Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice

American Education: We Need Higher Standards
We Must Require More from Our Kids and Our Schools
May 31, 2011


Our schools turn out financially, economically, politically, and socially illiterate citizens.  This stuff doesn’t happen by accident. We must require more from our kids and from public education.

Scott Walker's adventures in Wisconsin are only partly about labor unions.  Look at which union he chose to target first. PUBLIC EDUCATION is the republithugs' primary target for this portion of their campaign to destroy the middle class.  Two primary factors created the American middle class after World War II - a good public education system and a strong labor movement.  And we keep facing republistunts to destroy both of them.

The last thing any fascist wants is an educated workforce.  They want us all to be trained – like nice little monkeys – to perform their boring routine tasks without thought or comprehension.  They don't want you to know how to think for yourself, to research a problem and find a solution, or to stand up for yourself.  That's why they don't teach civics.

The Current State of U.S. Public Education
The United States was the first nation on earth to offer free public education for all of its residents.  For two centuries, the world envied an American education.  Now, the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks U.S. high school students 33rd in reading and 27th in math.  Our students tied with nine other countries for ninth place with an average I.Q. score of 98.  Ninety-eight.  Alfred Binet defined the average human I.Q. score as 100 when he first began measuring it in 1904.  What does that tell you?

Our public schools do a wonderful job of turning out financially, economically, politically, and socially illiterate citizens.  They baby their students and treat them like imbeciles.  And then everyone is surprised when imbeciles invade the work force.  And then they blame the workers.  Our kids deserve better.  Too many Americans have no life skills.  They don't know how a bank account works, how to register to vote, or how to solve a governmental red tape problem.  They think communism is the opposite of democracy.  They don't know how many senators each state has, or how to locate their members of Congress.

I've worked in the social services field for many years.  I've met people who don't know what a pay stub is for, what the numbers on it mean, or why they should keep it.  I've met people who don't know the difference between the local, state, and federal governments, or what their tax dollars pay for.  I've met people who don't know whether they belong to a labor union.

Of course, parents are ultimately responsible for their children's education, but they can't give what they don't have, and they don't have this stuff because our schools have been so bad for so long.  I've met far too many parents who don't know, or don't care, that their kids can't do these things.

Why This Happens
Last year, Pennsylvania began phasing in higher high school graduation requirements.  That's a step in the right direction. Then in January our new Governor, republithug Tom Corbett, proposed a state budget that cuts public education funding by ONE BILLION DOLLARS.  That's $1,000,000,000.00.  Now, school districts are scrambling to make up that deficit.  Many will cut art, music and sports programs, but that's not the answer.  Those activities provide valuable educational experiences for students.  Some will charge fees to participate in activities, thereby punishing poor students.  Most will raise local property taxes, thereby punishing everyone.

The American education system is a horrid shambles, to put it politely.  Americans are uneducated in every sense of the word. So why do our elected officials keep cutting education funding?  Why do they keep dumbing-down our schools?  Think about it. Who benefits from a brain-dead workforce whose members can only manage to show up, perform their rote tasks, and go home to their bread and circuses and reality teevee, and are incapable of understanding WHY their lives are what they are, much less doing anything about it?

What You Can Do About It
Teachers and administrators work hard, and do have the kids' best interests at heart.  Yet I've found that their curricula are consistently two to three years behind the kids' actual abilities.  And our schools promote whiny, crybaby attitudes and behavior.  We don't demand enough from our kids.  Not everything has to be fun.  Our kids will live up – or down – to our expectations.  Kids who are babied grow up to be idiots, or victims, or worse.

My son played four sports in twelve years throughout his school years.  The scholastic athletic league required a minimum grade point average of 2.0 to play sports.  My husband and I required a 3.5 average.  He did it easily because he knew we were serious.  Mike graduated high school with high honors and won his school's scholar athlete award.  It took very little effort from us.  Why won't more parents do that?

Instead, Pittsburgh city schools can't join the local athletic league because the school board won't increase their academic requirements for athletes.  So the kids suffer because the adults are lazy.  One of my proudest moments occurred when the PTA tried to throw me out of town because I made a suggestion to improve education in the schools.  Yes, really.  It was hilarious.

Money is not the only solution to our education problems.  Many countries spend less than the U.S., and get better results.  We must require more from our kids and from public education.  I don't know what will work best for your kids, but you do.  Show your kids that you love them enough to demand their best.

Demand more from yourself, too.  Demand that your elected officials increase education standards in our schools.  Browse through your state's Education Department website.  Attend a meeting of your local school board.  Ask questions.  Demand Answers.  Run for a school board position.  Read a local daily newspaper regularly.  Know what's going on around you.  Talk to your kids.  Tell them why education is important.  Listen to your kids.  They want to do well, and be well, in their lives.  They need you to teach them how to do that.
And remember.  WE ARE ONE

For more information:
Register to Vote
Contact Your Elected Officials
U.S. Department of Education
American Education Week

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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting    ~    Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803    ~    Pittsburgh, PA  15227   ~    412-310-4886    ~
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley    ~    All rights reserved
Established 1993