Education Crisis Calls for Practical Reforms

Education Crisis Calls for Practical Reforms

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
April 2010, Volume 86, No. 6

States across the nation, Mississippi included, are facing budget cuts, and education is not immune. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made that clear in his State of the State Address by declaring that “no sacred cows” will be left untouched. Understandably, many are upset. At a time when our education system demands improvement, funding cuts do not help. However, national and local leaders would be wise to also understand that dropping money on the problem is not enough.
Change can still be enacted to arm the next generation for success and make us competitive on the world stage once more. To accomplish this, America must return to the practices that enabled some of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
In a column earlier this year entitled “Black Opportunity Destruction”, economist Walter Williams recounted his experience in the 1950s at a high school composed mostly of minorities and low-income students. “Despite that fact that we were poor,” he wrote, “most of Franklin’s teachers held fairly high standards and expectations.” He lamented that in today’s environment, such universally high standards and expectations can mean trouble for teachers.
In America, this should not be. Students should not be hindered by what President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”; no child should be presumed any less capable of meeting challenging demands than another on the basis of race, gender, or economic status. Perhaps, in this one instance, 1950s America understood better than today’s progressive America that pigment and poverty need not determine potential. By granting all students the courtesy of high expectations once more, we can end the practice of “soft bigotry” and culture a generation of achievers who necessitate less funding for remedial programs and gimmicks.
Similarly, many would argue that teachers ought to also be held to higher standards; that is true. But the most significant influence on a child’s education should come from the home. Parents should not be satisfied that their children attain passing grades, but proactively insistent that their children learn in the process. Public policy can go a long way, but the greatest impact on a child’s success will often be his or her parents, for good or for ill.
Education can be improved in ways that not only require less money, but do so without cutting faculty or character-building programs like athletics, band, and drama. Short changing our educational system of money is no solution, but all the money in the world will not excuse short changing our children of knowledge. Equipping them to be worthy stewards of this great nation, after all, should be our primary focus.

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