Jump to content

Menu

When were America's schools "good"?


Recommended Posts

All these threads about public education got me thinking...

 

The overall consensus is that America's schools in general are failing (yes, I know there are some shining spots out there but this is a generalized notion).

 

The watershed report "A Nation at Risk" was published in 1983 but the study was done from 1976-1981. And the results were that America's schools were failing. Then I think back to the whole "Sputnik" era in the late 50's and the big push to "reform" education.

 

In 1956 they were failing. In 1976 and 1986 they were failing. In 1996 and 2006 they were failing and in 2012 they are failing the reports say.

So my question is: when is the last time America's schools were NOT failing? When were they GOOD?

 

What does "failing" mean? And how will we know when they are no longer failing?

 

 

 

 

.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Have you ever read "The Underground History of American Education?" It argues that during the colonial period although schools were not considered particularly good, and education did not continue through the mid-teens for most people, literacy was virtually universal and business/domestic math very well understood by a much larger percentage of the general public than is true now. Functional illiteracy was almost unheard of. It's an interesting read.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe it isn't failing. Maybe it's the same as how all generations think the next generation is going to h$ll in a handbasket.:tongue_smilie: I don't think that really, but it was the first thing to pop into my head.

 

Schools aren't bad universally (as you said) and aren't necessarily bad for all students. Some schools are doing a good job with most students and some schools are doing an excellent job with some of their students.

 

These are the questions that popped into my head:

 

What is it that makes us think that charter schools are good? I realize studies show they aren't (on average) doing a good job, but most seem to be to make it a valid question.

 

What is it about Asian education that makes us think it is so good? Their education is held up as a system we should emulate, so thinking about why might help answer your question.

 

Are we sure it is the schools that are failing? My local schools are failing horribly. However, Asian students are *not* failing in these same schools. Why is that? Is it because their parents have not simply turned their dc's education over to the school system?

 

I do think that too much federal control, too much testing, and a total lack of content is contributing to the problem. I also think that parents are responsible, too.

 

So, when did that change? When did schools start focusing so much on testing (and not just one test, but weekly tests to prepare for the benchmark tests to prepare for the year-end tests. Then there is testing for the students who don't do well on the other tests, and more tests on top of that to measure literacy and whether or not the child is predicted to pass the tests.:tongue_smilie:

 

When did the schools stop teaching content? When did history, geography, literature, etc. leave the school curriculum? The state standards for "social studies" in NC are ridiculous - there is no real content there anymore.

 

And, when did they stop grouping students by ability?

Edited by Renee in FL
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reason for the failure in general since the more prevelant acceptance of public educuation as a right or a must is because the process takes the front row seat over the results.

 

Back to the post above - this may be why so many are considered illiterate at present. This would also explain how a child graduates highschool without being able to read in the 80's.

 

You will need to consider the individual as well as the parents. The cliche, "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink, is quite relevant for this topic, which I read in this article here. It provides quite a bit of light on what we consider a failure and why it is not.

 

Consider that education has become an arena for associations, unions, and politics. It isn't about learning or literacy anymore. We are on an endeavor to find what is wrong and prove it is wrong, which isn't always the case. You should not fix what isn't broke, but they do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Schools are rated by outcomes but the outcomes are determined by societal need at that point in time. You mention the Sputnik era. For the most part, America's public schools at that time were educating a future generation of industrial workers. Sputnik gave the country a wake up call that citizens needed to understand more math and science. So the schools that had been successful in educating workers for production lines or agriculture were no longer successful in light of the need for new technologies.

 

If our public schools produced classically educated thinkers they would still be considered a failure by those who insist that utilitarian skills are the point of education.

 

Personally I think today's testing mindset has not only beaten down students, it has beaten down teachers. Friends and family who teach are imprisoned by standards and benchmarks...as well as parental egos.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't done a great deal of research on this topic, but I can tell you a personal experience.

 

I was born to older parents; my Dad was 45 when I was born.

 

My father was born in 1918 in rural Kentucky. He lived on a farm and attended a one room schoolhouse through 8th grade. That's as far as it went in those days. His mother was the teacher.

 

Yet my father could help me with my Algebra and Geometry homework when I was in high school. He read constantly, so he was very literate.

 

That was what is striking to me...that my father could help me with high school subjects...even though he didn't make it past the 8th grade.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think America's schools have ever been "good", or at least not our educational system. It took until after the civil war to make education a right for all - not just those in certain states, not just boys, not just whites, not just those who could pay for it. Everyone. And even still, that wasn't enough. We based our model of public education off of a system that continues to try to plug individuals into a mold, going against what we hold American ideals to be.

 

Every generation has had their issues with schooling and the issues just evolve with the social problems in society. It won't be until there is a complete overhaul that we will have "good" schools.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Or, how we lie to ourselves and each other. I think many people know this and feel deeply cynical about what our system offers us. What failures we experience are caused by our inability to deal with reality over good intentions. This period is coming to an end though. Because we've been a rich country, we've used money as the elixir and fix all to problems that cannot be repaired with dollars. As we move deeper into recession, school budgets will continue to be slashed and alternative educational delivery systems will become more economical and common - charter schools, voucher programs, virtual schooling, homeschooling. The days of the great public education as an institution - one size fits all - is nearly over.

 

Even for high performing students at high performing schools there seems to be a deep questioning of why they're being educated in this manner and how useful, relevant, and rigorous that education really is.

 

We're at the middle of the beginning of a great break-up, not just regarding k-12, but for university education as well. We're going to live in interesting times.

 

I realize I haven't answered your question about when were schools good. I think public education has always been a measure of what individuals really value as opposed to what we say we value as a society. I don't think this has or will change; it's been a constant. What will change is our belief that the system as it is currently structured is able to deliver, and your question is a wonderful example of that lost faith.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

in South Dakota and left school after "graduating" from the 8th grade. Many years ago, my dad gave me a packet of letters my grandparents had exchanged during WWII. My grandfather has served in Europe. They were wonderful. Very well written - deeply thoughtful- like nothing a modern high school drop-out could produce.

 

I haven't done a great deal of research on this topic, but I can tell you a personal experience.

 

I was born to older parents; my Dad was 45 when I was born.

 

My father was born in 1918 in rural Kentucky. He lived on a farm and attended a one room schoolhouse through 8th grade. That's as far as it went in those days. His mother was the teacher.

 

Yet my father could help me with my Algebra and Geometry homework when I was in high school. He read constantly, so he was very literate.

 

That was what is striking to me...that my father could help me with high school subjects...even though he didn't make it past the 8th grade.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe it isn't failing. Maybe it's the same as how all generations think the next generation is going to h$ll in a handbasket.:tongue_smilie: I don't think that really, but it was the first thing to pop into my head.

 

Schools aren't bad universally (as you said) and aren't necessarily bad for all students. Some schools are doing a good job with most students and some schools are doing an excellent job with some of their students.

 

These are the questions that popped into my head:

 

What is it that makes us think that charter schools are good? I realize studies show they aren't (on average) doing a good job, but most seem to be to make it a valid question.

 

What is it about Asian education that makes us think it is so good? Their education is held up as a system we should emulate, so thinking about why might help answer your question.

 

Are we sure it is the schools that are failing? My local schools are failing horribly. However, Asian students are *not* failing in these same schools. Why is that? Is it because their parents have not simply turned their dc's education over to the school system?

 

I do think that too much federal control, too much testing, and a total lack of content is contributing to the problem. I also think that parents are responsible, too.

 

So, when did that change? When did schools start focusing so much on testing (and not just one test, but weekly tests to prepare for the benchmark tests to prepare for the year-end tests. Then there is testing for the students who don't do well on the other tests, and more tests on top of that to measure literacy and whether or not the child is predicted to pass the tests.:tongue_smilie:

 

When did the schools stop teaching content? When did history, geography, literature, etc. leave the school curriculum? The state standards for "social studies" in NC are ridiculous - there is no real content there anymore.

 

And, when did they stop grouping students by ability?

 

 

Well they are and they aren't if that makes any sense. I asked this question quite a long time ago when I first started homeschooling and had saw an article about this very topic.

 

To be honest American schools really aren't failing like we think they are.

First off you have to understand our model of education versus education from different countries.

When Sonlight had their boards open to everyone they had an International Homeschoolers board that I jumped on and asked this very question.

The answers were really stunning and very interesting to say the least.

 

First off ' the other countries' teach children by using rote memorization. By doing so you can teach more in less time. Think of Saxon math. They have higher concepts in their math program, well because of a lot of the program is rote memorization. You can learn more in less time. Same concept. Their learning is rote memorization. Could be because of the fact that most children don't go past certain grades in different countries. Many don't make it to Secondary school or beyond.

 

Second , many countries hold education at a very high standard. Those parents who live in say such Asian countries , hold education to a very high standard because success follows the family in the 'afterlife'. They believe that if their child succeeds that they will come back in another life again successful. So the parents are very involved with their child's education to make sure they make the grade. I was also told in Germany that your life's outcome was going to be determined at grade 5. So say your in 5th grade and you want to be a dentist , that's what your going to be. So when your 16 and you change your mind and want to be a doctor, well too darned bad ( this is from what I've been told. I don't live in Germany nor know their system but was told this many years ago. Not sure if its true or if things have change if it is).

 

Third, public school isn't free everywhere else like it is in the United States. Again, if you pay for it, your going to put forth the effort to make sure your child performs so that you get your money's worth. Ever heard of the Tiger Mom?

 

Fourth, the United States has equal opportunity for all to attend school. This means immigrants and those with special needs. Everyone gets an education. In other countries there is no such thing as special ed and they may not have many people immigrating to their country so most people walk , talk and speak the language. Where as here we have people that live here from all over the world and speak many, many different languages. Also in some countries if you live in the countryside and school is in the city, well guess what? You don't go to school. Say such countries like Africa. If you don't have the money to get a uniform to go to school. Guess what? You don't go to school. I know we had a missionary family come up a few years ago to talk about the area they were stationed in in Africa. He said that if you didn't have a uniform you don't go to school. Most kids don't make it past the 5th grade because they are tested on things that they may have never seen in their life ( like a keyboard for music for example. Most have never seen one let alone know what to do with it). Most become street urchins and animal herders by the time they finish 5th grade. If your darned lucky you just might make it to the second level of education and maybe, just maybe if your even more lucky you just might make it to college. But the numbers lessen and lessen.

So see what I'm saying? Our entire country is being compared to a 'few'. Those parents who have access to give their children education and by golly if they have this access they are going to make darned sure that their children excel. Special Ed doesn't exist, if you have a child with learning disabilites or physical health problems chances are , they either fail out of school or don't go at all. Where as here we have school for all.

 

Also we have more distractions here than elsewhere, video games, IPods and IPads, Computers etc, cabel television.etc. More parents are less involved here in the U.S in their children's education because money trumps all. and again, we have free education for all.

 

 

With all of this said it wasn't to long ago my husband and I were watching a show on CNBC or one of those channels and one of the anchors , a man from India , a very intelligent, held many degrees did a piece on American education. He mirrored back the same exact thing that I've been saying for many many years.

He said that though he received and excellent education in his country.He came to the United States to go to college. The one thing he learned was that people in the US think outside of the box. He admitted that he struggled with it for some time because that wasn't the way he was taught growing up. But in the end was very grateful to have had an American education. That though other countries may seem to come out 'ahead' they really can't think outside of the box. There is a reason for this. Because if you have a man that can think for himself , then you have a man that can change things and dictators and rulers don't like that that's for sure.

 

I don't think we are as behind as we think we are. Could the schools bring back some of the things like Cursive, History, have better LA and so forth? You bet. I believe there is more room for improvement. We maybe a bit behind in rote memorization but we are NOT behind in learning to think for ourselves. We are comparing apples to oranges. Period.

 

Plus anyways, the U. S likes to try and reinvent the wheel anyways. They just think we are but they are NOT taking any of what I mentioned into account.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If our public schools produced classically educated thinkers they would still be considered a failure by those who insist that utilitarian skills are the point of education.

 

 

 

We get neither critical thinkers with a background in logic and rhetoric nor individuals with utilitarian skills.

 

It would be a step forward if we could simply choose one path over the other and do it well. Or, if we could admit that we need a two or three tiered system. But, because we have a college for all mentality, we don't and can't, so we serve everyone from a standard the fluctuates from awful to mediocre.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As I said, my parents were not involved. Nobody at that time would have batted an eyelash (that I know of because none of my friends had parents who were all that involved either). I think a lot of parents had the attitude that academics wasn't their job and that only "experts" could handle it.

 

I really think it all comes down to discipline. When I went to school, largely in the 70s, parents weren't involved at all, at least at the school level -- ie, parents didn't participate in the classroom. Most "good" parents made sure their kids did their homework, but the parents didn't do a whole lot else with their kids academically. What parents did do, was make sure their kids behaved. Back in those days, most of the kids I grew up with knew that if they misbehaved at school, they would get into extra trouble at home. Today in many schools, the classrooms are practically war zones. Discipline issues were one of the main reasons I first took my oldest out of public schools -- he attended those awful schools in Durham that Renee mentions. Discipline was practically non-existent, even in Kindergarten, and little learning took place because of it. If we can bring back the discipline, we can save public education. Without good discipline, the schools will continue to fail.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To answer your question I would say that WWII is a rough dividing line.

 

I think that the war changed many things about American society. Schools and education being just one aspect of this. I think the changes in society, values, etc. that arose from this time period are a mixed blessing. Many are definite improvements while others have lead to certain problems. I think the education system is one of the problems. To be more accurate, I think it is a mixture of the changes to the education system along with changes in parenting and views of childhood that led eventually to the current system. I also think that WWII and the GI Bill changed the nature of the university system. Despite the many benefits of this I think it is a contributing factor in the rising need (or perceived need) of a university degree to obtain any employment as well as the increased demand for education beyond the traditional 4 year degree.

 

Is that an absolute date? No, certainly not. I'm sure that the opinion of every generation is that they did more or worked harder than the current generation. Am I arguing that we should return to the type of society we had before WWII or that we should never have given Vets the GI Bill, etc. ? No, I'm trying to give as brief and dispassionate an analysis as to why I would argue for WWII as being the rough date the OP was looking for. Does any of this apply to any country other than the US? I'll have to let the folks in other countries decide-I was only trying to speak of the US.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was also told in Germany that your life's outcome was going to be determined at grade 5. So say your in 5th grade and you want to be a dentist , that's what your going to be. So when your 16 and you change your mind and want to be a doctor, well too darned bad ( this is from what I've been told. I don't live in Germany nor know their system but was told this many years ago. Not sure if its true or if things have change if it is).

 

 

 

I would be interested in hearing some input from a German on this topic. This was largely true when my mom grew up in Germany in the 40s and 50s. And I think it still held true in the 70s -- I know I had a friend who didn't attend the Gymnasium, but instead she studied nursing, which didn't require Gymnasium attendance and an abitur. Later she wanted to go into music therapy, but was unable to because she hadn't attended gymnasium and didn't hold an abitur. I always thought that was rather sad, because she was a talented nurse, but loved music, too, and she probably would have been very successful in this career.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I live in an area where the public schools are considered "good schools".

 

My neighbor's public schooled daughter (a 6th grader) cannot read an article and comprehend it. My neighbor has had her tested and she does not meet requirements for an "IEP". My neighbor was saying that her daughter is struggling. I asked why the school doesn't offer extra help for her since surely they could use her MSA (standardized tests) results and get her some tutoring. My neighbor said "oh, she has great MSA scores". I said "How, if she can't read" and my neighbor said "her teacher read her the MSA test questions and answers".

 

I said "that's cheating" and then my neighbor backtracked and said "oh, well wait a minute, maybe they didn't read to her, yeah, they were going to read to her but didn't".

 

My advice to my neighbor was to privately pay a tutor to help her daughter. (This woman doesn't have the conviction to help her daughter herself)

 

This is a classic example of how kids reach the high school level and can't "read" or "comprehend".

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think our schools were, overall, "good" when I was attending public school from 1958 to 1971, or at least much, much better than they are now. I think the sea change that killed public schools was the onset of political correctness and the expectation of equal outcomes. Back then, it was universally recognized that kids' abilities differed and so accordingly would the outcomes.

 

When I was in junior high school (1965 through 1968), kids were divided into nine tracks. Every kid knew which track he or she was in, but (supposedly) none knew which track other kids were in or which of the numbered tracks had the smart kids and which the stupid kids. Of course, everyone knew exactly who was in which track and which tracks were for the smart kids simply by which classes each kid took and who their classmates were.

 

The tracking system allowed the school administration to optimize outcomes for each kid. Bright kids weren't slowed down by being mixed in with average kids, who weren't slowed down by being mixed in with the really slow kids. And the slow kids didn't end up lost because the teachers were trying to keep brighter kids from being bored. Under that system, each kid was able to learn as much as possible based on his or her abilities.

 

And no kid was marooned in too high or too low a track. If a kid performed better than expected in a slower track, that kid was bumped up a track (or two or three). If a kid in a faster track ended up unable to meet the challenge, that kid was dropped a track or two.

 

And I don't remember much in the way of "self-esteem" problems, either. Everyone, including the kids, accepted that it was a fact of life that some kids were better academically than others, just as everyone recognized that some kids were better at music or art or sports or repairing cars than other kids.

 

I'm sure we must have had a few kids drop out in high school, but if so I don't remember them. Nearly all of the kids made it through high school, and all of them came out able to read, do math, and so on at a higher level than today's average high school graduate, let alone the kids today that barely scrape through.

 

As far as I'm concerned, No Child Left Behind should have been called No Child Gets Ahead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

In 1956 they were failing. In 1976 and 1986 they were failing. In 1996 and 2006 they were failing and in 2012 they are failing the reports say.

 

.

 

I can only speak from my family's experience with a 19 year spread between kids. My sister had an old fashioned education with grammar and languages. She was a scholarship girl to a exclusive private girl's school and came better prepared than the preppy girls.

 

The school system started falling changing in the mid 60s and was a wreck by the time I got to junior high in the 70s. For social studies we sat in class and looked at a letter puzzle where you were to locate and circle the countries of South America, etc. We were doing MUCH more in depth things in grade school.

 

The old teachers retired, and the new ones were far too laid back. There was much less "fun" in school, too (clever, student driven activities.) I think everyone went home and flipped on the TV. I even remember the year the principals, etc went from wearing suits to "white pants". Remember those polyester white pants with a loud jacket above?

 

We became un-goaled, un-focused, and "so what". The few teachers that still put an effort into it were beloved. So, I think the students were ready for it, but it wasn't being offered anymore.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We get neither critical thinkers with a background in logic and rhetoric nor individuals with utilitarian skills.

 

It would be a step forward if we could simply choose one path over the other and do it well. Or, if we could admit that we need a two or three tiered system. But, because we have a college for all mentality, we don't and can't, so we serve everyone from a standard the fluctuates from awful to mediocre.

 

A multi-tiered system would be a step in the right direction.

 

But I also think that the number of educational fads embraced by our public schools are also an issue. One of my teacher friends earned her elementary ed degree when "whole language" was the rage. When she landed her first full time teaching position, the system had abandoned whole language for something else (and I am not sure if it was phonics or some hybrid). Hence text books were replaced system-wide, only to be replaced not from wear and tear but for the next fad a few years later.

 

Similarly I have seen schools embrace expensive technologies as requisites for success. Imagine, a fellow once told me that it was better that his son did computerized reading with instant feedback on multiple choice comprehension questions than reading real books!!! I do not want to deny students technology (particularly in high school science labs) but I question its daily use in elementary classrooms.

 

Will the current budgetary crises will force schools to return to substance over fluff? Probably not, but a girl can dream!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sight-reading was introduced to public schools in the 50s, I believe. My best guess is that students who were graduating in the early 50s were the last recipients of the best education.

 

Those of us who managed to overcome the sight-reading mess and graduated in the late 60s (I was class of '69), early 70s, still had it pretty good. I'm guessing that children who were just entering first grade in the late 60s, and those since then, are the ones who have gotten a raw deal.

 

As far as whether or not individual schools are "good," consider the number of homeschoolers who took their children out of "good" schools and discovered that they couldn't read or write or do basic arithmetic, even though they were getting good grades. And how many of those homeschooling parents discovered how poorly they were educated once they began homeschooling? We've had many of those conversations right here.

 

I have been collecting newspaper articles since 1974 (actually, I started doing that, but after awhile it just seemed like a waste of time because there were so many) about things like major corporations that had to have basic literacy classes because their *college graduate* employees needed them.:001_huh:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that that most of our society no longer values reading, books, or learning. Most kids, as well as parents, are addicted to tv, movies, video games, shopping and find school boring in comparison. The advertising industry has learned to make these things exciting with visual and audio effects. Anything else just dulls in comparison.

 

I will get off my soapbox now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I have not met a lot of people who cannot read though. I'm baffled by the large numbers of people who supposedly cannot read. Maybe I'm just naive.

 

I read a few books by Jonathon Kozol that I found nearly worthless because of the conclusions they eventually drew, but they did contain a few useful tidbits. At one point, he mentions people ordering by the pictures on a menu or just ordering a hamburger because they can't read the descriptions. I had people do this all the time in Memphis when I was waiting tables and bartending, but I didn't make the connection until I read those books. Someone would point at a picture and ask what came in it, or they would ask if we had hamburgers and what came on them. I could attribute some of it to not seeing something on the menu, but it was constant.

 

____

 

 

I think we have multiple levels of schools in America, which is why we can have so many capable students working at maximum capacity on honors and AP classes while other schools fail to educate nearly all of their students. In international tests, even the better schools don't produce the results seen in other countries. We don't even really know how to get better. It's hard to translate techniques across cultures, so little things get pulled out of context and transplanted into our system without the proper background.

 

We talk about the need for more tracking, when untracked elementary schools in other countries have great results. We talk about remediating students with poor backgrounds at a younger age, or needing children to stay within their homes until they are older, and we point to other places around the world without the context of their culture. We point to countries with more hours in school, and suggest longer school years without cutting all the interruptions that reduce the ineffectiveness of time already spent in classes. I don't know how other countries compare, but most people I've met from other countries were shocked at how dangerous it is to attend so many inner-city schools. Other countries are still educating all of their population and coming out ahead of us.

 

But that assumes that the goal is simply a competition to churn out the students that will add the most to the GDP. Maybe that is the goal according to some people. We don't have a unifying goal right now. College entrance, high school degree, basic literacy? Which one of these is the goal, and which ones are we achieving? Are we really encouraging teachers to be masters of their craft? I know which classmates went into education, and while I think they would be capable of teaching well if education was their passion, they don't care about the subject they work in or teaching well. (On the whole, there are few exceptions that I personally know.)

 

My own goals for the education of my children are exposure to the great ideas and people of our world, and the ability to take in and discuss those ideas in other languages as well as English. I want my children to have a deep understanding and fluency in math and sciences. I have a long list of attitudes and useful skills I would like to impart. I have children who are blessed to live in a stable, literate environment where education is a priority. I can't personally do this for every child, but I can do it for my own. Sometimes I feel a little guilty for looking out for my own children, but my perspective is so far outside the norm in my location that I'm dismissed for emphasizing education.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People moan about the lack of parental involvement, but it strikes me that parents are more involved than ever and supposedly it isn't doing anything.

 

I think that depends upon what you mean by parental involvement. I have a friend whose son made a D in Algebra and Geometry. She is involved in the sense that she has been to the school, has complained, has asked for tutoring, etc. But she is not involved in his education in terms of helping to educate him. They don't want to pay for an outside tutor. She doesn't want to buy a curriculum that might work for him. She doesn't sit down and walk him through his lessons until he has a decent grasp (and she has a teaching degree). She will fight for the school to do something, but she is not doing it herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sight-reading was introduced to public schools in the 50s, I believe. My best guess is that students who were graduating in the early 50s were the last recipients of the best education.

 

 

 

Think further back. I know Why Johnny Can't Read talks about its history going back to the 20's and To Kill A Mockingbird references the sight reading mess in the 1930's.

 

I highly doubt the students of the early 50's were getting the best education. At that time not only were women not expected to succeed, but Brown vs. Board of Ed hadn't happened and a great deal of our population was shut out of a decent education. Public schools at that time continued to propagate a classist belief and left many schools severely underfunded. The public schools that taught well had the resources to do so because they didn't have to deal with children from underprivileged backgrounds. They didn't have to deal with individualized or special education, nor took the time to do so.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think it all comes down to discipline. When I went to school, largely in the 70s, parents weren't involved at all, at least at the school level -- ie, parents didn't participate in the classroom. Most "good" parents made sure their kids did their homework, but the parents didn't do a whole lot else with their kids academically. What parents did do, was make sure their kids behaved. Back in those days, most of the kids I grew up with knew that if they misbehaved at school, they would get into extra trouble at home. Today in many schools, the classrooms are practically war zones. Discipline issues were one of the main reasons I first took my oldest out of public schools -- he attended those awful schools in Durham that Renee mentions. Discipline was practically non-existent, even in Kindergarten, and little learning took place because of it. If we can bring back the discipline, we can save public education. Without good discipline, the schools will continue to fail.

I do believe this is a large part of the problem. When the schools feel the need to have a full time police officer in elementary schools and high schools one has to wonder why.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that depends upon what you mean by parental involvement. I have a friend whose son made a D in Algebra and Geometry. She is involved in the sense that she has been to the school, has complained, has asked for tutoring, etc. But she is not involved in his education in terms of helping to educate him. They don't want to pay for an outside tutor. She doesn't want to buy a curriculum that might work for him. She doesn't sit down and walk him through his lessons until he has a decent grasp (and she has a teaching degree). She will fight for the school to do something, but she is not doing it herself.

 

This describes my neighbor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that depends upon what you mean by parental involvement. I have a friend whose son made a D in Algebra and Geometry. She is involved in the sense that she has been to the school, has complained, has asked for tutoring, etc. But she is not involved in his education in terms of helping to educate him. They don't want to pay for an outside tutor. She doesn't want to buy a curriculum that might work for him. She doesn't sit down and walk him through his lessons until he has a decent grasp (and she has a teaching degree). She will fight for the school to do something, but she is not doing it herself.

:iagree: with this too.

 

I think the is the other side of the coin. Many many households have either both parents working full time or a single parent working full time. They send their kids to school with the idea that they will get an education. That is what they pay taxes for, so why not expect it. When the kid needs help, "the school should, after all I'm paying taxes for it."

 

When it is no longer the societal norm for schools to raise children (feed, discipline, house them so they are off the streets, and teach morals) I think we may finally get well educated children 99% of the time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think the difference with charter schools (and I teach in one) is that the parents got back some of the control and some of the say. My oldest went to preschool the year before kindergarten into the public school K and 1st. The difference in attitude of the school was amazing. I went from being respected as a parent purchasing a service to having absolutely no say in anything. The school did whatever it wanted. It had a monopoly - you're zoned for that school, you go to that school. Period. They told me what to do. They had teacher workdays willy-nilly and closed school for days on end because of some ice on secondary roads, who cares what the parents are trying to do!

 

With a charter school, they need the parents. First of all, they need students to go to their school or it won't exist. No one has to go to a charter school. They usually are trying to do many things with less money than a public school and parental involvement is necessary to keep the school going. IME they don't view parents as the enemy as many public schools do. My sister, who has worked in public schools for years, will go on and on about how the schools' problems are mainly bad parenting.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Think further back. I know Why Johnny Can't Read talks about its history going back to the 20's and To Kill A Mockingbird references the sight reading mess in the 1930's.

 

I highly doubt the students of the early 50's were getting the best education. At that time not only were women not expected to succeed, but Brown vs. Board of Ed hadn't happened and a great deal of our population was shut out of a decent education. Public schools at that time continued to propagate a classist belief and left many schools severely underfunded. The public schools that taught well had the resources to do so because they didn't have to deal with children from underprivileged backgrounds. They didn't have to deal with individualized or special education, nor took the time to do so.

 

So then we have America's schools failing all the way back to at least 1920. And compulsory education only began in the 1850's. So was it any good between 1850-1920?

 

Or is the whole "compulsory public education for all" idea just one big failed experiment?

 

 

.

Edited by Heather in NC
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was also told in Germany that your life's outcome was going to be determined at grade 5. So say your in 5th grade and you want to be a dentist , that's what your going to be. So when your 16 and you change your mind and want to be a doctor, well too darned bad ( this is from what I've been told. I don't live in Germany nor know their system but was told this many years ago. Not sure if its true or if things have change if it is). .

 

 

This is an incorrect interpretation.

It is correct that beginning with 5th grade, students are sorted into two (in some states three) tracks: one (gymnasium) that goes through 12th grade and ends with an exam which, if passed, allows the student to enter any university in the country. The other ends at 10th grade with a diploma, and the students go on to vocational training, trade schools etc.

At present, roughly 50% of students attend a college preparatory 12 year school.

BUT: this does NOT determine the future. A student who attended a 10 year school can decide afterwards that he wants to go to university. In order to get the Abitur, he can enroll in a three year program and take the exam at teh end of this. he will receive his Abitur and be good to attend university - with a one year delay compared to students who sorted into the college prep track in 5th grade. My niece has gone this route and she is now studying at a university.

So, the tracking does NOT determine a student's future at age 10!!!

 

It is also possible to take the Abitur examinations as a self study student and never enroll in a preparatory program, or to take night classes as adult education and receive this diploma at any point in later life. This, of course, requires more initiative on the student's part, but the opportunities exist.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To answer your question I would say that WWII is a rough dividing line.

 

I think that the war changed many things about American society. Schools and education being just one aspect of this. I think the changes in society, values, etc. that arose from this time period are a mixed blessing. Many are definite improvements while others have lead to certain problems. I think the education system is one of the problems. To be more accurate, I think it is a mixture of the changes to the education system along with changes in parenting and views of childhood that led eventually to the current system. I also think that WWII and the GI Bill changed the nature of the university system. Despite the many benefits of this I think it is a contributing factor in the rising need (or perceived need) of a university degree to obtain any employment as well as the increased demand for education beyond the traditional 4 year degree.

 

Is that an absolute date? No, certainly not. I'm sure that the opinion of every generation is that they did more or worked harder than the current generation. Am I arguing that we should return to the type of society we had before WWII or that we should never have given Vets the GI Bill, etc. ? No, I'm trying to give as brief and dispassionate an analysis as to why I would argue for WWII as being the rough date the OP was looking for. Does any of this apply to any country other than the US? I'll have to let the folks in other countries decide-I was only trying to speak of the US.

 

 

I think this is a good answer. I also think the system as a whole is doing exactly what it is intended to do (whether that's good or bad depends what YOUR goals/attitudes are...). I try to stay as far away from it as I can.:glare:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I think the "No child left behind" legislation was the final nail in the good public education coffin.

 

Whether or not the schools are truly failing will depend on your view of what public education is supposed to achieve. Is it supposed to be about teaching the 3r's? Is it supposed to be utopian learning for the sake of learning? Is it supposed to be preparing children for life in an office cubicle? Until society as a whole can agree on the end goal then there will always be reports of how the schools are failing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I think even today there are some exceptionally good schools out there, just as there have always been. What's changed, I think, is that the number of good schools is no longer the rule, but the exception - but there have always been really crappy schools and really good ones.

 

Even back when my mother was in grammar school, for example, NYC was notorious for having some good public schools, but most were not, so parents who could do it, sent their kids to private schools....that was similar to when I was old enough to go to grammar school - my parents couldn't afford private school, so they moved to keep me out of the PS in NYC.....and today it's still a similar situation there.

 

What I do think is quite different is the level of content taught and understanding how to connect content across subject areas with critical thinking, a level of competence to not only know particular subject matter, but to also know how to seek out information you don't know, to learn about it and integrate it into your knowledge-base.

 

When I look at what my mother graduated high school (private) knowing and able to do, it was superior to what I learned through high school, and I did go to a really good public school (top 5 in NYS at the time). And today, when I look at the options to educate my sons, I am dismayed by the lack of content and critical thinking skills amongst the younger generation and specifically at the standards of learning presented as "proof" schools in our area are educating our children. The SOL's are written in such a way that they totally lack any real meaning or definition IMO - they sound good, but really do not say much about specifics, which works for the schools since they really don't have definable milestones to meet due to the vague language and expectations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe schools aren't failing at all. Maybe they are doing exactly what they have been designed to do.

 

:iagree:

 

I've been doing a good bit of reading on this topic, and I have to wholeheartedly agree with this conclusion.

 

I would recommend reading "Deliberate Dumbing Down of America" (available free online at http://deliberatedumbingdown.com/). The book is a tome, but it provides a very, very detailed examination of the history of compulsory education in the form of excerpts from speeches, letters and the like. The bottom line is that compulsory education was designed to create good citizens for the industrial age. (Pushed not only by a progressive agenda, but corporate America in the form of massive grants & the creation of educational foundations.) I only got through about 2/3 of it, but that's more than enough to get the gist. (And it started making me feel sad & sick, so I had enough.)

 

A PP mentioned the book "The Underground History of American Education". This is also an excellent read, and a lot easier to tackle (and available free online at http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm).

 

At one point, when "Underground History" is discussing the beginning of compulsory education in the early 1900's, it describes protests (I believe in NY) by parents who thought that the compulsory schools were too easy. Their children had been learning better at home.

 

My current read is "Indoctrination" by Kyle Olson. It's okay, very antedotal. And it's written from a conservative perspective. But it emphasizes the pro-union, pro-social justice agenda being pushed in the schools (which, the author argues, not only "indoctrinates" our children, but takes time away from the things they should be learning).

 

The big picture from these books & others I've read is that the schools were designed for a purpose other than creating enlightened critical thinkers. I don't mean to take away from the outstanding teachers in the PS system who have the best intentions. And I believe that some students can still succeed in the PS system. Unfortunately, the system has been created in such a way that will necessarily "fail" for those who want all children to truly learn and not just be "educated" in the way the establishment deems appropriate.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The impression I have from my grandparents and their siblings is that the schooling they had was excellent, at least in the humanities and basic math. The difference was that it was an elite group of students. Basically it was only those students whose families valued education and could afford to delay their offspring's entrance into the labor force.

 

My grandmothers and their siblings came from affluent families that believed in education enough even to send their daughters through college. My grandfathers were poor growing up but one got a scholarship to a prep school and the other went to night school after he had to go to work at age 13.

 

Once our society set the goal of a universal high school diploma, there was a tradeoff in the quality. I don't know how to get around that without setting up an explicitly multi-tiered system like most European and Asian countries have, and I don't think that would be politically feasible here in the U.S.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mass education was never "good" and was never intended to be "good". Its scope has never been specifically to academically educate. One could probably even claim that a basic education was sometimes more of a side effect, than the actual effect of those schools.

 

The only education that was good, to my standards with my own bias, has been the education that was highly exclusive on many levels - first of all on intellectual level (no "mainstreaming" everyone into same classes, but having special classes or schools for highly intelligent and highly accomplished children), and secondly, partially as a result of that first, on material level (even when we talk about public schools, we talk about schools and classes where the overwhelming majority of parents was educated and professionally accomplished). And, IME, we can see instances of such education in every country, including America. There are nice little oases of excellent schools, whether private or public in unusually good districts, in the desert. And the landscape is not significantly different for many other countries, but what often happens is that other countries have slightly worse "excellent" schools and slightly better "bad" schools, thus producing a compromise which seems like an overall better education, but in reality it has only erased some of the drastic oscillations (and these are predominately societies which are less "capitalistic", thus with lesser variety in choice of schools, more government monopoly on what gets taught).

 

I think the real downfall of education goes hand in hand with "mainstreaming", abandoning achievement-based education (eventually lelading into separate college tracks and non-college tracks), plus with some educational fits that were really bad (resulting in functional illiteracy and lack of basic arithemtic skills), and with overall moral degradation of society (parents not parenting anymore, discipline issues taking over educational ones, not being allowed anymore to kick the misbehaving Johnny out of classroom but having to "understand" him and "help" him, etc.). It is a trend that has, like somebody has mentioned, roughly had its beginnings about WWII in many Western countries, but has been increasinly unfolding leading to the chaos we know today from about 70s-80s. The same can be told of higher education and the downfall of humanities specifically (although that began even earlier, about WWI), complete degradation of what used to be "an intellectual" to a level below mediocre education, etc. But the principal forces behind it, IME, is the whole focus on "everyone". It cannot be good if you put "everyone" in the same basket and do not allow people to flourish at their own pace - the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And that is what is happening, the educational level is as low as the worst students, because that is where most of the emphasis are and the system has no longer means to filter them out to different tracks. Some countries which retain much more of tracking have it better exactly because they realize that it is not a good idea to educate "everyone" together in the same classroom.

 

Another problem is the focus on the struggling student nowadays. In the epochs past, the focus was still largely on GOOD students - which was unjust in many ways, but if you can have an unjust system which focuses on the bottom third, or an unjust system which focuses on the best and brightest, what are you going to choose? Earlier, the logic was that the bottom third will gain the necessarily skills to the point they can - and when they no longer can the system will filter them out, so they will not hold anyone behind nor lower the educational level of the school - but the extra effort should be put on the kids who actually show skills, knowledge, and interest. Nowadays, the focus is totally different, the logic is that good kids will be fine anyway, and we should focus on doing the impossible by making everyone else good. Not working. If you do not separate the kids, the only real consequence of that is that no child gets ahead because, again, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That is why achievement-based groups or stratified school system (with tracks, different profiles of schools after a common grade school, etc.) are typically a much more successful choice. For an education of groups to be successful, you have to constantly remind yourself about the chain and the weakest links - the idea is to have as comparable groups as possible. Erasing the intellectual differences to the highest degree possible makes wonders happen, because you are working with kids about the same level. Yes, it is a totally un-PC idea. But it is what works MUCH better than putting everyone together and pretending those very real differences in intelligence, interest, home culture, etc. did not exist. Closing your eyes to problems does not make them go away. High school, if not before, should be the point of separation into different schools, different tracks, with different goals - though I would start that process in middle schools already.

 

(As far as countries' ranking is concerned, that is largely a nonsense, it is impossible to create a "good" test to rank the whole world because you are always testing apples and oranges. Countries which are good on PISA are exactly those countries which teach those few subjects that PISA tests in a way that PISA tests, and that is all there is to it. I have heard Finnish educators openly admit that if tests were made with Mediterranean/Mittel-European cultural bias, testing the concrete knowledges and skills of schools system in that area, countries like Austria or Italy - remarkably "average" if not below on PISA - would be taking first places. Also, PISA entirely neglects humanities education, and is as utilitarian as it gets in what it tests, i.e. it is heavily biased.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So then we have America's schools failing all the way back to at least 1920. And compulsory education only began in the 1850's. So was it any good between 1850-1920?

 

Or is the whole "compulsory public education for all" idea just one big failed experiment?[/B]

 

 

.

 

 

It is a failure. We have a poorly educated population and it costs us billions of dollars to produce this result. Everyone who wants access to education should get it, but those who don't shouldn't. Everyone who wants access to job training should get it; those who don't shouldn't.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Think further back. I know Why Johnny Can't Read talks about its history going back to the 20's and To Kill A Mockingbird references the sight reading mess in the 1930's.

 

I highly doubt the students of the early 50's were getting the best education. At that time not only were women not expected to succeed, but Brown vs. Board of Ed hadn't happened and a great deal of our population was shut out of a decent education. Public schools at that time continued to propagate a classist belief and left many schools severely underfunded. The public schools that taught well had the resources to do so because they didn't have to deal with children from underprivileged backgrounds. They didn't have to deal with individualized or special education, nor took the time to do so.

I couldn't remember the dates in Why Johnny Can't Read, and I certainly own't argue with one of my favorite books. :D I was a product of Dick and Jane, but somehow managed to learn to read and spell, anyway. I also experienced six weeks or so of the 60s' New Math. OMG. At any rate, I somehow managed to get a pretty good education along the way. Can't explain it.:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I highly doubt the students of the early 50's were getting the best education. At that time not only were women not expected to succeed, but Brown vs. Board of Ed hadn't happened and a great deal of our population was shut out of a decent education. Public schools at that time continued to propagate a classist belief and left many schools severely underfunded. The public schools that taught well had the resources to do so because they didn't have to deal with children from underprivileged backgrounds. They didn't have to deal with individualized or special education, nor took the time to do so.

 

It's not that simple. Schools today are massively funded, in fact "failing schools" servicing poor communities often have more funding than better performing schools. Doesn't Newark spend more per capita per student, than any other district in the country? Yet they have some of the worst schools in the nation.

 

When segregation was commonplace, successful black families were stuck in areas where they were "allowed" to live. From the 1960s on they are now free to leave and live wherever they can afford to buy. This means that black communities have gotten poorer and less educated on average, as their successful neighbors have picked up and left.

 

A similar phenomena has taken place within the teaching workforce. Before the 1960s a brilliant woman who wanted a career could be a nurse or a teacher. So we had a lot of amazing teachers in the system. Those same women, today, are likely to go into law, business, medicine, etc., but not teaching. My mom and her sister were on the tail end of the final "teacher or nurse" generation. They're both brilliant women-- my mom ended being a principal and my aunt a pathologist (after she was a nurse for a while). If they were in college today I doubt either would have gone into education or nursing. They would have aimed much higher.

 

My mom said she saw a marked decline in the quality of students coming into her classrooms in the early 1970s. She went from having classes with about 50% of the students very bright and high performing, to only having 1 or 2 such students in any given class.

 

Her theory is that concerns about the environment and overpopulation (which began to be hyped in the 1960s) made educated people limit their family size, or stop having children altogether. In other words, the smart people stopped having lots of kids, if they even had any at all-- sort of a reverse, voluntary eugenics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to run, but just needed to post so that I wouldn't lose this thread. I always know, that when Heather starts a thread it will be miles long and very interesting. I think she does it on purpose to distract me. :D So... It is going to be on my reading list for tonight, because I have to go teach my kids.

:auto:

Danielle

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I haven't done a great deal of research on this topic, but I can tell you a personal experience.

 

I was born to older parents; my Dad was 45 when I was born.

 

My father was born in 1918 in rural Kentucky. He lived on a farm and attended a one room schoolhouse through 8th grade. That's as far as it went in those days. His mother was the teacher.

 

Yet my father could help me with my Algebra and Geometry homework when I was in high school. He read constantly, so he was very literate.

 

That was what is striking to me...that my father could help me with high school subjects...even though he didn't make it past the 8th grade.

 

My dad was functionally illiterate due to being deaf at age 3 and attending deaf state boarding schools (NJ) until grade 8. His father (my grandfather) came from Russia (now Poland) to the US and couldn't read or write in ANY language.

 

Today the deaf are not treated like they are literally "dumb" like they were back then. The deaf are given a MUCH better education today than in years past (deaf state boarding schools).

 

My parents couldn't help me with schoolwork past grades 4-5.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The reason for the failure in general since the more prevelant acceptance of public educuation as a right or a must is because the process takes the front row seat over the results.

 

Back to the post above - this may be why so many are considered illiterate at present. This would also explain how a child graduates highschool without being able to read in the 80's.

 

You will need to consider the individual as well as the parents. The cliche, "you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink, is quite relevant for this topic, which I read in this article here. It provides quite a bit of light on what we consider a failure and why it is not.

 

Consider that education has become an arena for associations, unions, and politics. It isn't about learning or literacy anymore. We are on an endeavor to find what is wrong and prove it is wrong, which isn't always the case. You should not fix what isn't broke, but they do.

Various groups of children that are students present day, but would not have been students at one time can change the statistics as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of my teacher friends calls is Leave No Child Untested.

 

No joke. My ds has SEVERE CP, is non-verbal, does not have a clear mode of communicating, is probably around a 4 month old cognative level and yet, they still have to give him a standardized test. It's ridiculous. However, I do appreciate that this son would be completely discarded in some other countries, but is really well cared for in his current school.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really think it all comes down to discipline. When I went to school, largely in the 70s, parents weren't involved at all, at least at the school level -- ie, parents didn't participate in the classroom. Most "good" parents made sure their kids did their homework, but the parents didn't do a whole lot else with their kids academically. What parents did do, was make sure their kids behaved. Back in those days, most of the kids I grew up with knew that if they misbehaved at school, they would get into extra trouble at home. Today in many schools, the classrooms are practically war zones. Discipline issues were one of the main reasons I first took my oldest out of public schools -- he attended those awful schools in Durham that Renee mentions. Discipline was practically non-existent, even in Kindergarten, and little learning took place because of it. If we can bring back the discipline, we can save public education. Without good discipline, the schools will continue to fail.

 

I am a current middle school teacher, and I think this is it exactly. While parents weren't more involved in their children's studies, they did expect respectful behavior. Children were also expected to do homework, complete assignments and study for tests. There were consequences if the kids made poor grades. Now, so many parents seem to expect teachers to do all the work. If their child fails a test, the parents want to know if the child can re-take the test or get "extra credit." There is little mention that the child might have poor study habits.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...