The Poor Children

In the 2006 international education rankings, the United States placement in the standings was nothing short of pitiful.  In math, and science the U.S. ranked 27/33 and 22/33 respectively.  What could possibly account for this disparity from one of the world’s most powerful and influential nations?  If you listen to our politicians, it’s because “those of the other party-in this case it does not matter who is speaking-want to cut spending, or are not spending enough, but I will invest in this nation’s most valuable resource, our children”.

In his weekly address dated October 9, 2010, the President of the United States, Barak Obama issued these remarks:

We’re eliminating tens of billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies for banks to administer student loans, and using that money to make college more affordable for millions of students. And we’ve launched a Race to the Top in our states to make sure our students, all of them, are graduating from high school ready for college – so we can meet our goal of graduating a higher proportion of students from college than any other country in the world by 2020.

And yet, if Republicans in Congress had their way, we’d have a harder time meeting that goal. We’d have a harder time offering our kids the best education possible. Because they’d have us cut education by 20 percent – cuts that would reduce financial aid for eight million students; cuts that would leave our great and undervalued community colleges without the resources they need to prepare our graduates for the jobs of the future.

According to President Obama, the House Republicans are readying themselves to cut spending on education by up to 20% (assuming Obama is referring to pre-stimulus levels of spending), never mind that he cut the school vouchers in Washington D.C. which allowed families to send their children to other than public schools.  That sounds horrific…I think.  Not as horrific as it might seem at first blush.


Since 1970 we have been pouring billions of dollars into education with really no change.  If you listen to our politicians, you would think that if we only spend a little more we could get little Johnny to improve those math and science scores.

Spending is not the issue, discipline is.  The problem is no one gets elected to the Board of Education addressing the true issue, which has two components.

The first problem is “Sit Down, Shut Up, and Pay Attention”.  Teachers have been conditioned, by lawyers and unruly parents mostly, to ignore problem children in the classroom.  They must tiptoe around the obvious, little Johnny is failing because he does not pay attention and does not listen or respond to the teacher’s authority.  There are no “bad” kids anymore, just children who need a little more special attention.  Educators are reluctant to pull Junior out of class and tell him bluntly, “if you do not straighten up and fly right you will not amount to much in life.”  Junior will arrive home, head hung low, and tell his mother the teacher made him sad.  Which brings us to the second part of the problem.

“Not My Little Angel” is the worst way a parent could possibly respond in hearing the news little Johnny is a classroom nuisance.  Not only is it naive, but in all probability, the blue-eyed darling angel is a problem at home as well, and they know it.  This teaches the child that he can act as he pleases.  It sends the additional message that the educator’s response, and not the child’s behavior, is in the wrong.  Thus the child will continue through his education with this notion that the educator is to blame for any academic discipline incurred.

It is this catering to the child’s self-esteem over and above academic results which will set the pace for his school career.  In the worst cases, lawyers are brought in to threaten educators into placating the parents of little Johnny, that they are singling him out amongst the students.  It matters not that he is singled out because he is singly disrupting the class.

While there will always be gainsayers, the truth is spending does not produce results.  We continue to be at the bottom of the rankings and will be until we address the real problems facing our education of young people.  Paying teachers more, buying newer and more computers, or a new science lab will not make children smarter or produce better results; we need proper attitude and discipline.  Parents supporting teachers, recognizing that Junior can be a hell-raiser at times and following through goes a long way.  Involving themselves in their child’s homework, looking it over and helping them along the way is the key to success.


  1. A friend and I were discussing this topic and we both agreed that we are screwed in this area. Our children are loosing ground as they are still being taught to work in a factory for an industrial world. Well guess what, we are in a informational age and a Science generation. Our space program should be expanded not reduced. I am 51 and I raised three girls and the education did not start till college. I have one daughter who went to Michigan and Emery. She is in the service field working for the Government. My other two are married with children. My GF daughter is 15 failed English last year and was moved on to 10th grade and this is a good school system that is rated very high. So go figure, and she is studying the same subjects i was when i went to school in the 70’s. So, on that note, we are in deep kaka if we do not rectify what we teach and how we teach. I think we try to make cookie cutters instead of individuals of imagination!

  2. I can agree with you that it is what and how the kids are being taught which is the key to success, not funding. For example my daughter has trouble with math. Early on in 3rd grade she was being taught some “new method” to learn her math facts, which she had a hard enough time with. Then as soon as she finally grasped it, they switched the scheme and had to learn yet a new way to figure the math facts. In the end she was forced to learn and use four different methods of figuring her facts.

    While I agree there is nothing wrong with providing a variety of methods, I think the old system of lining up the numbers and adding down the line is the most efficient way. Now just to add or multiple two-two digit numbers (i.e. 25+16, or 12×19) it is a four or five step process. What they have done is taken the “short cuts” you would use to do the problem mentally and make the kids work it out on paper which is highly inefficient.

    Obviously this is the result of bugetary requirements, “spend it or lose it”. Once the child grasps it and is proficient, then offer new methods and allow the child to utilize the method which is most effective for the child to properly figure the problem.

  3. rautakyy says:

    Is it the kids at the public schools who are the ones whose parents the teachers are affraid will charge a legal action? Or is it the rich kids, whose parents might raise a legal issue against the school? Is it the private schools for the rich kids, or the public schools for the poor kids, that have trouble getting kids to learn? Or is there any distinction?

    Here in Finland we have only public schools. The law requires every school to give equal education to everyone. And it is for free all the way through the university. Our nation rates very high in the PISA tests.

    It might be one of your major problems, that you have an abundance of talented poor kids, who are painfully aware, that they need to be super talented to get a chance for real education, or that they first need to enlist in one of your mad military campaingns around the globe. A general awareness of lack of opportunity makes people apathetic.

    The growing gap between the poor and the rich and the expectations that the market economy sets for the individual “consumer” to evaluate ones life as succesfull or not, are causing growing discontent, not only in the western world any more, but also in the third world countries. Also growing poverty brings whith it a number of social problems reflected in the schools. Especially so, because that is where kids act out all the problems the families are suffering.

    Money spent by a government is a question of values. How important it is for a society to stop poverty? Wether you think a public slum school should have all the same equipment as the private posh school? Or is the money better spent on the most expensive military budget in the entire world? Which would be a better investment in the future? Totally free schoolsystem or more guns?

    Looking from outside, you in the US really need to stop all the religious non-science creationists lurking around your schoolsystem. They may seem funny, but they are seriously damaging the authority of teachers, science and scientific approach to problems, in the minds of those simple and easily affected.

    Our schoolsystem is not perfect either. One thing I hear you learn a lot more in school in the US, is dialogue and analyze of conversation. These are virtues we are practically not taught in school at all. Both of our nations need to have more regulation in gun laws also, to make the schools safer places.

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