankers, aerospace scientist, to find the cure for cancer, etc. It is imperative that we act and declare war on this mindset of educational indifference; in fact our future depends on us doing this.
We are plagued with tremendous social issues of poverty, gang violence, different types of peer pressures, the politics of the military industrial complex and the prison industrial complex and in the middle is education which has not received the much needed attention. Something went wrong that our children are repeatedly scoring below grade levels in math and science, perhaps the two most essential subjects and/or disciplines needed in our new technological dynamics. America is rated number thirty-five (35) in math and twenty-nine (29) in science
We can no longer be imprudent, but we have to become proactive, in particular as the world becomes more global and as the political, social, and economic landscape continues to change based on technology. The global projections still have not been fully realized by American educators and when they finally wake up realized where the rest of the world is headed. It might be too late to shift gears and play catch up. We must understand that those who master technology will place themselves in a position of future ruler-ship because the age of information and our transition into a knowledge base economy is here to stay.
I believe education has to be viewed and received as any other living document, which should be constantly giving room to evolve, as it applies to the philosophy of education and the practical theories that have become acceptable to us. I also believe that historical time frames impacted the relevance of sociological and psychological theoretical models—the science (we can better measure and count) from an empirical perspective, we have acquired quantitative data and this has allowed our research theories to become more qualitative in scope and definition. This open approach allows us to accept in some areas that educational theories have evolved and improved and has become more defining, which allows us to reaffirm some of our past educational theories and debunk others based on new approaches (new information).
Thus, for the first time in my life this writer wished that the U.S. was not an egalitarian styled government but a totalitarian government—the people who were opposing President Obama and his desiring to speak to children about the importance of education and learning brought me to this decision; in my opinion, all these detractors had forfeited their right to exercise the principles that undergirds our democracy. This writer knows that the above statement crosses the line of perhaps everything he personally stands for and believes in (for the record I will always favor a democratic society over any form of a repressive government). But I must admit it angered me that those who were opposing President Obama had lost their damn minds and based on hate they were not taking into account that our educational system is failing dismally in comparison to Western Europe and Asian nations.
What shocked me the most, was that this was not Ho Chi Minh, Mao Se Tung, Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, Seso Mobutu, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez (let me clarify, these personalities are most associated in the west as being brutal dictators). This was the president of the so-called "free world" and the inferences was that to have your children listen to a speech being delivered my President Obama was a form of ideological indoctrination that you would associate with a country that is ruled by a dictator. I do not necessarily agree with everything that President Obama says and does, but speaking to American children about achievement and the importance of learning in my opinion was a timely message and topic.
American children can not afford to miss an opportunity to engage in a learning dialogue. Most national and international educational experts have maintained that the United States students’ academic achievement is not making the grade, in particular as this writer stated above in the areas of math and science (29th and 36) and the U.S. stand as one of the most industrialized nations in the world. These two statistics alone should shame us to be more proactive and innovative in our approach to resolve this predicament and the question still remains, why are American children missing the mark? Who do we blame—parents, students, teachers administrators, school districts, states, federal government, etc. all of the said entities have to bear responsibility in our children's educational failures and they all hold liability and culpability in what this writers deems as gross negligence. This writer is of the opinion, that someone should be held accountable for this mess and who is willing to take the responsibility to improve our children’s academic performances and demand that they become competitive in order to ensure our future on the world stage.
My wife shared with me essay that was written by an unknown author titled. “Common Sense” and this is what the author stated: "My parents told me about Mr. Common Sense early in my life and told me I would do well to call on him when making decisions. It seems he was always around in my early years but less and less as time passed by until today I read his obituary. Please join me in a moment of silence in remembrance. For Common Sense had served us all so well for so many generations."
"Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape."
"He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn't always fair, and maybe it was my fault."
"Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children are in charge)."
"His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a class mate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition."
"Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they themselves failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Aspirin, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student; but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion."
"Common Sense lost the will to live as the Ten Commandments became contraband; churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims."
"Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault."
"Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement."
"Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust; his wife, Discretion; his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason. He is survived by three stepbrothers; I Know My Rights, Someone Else is to Blame, and I'm a Victim."
"Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone. If you still remember him pass this on. If not, join the majority and do nothing."
The U.S. students are low performing academically across the board in every subject and no one seems to have a solution to this problem. I do not think U.S. students have an inherently low I.Q.s when it comes to learning relative to students from China, India, Japan, Korea, etc. But these nations’ children are out performing U.S. students in all areas and are soaring educationally in the academic disciplines that matters the most—the sciences. What will be the long term effect of this social and educational apathy?
The Asian nations are scoring leaps and bounds above us in this area; do we continue the course or do we begin to make changes perhaps starting with our early childhood development theories and our initial introduction to learning techniques? My argument would be very simple; it would not be totally based on discarding Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), Marie Montessori (1870-1952), Jean Piaget, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Jean Henri Pestalozzi (1745-1827). I just do not think these past great educational philosophers had the foresight to look that deep into the future and create social theories that could stand without the need of any new assessments and evaluations which to make them relevant to where we are in this space and time.
However, I just do not think the present day political, economic and social stages can be overlooked; thus, because many of these educational philosophers wrote and developed some of these theories over 300 years ago and could not have taking into account the modern day student and environment. I believe there must be an American educational reformation that is both socially and politically relevant and pragmatic; may be we should start as this writer stated above by studying the Asians (Japan, China, and India) models to see what they are doing different from us in the United States and begin to incorporate those principles into our curriculums of learning.
No doubt will the United States overt neglect cost our nation huge social, political and economic dividends in the future relative to the success and/or failure of our nation to continue being a one world superpower. The U.S has made a tremendous investment in war and this seems to be more of a national priority than American education. This alone stands as hypocrisy for President Obama—our government in which the bill is being footed by the American taxpayers which to finance two unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where trillions of our hard earned dollars are being spent in the area of national defense and national security.
But education is viewed by our politicians has being less important. They all talking a good game when it comes to education, but they do not put their or better yet our money next to their mouths; what is more important than to render real stability of our children’s future. Yet, U.S. children are reading, writing and counting below grade levels and we continue to waste away value resources.
I live in the state of North Carolina and where I live it is considered part of the old southern Bible belt (I have always had problems with that Bible ever since them damn missionaries brought it to Africa). The conservative Bible toting Christians fought for many years against North Carolina acquiring the state lottery. North Carolina lawmakers eventually convinced the citizens of North Carolina that the lottery would be beneficiary to education and taxpayers—offsetting public education cost and expenditures. This even to me sounded like a win-win proposal. However, North Carolina public instruction still remains in shambles and out of 50 U.S. states it still ranked in the bottom half of nationwide educational performance. The NC taxpayers are still burden with high taxes and there is no evidence that the lottery is doing anything in support of public instruction.
The time requires and demands that we become more innovative and possessing a willingness to step outside the box to resolve the issues that confronts American education. Our future is in danger and it will not just be based on those who will acquire more military might, but it will be based on how prepared the next generation is to assume the reins of leadership. The question will be rooted in the quality of education that our children are acquiring today, which will dictate how we measure up the Asian and Western European nations tomorrow. It is imperative that we take proactive procedures, even if it means debunking past educational theories and methodologies for more practical theories based on where we are in time and space. Education in 21st Century and beyond has to be aggressively 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 goodwill, of the pending dangers that lie ahead; as well as decode the symbolisms and reinterpreted the hidden meanings behind those who operate as invisible forces, but covertly rules the world. We are of the belief that an enlightened 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 email@example.com.
Stay Awake Until We Meet Again,
Fahim A. Knight-EL