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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 11/15/19

Education Reform in the Age of Trump

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Religion is personal and every individual is granted the right to believe and worship as he or she will as long as those beliefs and practices do not prevent others from believing as they choose. Religion can no part in the scientific realm just as science can have no part in matters of pure faith.

Science must be an essential part of any public school curriculum and the scientific method for establishing facts and theories even more so. An education that is not founded on science and the scientific method is not an education at all for at that point it crosses over to the realm of faith.

Religion can have no part in public education. The moment you admit matters of faith into subjects worthy of education you give credence to magical thinking. You falsely enable students to challenge the most basic facts. You enable students to challenge gravity. Physics does not yield to prayer or public opinion and will not allow a scientific challenge to gravity because gravity is an established fact.

If a given district wants to allow magical thinking in its curriculum it must be challenged by a greater authority. At present, under the leadership of Donald Trump and his faith-based Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a greater authority does not exist. Or rather, it exists to defend magical thinking. It exists to divert funds meant for public education into private, faith-based charter schools. [2]

We can no more allow the perversion of science with faith-based diversions than we can allow public school districts to choose their curriculum without regard to scientific validity and historic fact. For example, we cannot allow districts in the South to teach that the southern states were right to break away from the north because African slaves were inherently inferior and slavery was therefore justified. I have little doubt that there are those not only in the South but across the nation who believe just that though such prejudice has not and cannot be validated by the scientific method.

This nation needs to agree that all students regardless of locale are deserving of a sound education grounded in fact and science. We need to agree that the nation has one historical narrative for all students. We need to agree that this nation was born with high ideals that were subverted by Native American genocide and African American slavery. Our universal narrative must include the story of Japanese American internment by a Democratic president. It must include the stories of systemic discrimination against Latin Americans, Irish Americans and immigrants of all backgrounds and colors.

Beyond history we need a public school curriculum across all states that prioritizes the teaching of reason of how to interpret the facts we observe and draw objective conclusions. A student that does not know how to reason is as critically handicapped as a student that does not know how to read, write or perform the basic functions of arithmetic.

We should also be teaching our children the art of compromise and the role it has played in the nation's crowning achievements: The writing and adoption of our constitution, the abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, the Civil Rights Act, Social Security, Medicare, the prohibition against child labor, the forty-hour work week, on and on.

We have come a long way in our understanding of the world and the fulfillment of our ideals but we have blocked our schools and teachers by saddling them with politically motivated curricula. Let's be clear. Education curricula has become a political football. We must do everything we can to remove both religion and politics from the schools.

We must also devise a new system that no longer divides students into successes and failures. This idea that what our kids really need is tough love, that kids must experience the hard knocks of life in their growing years, has got to end.

No child deserves to fail. Certainly, no child should be branded a failure and forced to endure years of failure just to fulfill the dictates of a tough love curricula. We all know that's how it works and we all pretend there is no other way. There is. We cannot simply bend the normal population curve as the George W. Bush administration's No Child Left Behind initiative proposed. With its high academic standards and one-size-fits-all approach, NCLB guaranteed failure for a generation of students.

NCLB reigned over education for over a decade with catastrophic results before being replaced by Common Core (2010) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (2015). The new program suggests national standards with the goal of producing students who can succeed in college and university. The actual administration is left to the states.

Education has gone through this process of rebuilding the education system from top to bottom numerous times and it has always failed. It fails because all students cannot succeed on a moving scale of academic standards. The system fails repeatedly because we try and try again to bring students to the system rather than bringing the system to the student.

All students can succeed if we assess their talents and interests early on and guide them to achievable and functional goals. All children are not meant to be scientists but all children can learn to employ the processes of logical thought. All children cannot become doctors and engineers but every student can become and valued member of society. All students cannot become litigators but all can learn to distinguish credible evidence from opportunistic speculation.

Those who have advocated trade schools are on the right track. Society's responsibility is to determine what trades will be valued in the future and to provide appropriate students the background and training they require. Some students will naturally be guided on an academic path while others may be encouraged to develop blue collar, artistic or entrepreneurial skills.

When there is a place for every child's interests and abilities then every child with appropriate assistance, guidance and encouragement will succeed.

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Jack Random is the author of The Jazzman Chronicles and the founder of Crow Dog Press. His novels include Wasichu: The Killing Spirit, Number Nine: The Adventures of Jake Jones and Ruby Daulton, Ghost Dance Insurrection and A Patriot Dirge in (more...)

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