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The Public Education System: When does the useful learning take place?

Christopher Harris

I was watching the “second-tier” 2016 Republican Presidential debates on Fox Business Channel, and something jumped out at me that was said by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, and former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. They were both being asked about the subject of manufacturing jobs in America, and their responses, Santorum’s in particular, made me think about the state of education in America today, and specifically with the “Public Education System”.

In a previous article entitled, “Mighty Joe Clark vs. The Educational Industrial Complex”, I mentioned that in 1961, we spent $21.2 Billion annually on Education, which was 3.7 percent of our GDP. Whereas today, we are spending $922.6 Billion annually on Education, which is 5.4 percent of our GDP.  So as much as The Left complains about Defense spending, the truth is, we are spending less than half as much on Defense (as a percent of GDP), and almost a third more on Education, yet nothing has gotten better with either one of them.

During the debate, one of the moderators asked about how we would cope with the loss of the manufacturing industry in America. Governor Huckabee said, “First of all, I don’t know why we have to move away from manufacturing. The only reason we have, is because we have a tax code that has punished manufacturing”. On his campaign website, Governor Huckabee has said:

We shouldn’t import from our enemies basic necessities we can produce ourselves. A country that can’t feed itself, fuel itself, or fight for itself can never truly be free.

Let’s put American workers back to work, build our economy, and restore our nation’s security with American-made, homegrown energy.

Senator Santorum pointed out that there were 250,000 welder jobs open in America, paying anywhere from $50-70,000 a year. This is very interesting, because according the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in America right now is $53,046.  So there is not a lack of good paying jobs in America…the problem is that they can’t find people to fill those jobs. He talked about the fact that we aren’t training people to do the jobs that are needed.

According to the Center for Public Education, most states require a minimum of 175-180 days of school and/or between 900 and 1,000 hours of instructional time per year, depending on the grade level. So, by the time a child progresses through the entire mandatory Public Education System, they would have spent roughly 12,000 hours of their life in school, “learning”. The problem is, virtually every report we hear about the state of “Public Education” in America is dismal. By most accounts, specifically from the standpoint of their future employers, children are spending 12,000 hours of their life sitting inside of the four walls of a school, but basically not learning anything worthwhile.

Listen folks, the simple fact is, everyone is not “college material”, especially not right out of High School. But deeper than that, there are not a whole lot of jobs in America today that actually “require” a college education in order to truly be qualified for that job. The simple fact of the matter is, a nation like the United States needs citizens who can actually work with their hands. Like Governor Huckabee said, “A country that can’t feed itself, fuel itself, or fight for itself can never truly be free.”

That got me to thinking about the fact that our Community Organizer-in-Chief recently tried to promote the idea that America needs to “invest” (which means more tax dollars being taken) in sending more Americans to  Community College FOR FREE, in order to help fill the jobs that will be needed in the future. The question that needs to be asked is, Why do we need to spend more money at the Community College level to train people to do the things that, for the longest time, were done within the K-12 years of the Public Education System? See, this is the “Educational Industrial Complex” that I tried to warn you about.

Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Machine Shop classes have been removed from most Public schools?

April 9, 2009 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick, left, visiting William J. Dean Technical High School, Holyoke Thursday, tours a machine shop with Kenneth P. Lombardi, center, machine technology department head. They are watching student Raul Robles, 17, foreground work on a rotary table.

April 9, 2009 – Holyoke – Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon – Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick, left, visiting William J. Dean Technical High School, Holyoke Thursday, tours a machine shop with Kenneth P. Lombardi, center, machine technology department head. They are watching student Raul Robles, 17, foreground work on a rotary table.

Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Wood Shop Classes have been removed from most Public schools?

High School - Woodshop

Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Automotive Shop has been removed from most Public schools?

High School - Automotive Class

Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Metal Shop has been removed from most Public schools?

El Dorado High School welding teacher Pete Fierro, left, watched at senior Isabel Arana showed where she needed to grind off excess welds on the opening of a metal container Wednesday at the far East El Paso campus. Welding students are manufacturing a pair of enrichment feeding cages for two of the El Paso Zoo's most well known residents. Juno and Savannah, the zoo's two Asian elephants will used the 20x24-inch cages to get food a treats from, said Gabriel Moya, elephant area supervisor for the zoo. Fierro said the project allows students to get welding experience that "prepares them for the real world." Moya, who has a son in the class, hopes to build on the relationship with the school and foresees other feeding cages of differing shapes and sizes to challenge the elephants, whom he describes as "very smart." Rudy Gutierrez/El Paso Times

THAT DUDE, Booker T. Washington, once said, “No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.” and I agree with him.  We do need more people learning “trades” and job skills that can allow them to experience the dignity of being able to be self-sufficient, and to contribute to society. But heck, besides just learning a “trade”, Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Art Classes have been removed from most Public schools?

High School - Art Class

And finally, Why are we spending more on “Public Education” than ever before…yet Music has been removed from most Public schools?

High School - Music Class

Once again, Governor Huckabee nailed it on this subject when he said:

“I tend to think that one of the greatest mistakes in education over the past generation has been that many school districts have cut their budgets in music and art programs. And in doing so, they’ve done one of the dumbest things that could ever be done that really is harmful to students in this country.”

You see, for all of the faults and flaws of the modern American Public Education System (which is largely based on the Prussian Model), at the very least, for well over a hundred years, it had a track record of turning out children who could become producers. The children of previous generations were more creative, and gained knowledge, skills, and abilities that would serve them for the rest of their life. Most importantly, they knew HOW to THINK, and not just WHAT to THINK.

Once again, how is it that we are spending more than ever before, yet getting less bang for our buck? Why is it that we supposedly need to spend more to teach adults the sorts of skills at Community Colleges that children used to learn in Junior High, and High School?  Famed orator and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”  So why are we waiting until after someone has become caught up in the criminal justice system, and wasted years of their life in prison, before we decide that it makes more sense to invest in teaching them skills that will allow them to live with dignity when they are kids, rather than spending money trying to rehabilitate them and re-integrate them into society?

So we need to ask ourselves questions like, what changed, when did it change, and what are we going to do about it?  However, fear not, because I do have good news in parting. Just think…even if if the next generation of American kids won’t be able to THINK their way out of a wet paper bag, or build anything with their bare hands…at least those precious snowflakes will know how to put a condom on a banana. Oh, and they will be completely comfortable with the idea of “my two dads”.

 

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