Symposium 2011: What role, if any, should the federal government play in education? Should we demand a repeal of No Child Left Behind?

Cartwright:  None.  Who’s better at deciding how to teach the kids—a bureaucrat in Washington or your local educators?

There are quite a few problems with our education system today.  We’ve got teachers in some places who because of tenure can’t be fired and who are just riding their chairs until they retire; they’ve given up on teaching kids.  We need to be able to get rid of teachers who aren’t teaching.

But let’s also be honest.  We have a problem with kids wanting to learn.  The majority of teachers out there are good, hardworking people who have a passion for teaching.  These teachers can teach any kid who is willing to learn, but we have to have a willingness and desire on the part of the kids.


Today’s kids are lazy, lack discipline, and want everything handed to them.  They want to be spoonfed.  We need to make sure that there is more discipline in the schools and that our teachers are allowed to fail students who aren’t learning.  Who came up with this bullshit philosophy that everyone is a winner?  The world doesn’t work that way, and it’s ridiculous that the need to make our kids feel good about themselves makes it so that we can’t fail them or discipline them.


I have long favored having the military take over operations of the schools.  Let me be clear, I’m not saying they should be military schools.  I’m saying that the military should run the schools and that means each kid will say the pledge of allegiance each morning, they will show respect to the teachers, and they will be punished if they do not behave.  It’s very simple, they will be responsible for their actions and will face consequences of those actions.  That’s sorely lacking in today’s society.


Because we can’t fail kids, we’ve dumbed down the curriculum.  We’re teaching to the level of the dumbest kid in the class.  When I went to school, we had three classes for each course.  There was the class for the advanced kids, you know, the nerds.  The second one was for the average kids, and the third class was for the slowest kids.  I’m not trying to be mean here, and I don’t want it to sound that way.  The reality is that different kids learn at different speeds and different levels.  We need to make sure that we not just pushing through the slower kids with the more advanced students and not hindering the brightest kids by teaching at the lowest level.


People talk about failing schools and the need for charter schools.  Well, charter schools are great, but I don’t think the schools are the whole problem.  The schools aren’t completely failing the kids.  The kids have their part in failing the schools.  If we’re going to expand the charter school system, let’s make it so that people either have to pay more to send their kids there or the kids’ academic record can get them admission at no extra cost.


Michigan:  I don’t think the government can play a huge role in education.  No Child Left Behind is not working.  Many states have opted out of this programme.  In South Carolina, for example, 27% of students do not graduate.  In Michigan, about 24% of students do not graduate.  Not all students can grasp many of the required courses and many just don’t care.  For the students that have the ability and willingness to study we should provide the courses that will prepare them to be doctors, lawyers, and such.  For the other students, we can should provide courses that will prepare them for service industry jobs.


Sydney:  I think the Federal Government needs to play some role in education. Establishing standardized tests is difficult because it seems that in many cases schools are basing their whole curriculums around those tests.


Education is definitely important, but what is probably being overlooked is the reason kids are being left behind. In a poor socioeconomic area where there is a lot of crime, it can be fair to assume that a lot of kids end up missing a lot of school, or behaving badly at school for some reason or other. And naturally this means they score badly on the standardized tests. The solution is not to throw a heap of money at the school, or overhaul the curriculum. The money would be better spent on programs that would get these kids into school, and keep them there, in the first place. Then you can worry about the standard of the teachers or the curriculum.


RMC:  As I mentioned earlier, I think the federal government’s only role should be to set minimum standards for schools to teach for each grade.  The local schools should decide how to best teach our kids.  Who’s better at deciding what is the best way to educate our children—some bureaucrat in Washington or the teachers and educators here locally.


With regards to the No Child Left Behind legislation, I think that is a classic example of something that looks good on paper and sounds good in theory but that actually isn’t so good in reality and in application.  There are obvious flaws.  I think it puts the focus on the wrong places when it comes to education.  Teachers are having to focus on preparing students to pass ridiculous exams that ensure funding and ratings for the school as opposed to being able to educate the kids.  There’s a big difference.

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