The Problem with Education in America

I believe in education.*  I truly desire for all children to have the opportunity and privilege of a good education. But let’s face it, the United States of America is not exactly knocking the ball out of the park when it comes to educating the masses.

What’s the problem? Is it curriculum? Is it funding? Is it standards? Is it lack of testing? No, none of these are the main problem.

Julington Creek Elementary School
St. Johns, Florida

Although we live in one of the best public school districts in the nation (it’s true, year in and year out, Newseek, Forbes, and others say so), we choose to homeschool. We do this for a very strategic reason: we believe that no one cares more about our children’s development than us, their parents.

This is the problem with education in America: parents.

Americans would prefer to blame lack of funding, but the truth, literally, hits home. Parental involvement in the lives of their children (not just their education) is the real key to education. A great teacher can only do so much with an unmotivated child who is not receiving love and attention at home. A bad teacher can do more than you’d expect with a motivated child who does receive support at home. For the vast majority of kids, It all comes down to the home environment.

That’s why I roll my eyes when I read an article like this one, that reports how Bill Gates and his millions of dollars are seeking to change the way we approach education. It’s attacking the problem from the wrong angle, and likely, from the wrong motives.

First, the wrong angle. Trying to fix America’s education woes by increasing testing and accountability of teachers is dealing with surface issues. Real improvement means addressing the situation at home. The same people who are funding the proposed, progressive advancement of education are the same people who are spending millions of dollars to undermine and dismantle the bedrock institution of our society: the family. That, my friend, is what you would call working against yourself.

Second, the wrong motive. Follow the money trail. Their proposed solutions require millions upon millions of dollars in testing. I wonder who is making and selling those tests. Would it be surprising to find out they are friends of Bill Gates? I don’t know. I’m just asking.

By the way, I live in a wonderful, family-friendly, bedroom community of Jacksonville known as St. Johns, FL. With sunny skies, nearby beaches, and incredible amenities, we are truly blessed. But locally, as mentioned before, we are perhaps best known for our outstanding schools. The teachers are top notch and the administration is really good, but do you want to know the real secret of St. Johns county schools? Involved parents. I’ve rarely seen parents who care so much, and are able to be so engaged, in their child’s education. Again, loving parents who care about their kids. This is what I see in our neighborhood.

Wake up, America! As we continue to abandon God’s ways for raising children, as we continue to assault the traditional definition of a family, we are also undermining the noble goals we claim we are pursuing… for our children.

May God have mercy.

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*My Dad taught school for nine years before becoming a photojournalist. My Mom taught school for nearly thirty years and my in-laws both taught school for over thirty years. My wife taught a couple of years of school and has her master’s degree in elementary education. My brother-in-law taught school, my sister-in-law taught school, and I have two advanced degrees (M.Div., D.Min.). I say all this not to set myself up as an expert in the field; I am not. But I hope this shows that I am definitely not an anti-intellectual, anti-education type.

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3 thoughts on “The Problem with Education in America”

  1. You are so right Brett….education does not work without family involvement. As well rounded and supportive as your family is, though, I am surprised that you home school instead of taking advantage of the good schools in your area. From 38 years in education, I do not believe that home school can provide more benefits for motivated children with good parent involvement. I think children who come from those households are shortchanged by being home schooled….just my opinion.

  2. Brett: as a family that has kids in public shools, i would say the success of st. johns county is exactly what you are talking about…..the parental involvement at our elem and middle school is very high…..I would also add that many of our boys teachers are believers and are providing great role models to all thier students…which again is sadly lacking in the home….

  3. Marilyn, thanks for affirmation of my main point. I am curious, however, as to how you think homeschooled children are being shortchanged? I appreciate your humility in saying it is just your opinion, but I value your opinion as a long-time educator.

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