Monday, September 11, 2006

Recently there has been some discussion about our declining school system. I’ve heard people like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates discuss what awful shape our schools are in. They are in some less than wonderful condition. I was a substitute teacher for a while and I saw it first hand. I wasn’t even in the big inner city schools where it is truly depressing. The smaller rural schools and schools in smaller towns that aren’t very affluent aren’t doing so well either.

Before I offer my solution to this problem let me state something first. The education of our nation’s students should be one of this nation’s most urgent priorities. The military and infrastructure and such are just window dressing without a well-educated nation. The democracy cannot function, as it was intended to function without a well-educated nation. So we must regard education as high priority.

The solution I offer is two-fold. One is to build more schools and limit class sizes to no more than 20 students in a class and 15 would be even better. Smaller class sizes make life much easier on the teacher. Once the class is manageable the teacher is free to teach the students. Also the teacher will become more knowledgeable of each student. This allows the teacher to cater to each student’s needs more specifically. Children also have this odd dynamic where the more of them you gather together the more hyper they seem to get. Smaller classes equal less opportunity for mischief and better education all around.

The second thing is to make sure kids get the basics down when they are in elementary school. They must have mastered what used to be referred to as the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic. I’ve seen junior high students who couldn’t do simple arithmetic without a calculator. I’ve seen junior high students who could barely read. Schools need to make absolutely sure that every student gets these fundamentals down pat. Without these three basic building blocks the rest of your education is wasted time.

The solutions are simple. But I know someone out there, reading this is wondering about the money. How are we going to fund this? Well first off the way a lot of states do it by basing it on property taxes is discriminatory. Poor communities get less able schools than do the wealthier communities. This is horribly unjust, instead there needs to be a pool of money that is equally divided among all schools. There needs to be a flat rate tax that all working citizens pay that goes towards education. Everyone benefits from a strong education systems therefore everyone gets to chip in.

Those are my ideas and as always you’re free to disagree.


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