How to Save American Education?

Candice eetimesCan We Solve The School Funding Crisis?

For years, we have seen a growing crisis in American schools as funding cuts force teachers to buy school supplies and textbooks fall apart.  Our best teachers burn out and teaching to the test mentality tells potential educators that they wouldn’t be allowed to teach anything else.  It’s a lose-lose for everyone… except it seems, for the football coach and the PE instructor.

So how do we fix this?

First, we have to admit that schools, especially high schools don’t actually focus on education.  Yes, I know you think that is a strange statement; but hear me out.

Visit any high school during the weekend or evening.  Walk through the halls past the big and prominent trophy case.  What do you see?  You could be forgiven for thinking that you weren’t at a school at all, but a sports club.  All those trophies are for sports, not the school’s academic excellence.  Oh, some schools may have a small plaque, though more likely a mass-produced paper certificate, declaring the school to be “Excellent” and signed by a school administrator somewhere.  But come on… we all know those really big trophies go to the school with the best sports teams.

Visit any high school during the day.  Look at what the kids are wearing.  Notice something odd?  Some of the kids are wearing special clothing in the school’s colors.  Usually it’s the boys who are wearing jackets with school letters and girls wearing tight-fitting tops and short skirts in school colors… skirts that would be deemed to be against the school’s dress code if it didn’t have the official blessing of the school because of their special status as a uniform for… well.. not for academic excellence or achievement.  So, just who gets recognition and rewarded for what activities in these schools?

Can you imagine a school that awarded special clothing to elite academic performing students instead of elite athletes?

Take a look at how much land and monies are devoted to what activities.  Those big gyms with roll-up bleachers and electronic scoreboards aren’t cheap.  The plumbing in the locker rooms took a pretty penny.  Those lawns and outdoor bleachers aren’t cheap either.  All of that expense for only a small handful of students who will never participate in any meaningful way in those activities, save as parents sitting in those bleachers, once they are adults.

How many of the teachers at the school became teachers so that they could be coaches of those sports?  Does the math teacher have a degree in mathematics?  Or does he have a degree in physical education and coach a team after school?  Does that science teacher have a degree in chemistry, biology, or physics?  Not likely given that they could make five times as much in industry if they actually learned something of those subjects in university.  If your school was anything like mine, most of those teaching STEM courses barely passed an intro survey course.  (Our physics teacher had no idea what anti-matter consisted of… and failed me for using trigonometry to solve a physics problem involving light refracting through different media because he didn’t understand the math.  My freshman algebra teacher taught us to “guess” what values would solve the equations.  Yes, PE majors in college teaching future STEM students is a great idea.)

Is it any wonder that our schools are in trouble and that our students do so poorly in academic subjects like science and mathematics, especially compared to students from other nations?

“Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else. Yet this difference hardly ever comes up in domestic debates about America’s international mediocrity in education. (The U.S. ranks 31st on the same international math test.) The challenges we do talk about are real ones, from undertrained teachers to entrenched poverty. But what to make of this other glaring reality, and the signal it sends to children, parents, and teachers about the very purpose of school?”

So why do we spend so much effort on physical education and sports at the expense of actual education?  The reason may surprise and even anger you.  It certainly does me!

WAR!!!

It’s so that we can turn young people, especially boys, into cannon fodder!  Yes, the requirements of the military who would draft and then have to train up young men to be big tough soldiers ready to slog through mud and march many miles with a heavy backpack, to make them into able-bodied infantry ready to die for his country.  The military can save time and money getting our youth ready to be grunts by transferring that task to our schools.  Just consider this bit from “A Brief History of Physical Education In America’s Schools”,

“Interestingly, the driver behind the establishment of the physical education system in America was war—in short, the fitness of soldiers in combat became a country-wide priority. After the end of the American Civil War, school systems implemented physical education programs and enacted laws that would make the inclusion of physical education programs compulsory in all public schools.

After World War I ended, distressing overall health statistics revealed that one-third of all drafted recruits in the U.S military were not physically fit for combat. The government interceded and passed legislation intended to advance the quality of physical education classes throughout the country. During World War II physical education programs became more common for men and women due to the physical fitness that was required in military service and for manual labor jobs.”

It’s no accident that during the Cold War and the Vietnam War, during a large military draft and build-up, that the Federal government ran television ads from the President’s Council on Physical Fitness.  In fact, the Council was created in 1956 after a conference held at the Naval Accademy.  The next conference on the subject was held a year later at the Military Academy at West Point.  Years later, the Council was renamed to include sports as a means of increasing physical fitness, readiness to be foot soldiers.   Our nation’s school’s focus on sports and PE are the direct result of our military’s intervention in our educational policies.

Our schools care more for preparing our students to become cannon fodder than educated citizens.  So, knowing this, one understands what’s wrong with our schools and how to fix them.  Stop being a pre-boot-camp for the Army and become a true school for the future of our democratic republic.

We could easily find the monies needed for our schools… by simply eliminating PE and after school sports.  School should be about learning.  Athletic Clubs shouldn’t double as schools.

(Addendum 5/27/2018:  In case you were wondering just how badly America stack up against other nations in science knowledge and understanding:

https://amp.businessinsider.com/science-questions-quiz-public-knowledge-education-2018-5 )

Further Reading:

Essay on how to ensure higher education opportunities for all

References:

A Brief History of Physical Education In America’s Schools

The Case Against High School Sports

History of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness

 

 

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