Fundamental Rights of Parents to Education Choice
In a series of United State Supreme Court cases from the 1923 to 2000, the Court applied and upheld the “Parental Rights Doctrine”, which holds that parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Parents were assumed to be the best caretakers for their children unless proven unfit.
“It is the natural duty of the parent to give his children education suitable to their station in life.” Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923)
“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)
“It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder … It is recognition of this that these decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1994)
“The values of parental direction of the religious upbringing and education of their children in their early and formative years have a high place in our society. Even more markedly than in Prince, therefore, this case involves the fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the State, to guide the religious future and education of their children. The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.” Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)
“This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974)
“Our decisions establish that the Constitution protects the sanctity of the family precisely because the institution of the family is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition. It is through the family that we inculcate and pass down many of our most cherished values, moral and culture.” Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977)
“The liberty interest in family privacy has its source, and its contours are ordinarily to be sought, not in state law, but in intrinsic human rights, as they have been understood in ‘this Nation’s history and tradition’.” Smith v. Organization of Foster Families, 431 U.S. 816 (1977)
“We have recognized on numerous occasions that the relationship between parent and child is constitutionally protected. We have little doubt that the Due Process Clause would be offended ‘if a State were to attempt to force the breakup of a natural family, over the objections of the parents and their children, without some showing of unfitness and for the sole reason that to do so was thought to be in the children’s best interest’.” Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978)
“The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children. The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition. Simply because the decision of a parent is not agreeable to a child or because it involves risks does not automatically transfer the power to make that decision from the parents to some agency or officer of the state.” Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)
“The fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child does not evaporate simply because they have not been model parents or have lost temporary custody of their child to the State. Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain a vital interest in preventing the irretrievable destruction of their family life. Until the State proves parental unfitness, the child and his parents share a vital interest in preventing erroneous termination of their natural relationship.” Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982)
“’The best interests of the child,’ a venerable phrase familiar from divorce proceedings, is a proper and feasible criterion for making the decision as to which of two parents will be accorded custody. But it is not traditionally the sole criterion – much less the sole constitutional criterion – for other, less narrowly channeled judgments involving children, where their interests conflict in varying degrees with the interests of other. ‘The best interests of the child’ is not the legal standard that governs parents’ or guardians’ exercise of their custody: So long as certain minimum requirements of child care are met, the interests of the child may be subordinated to the interests of other children, or indeed even to the interests of the parents or guardians themselves.” Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993)
“In a long line of cases, we have held that, in addition to the specific freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, the ‘liberty’ specially protected by the Due Process Clause includes the rights .. to direct the education and upbringing of one’s children. The Fourteenth Amendment ‘forbids the government to infringe …’ ‘fundamental’ liberty interests of all, no matter what process is provided, unless the infringement is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.” Washington v. Glucksburg, 521, U.S. 702 (1997)
Although this standard was slightly eroded in the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granvill, the Troxel case merely made The Parental Rights Doctrine less concrete and more vague. However, the overriding legal philosophy is that parents, not the government, are in the best position (and have the greatest interest) to direct a child’s life, education, and upbringing. We have almost a hundred years of this right being considered a FUNDAMENTAL right, protected by the Due Process Clause of our United States Constitution.
According to Pew Research Center, when comparing 15-year olds throughout the world, “among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science.” They also ranked 24th in reading. However, the most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. 38th in Math, 24th in Science, and 24th in Reading. (Source: Pew Research Center, U.S. Students' Academic Achievement Still Lags That of Their Peers in Many Other Countries, Drew Desilver, retrieved January 22, 2019, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students-internationally-math-science/).
With those results, is it any wonder why parents are looking for other ways to provide a high quality education for their beloved children? If the American public school system is failing our children, wouldn’t parents be forced to seek other option rather than the failing public schools? And for the family that cannot afford a private school education, homeschooling is really the only alternative.
But, homeschooling is not easy. It involves additional expenses, sacrificing the largest portion of a parent’s day to teach his or her child(ren), and it can be very frustrating when a child is struggling to understand difficult concepts.
Some state and federal legislatures are trying to pass laws that would make homeschooling an automatic cause to investigate the parents, under the guise of “protecting the children”. But this assumes that parents only, or usually, choose homeschooling to hide abuse or neglect. This puts the parent is the awful position of being forced to choose between 1) allowing their children to be “educated” in a failing public school system, or 2) allowing themselves to be investigated by Child Protective Services in order to homeschool.
In an era when our public schools are failing miserably, we should not put additional roadblocks in a parent’s path to providing a high quality education for his or her child.
Therefore, no agency, agent, person, or entity connected to the Federal, State, or Local governments within the United States may interfere with the fundamental rights of a parent to direct his or her child’s or children’s education and upbringing, unless there is an independent accusation of abuse or neglect, other than the method of education that the parent chooses.
 Parental Rights Organization, The Supreme Court’s Parental Rights Doctrine, https://parentalrights.org/understand_the_issue/supreme-court/, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep262/usrep262390/usrep262390.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep268/usrep268510/usrep268510.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Prince v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1994), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep321/usrep321158/usrep321158.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep406/usrep406205/usrep406205.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, 414 U.S. 632 (1974), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep414/usrep414632/usrep414632.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494 (1977), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep431/usrep431494/usrep431494.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Smith v. Organization of Foster Families, 431 U.S. 816 (1977), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep431/usrep431816/usrep431816.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Quilloin v. Walcott, 434 U.S. 246 (1978), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep434/usrep434246/usrep434246.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep442/usrep442584/usrep442584.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep455/usrep455745/usrep455745.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep507/usrep507292/usrep507292.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
 Library of Congress, Washington v. Glucksburg, 521, U.S. 702 (1997), http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep521/usrep521702/usrep521702.pdf, accessed February 20, 2019.
Parental Supervision of Education
Most parents know the heartbreak of having a child that is being bullied at school. Bullying is something that plagues our schools. Children have a very difficult time with the rapid changes in their bodies and minds. Add in a rapidly changing society and you have a bunch of confused children trying to alleviate their own insecurities by bullying others. It is almost impossible to prevent bullying 100%, but we can help to crack down on it. One such method is to incorporate parents into the classroom.
Most parents can’t physically be in the classroom. But, we can give parents the tools to keep an eye on their children. With the Educating For Success bill, our children will spend the majority of their school day in one classroom, rather than changing classrooms 7 – 12 times a day. This would allow for us to install closed-circuit security cameras in the classroom. Only 2-4 cameras would be needed per classroom.
The parents would be given a security code to login from a computer, tablet, or smartphone to check on their child(ren) in a particular classroom. The parent would be able to access the video footage to verify is his or her child is doing okay in class. This also provides a way for parents, teachers, and administrators to know what really happened when an allegation is made against a student and/or teacher.
The mere presence of security cameras have been known to change human behavior for the better because people tend to behavior better towards each other when they know someone is watching or is likely to be watching. But, in those cases where something bad happens, we have the evidence to make sure justice is served, whether it’s a detention, or even requiring the involvement of law enforcement.
Each parent would be given a unique code that only that parent has and it would only give that parent access to the classroom(s) his or her child(ren) is(are) in. The parent would not be able to access classrooms that the parent does not have a child in. This keeps it private to just those connected to that particular classroom.
Financially, the cost for the closed-circuit system is nominal when compared to the typical school budget. And it’s not something that needs to be replaced every year. The bulk of the cost would be for the cameras and installation. The cost would be around $100 per classroom, or approximately $2 per child. The typical classroom spends more than that on pencils per years!
The Bible and Public School
Christianity and The Bible played a fundamental role in United States education until the early 1900s. It was part of the fabric of education, childhood, adult life, and government. Before we dive into the arguments for and against the Bible being taught in public schools, let’s look at the numbers.
The vast majority of Americans claim to be Christian. How big of a majority do Christians have in the United States? According to PBS, it’s nearly 70%, in September 2017.
According to The Pew Research Center, 46% of Americans are some form Protestant, 21% are Catholic, 2% are Mormon, and 2% are Other Christian. This comes to 71% of Americans. However, there are two other groups to add in with the Christians. The Old Testament of the Christian Bible is part of the sacred texts for Jewish people, who make up 2% of the American population.
The other religion that is very closely aligned with Christianity is Islam. Islam has more than one sacred text and significant portions of the Bible, namely the first Five books of the Old Testament and the first Four books of the New Testament. Therefore, study of the Bible, or at least portions of the Bible are common among the three major religions in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims make up 1% of Americans. When you add this to the Christians and Jews, you have 74% of Americans belong to a religion that hold the Bible, or parts of the Bible, as being part of their sacred texts.
With this overwhelming majority of Americans viewing the Bible as sacred, why can’t we teach it in public schools? Teaching the Bible does not establish a national religion because The Bible encompasses three different religions. And there are variations within each of those religions.
Also, I find it odd that with 74% of Americans believing in the Bible, or part of it, that parents who want some kind of religious education are forced to have to pay for private education. Instead, it should be the other way around. Since the majority of Americans belong to one of those three faiths, then teaching the Bible in public school would be in line with the majority of students. However, if a parent does not want his or her child to receive a Biblical education, that parent should be the one to pay for private, secular education. Public school should provide the most benefit to the vast majority of American families, not cater to the minority voices in the American landscape.
“Separation of Church and State”
Now, we can certainly get into a “separation of church and state” debate, but that would be futile, not for the 74% of Bible believing Americans, but for the secularists. Teaching the Bible does not establish a national religion, because of its uniformity among three very different religions. To determine if America is establishing a national religion, you have to define which religion it is “establishing”. With three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) being represented by the study of the Bible (or parts thereof), no one can definitively claim the “establishment” of any one of those three.
Although the phrase “separation of church and state” is part of the modern American lexicon, it is NOT a phrase in the United States Constitution. However, the United States Constitution does state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” in the First Amendment. Most people get hung up by the “establishment of religion” part and forget about the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” part. Congress is NOT allowed to prohibit the expression of religion. Therefore, Congress cannot suppress religion from the public arena.
Additionally, it is easy to dispute the argument that teaching the Bible is public school is forcing religion on the students. It astounds me that more people are not disputing this! As science has gotten better at conducting more sensitive experiments and people have been able to conduct more and more archeological research, the Bible is being proven right on historical accounts and science. An interesting read is “101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge” . Even if you dispute the authenticity of the Bible, no one can dispute that the Bible is one of the greatest literary works ever created.
The Bible as Great Literature
If we are teaching fictional stories such as “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Catcher in the Rye”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Wuthering Heights”, “Moby-Dick”, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”, “Charlotte’s Web”, and much more, why would we not teach the greatest literature work of all time – the Bible. The Bible has every aspect of great literature. Even if you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of a single Creator, you cannot dispute the beauty in its poetry and songs, the lessons in the various parables, the manual for peaceful personal relationships, the great adventures described, and even the great miracles which are detailed in the Bible. We let children read about talking pigs and wizard schools, but go bonkers at the mere mention that there may have been a great flood that covered the whole Earth.
Even the most aggressive atheist has to admit that the quality of literature contained in the Bible is remarkable; rivaling any other great work of fiction. So, either you believe, as 74% of Americans believe, that the Bible is divinely inspired by our Creator, or you believe that it is one of the greatest works of fiction. Either way, it has great value in the classroom.
Morality and Life Lessons
Even if you do not believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, you cannot dispute that the Bible is a great guide to human life. It provides us with the greatest rules for moral and peaceful living. It talks about how to live, how to conduct business, how courts should function, how men and women should treat each other with respect, how parents and children should treat each other, how to keep our bodies healthy, and so much more.
We often say that babies do not come with instruction manuals. But, the Bible makes a great instruction manual for peaceful human life. It is in the Bible that we were first introduced to the concepts of freedom, liberty, and justice. Many of our laws come directly from the Bible. In Proverbs 22:22, we are told, “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court.” This sounds a lot like our Miranda Warnings that are given during an arrest (“You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you.”). That is only one tiny example of our laws mimicking the Bible’s laws and rules. There are so many more.
We want our children to respect authority. The Bible is full of lessons that teach that. However, respecting authority does not mean always obeying without question. Obviously, there are limits to obeying authority. But, we must always respect authority. That may seem like an oxymoron, but it is not. Respect does not mean obey. I can respect my parents’ opinion, even if I decide not to take their advice or direction. You may disagree with my opinion, but as long as you allow me to voice that opinion and you speak to me calmly, you are respecting me. The Bible teaches respect for others and how we can show respect to others. Conflict arises when respect is lost. The Bible shows us how to respect each other and live together peacefully.
Teaching the Bible in public schools has a great value to society. With a super majority of Americans believing that the Bible is Divinely inspired by our Creator, coupled with the fact that the Bible is a collection of great literature, and the lessons it contains for morality and peaceful coexistence with our fellow humans, it is nearly impossible to dispute the value the Bible has in society and in the hearts and minds of our children. Our children need this guiding tool to help them navigate this world, which is often fraught with complications and confusion. The basic principles taught throughout the Bible are the best guidance, for human life, ever written. We would be remiss to deny our children this great book in the course of their education.
 Public Broadcasting Station (PBS), Zoll, Rachel (Associated Pres), White Christians Are Now a Minority of the U.S. Population, Survey Says, September 6, 2017, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/white-christians-now-minority-u-s-population-survey-says, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Pew Research Center, Alper, Becka & Sandstrom, Aleksandra, If the U.S. had 100 People: Charting Americans’ Religious Affiliations, November 14, 2016, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/14/if-the-u-s-had-100-people-charting-americans-religious-affiliations/, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 The International Bible Society, Do Jews and Christians Have the Same Religion?, https://www.biblica.com/resources/bible-faqs/do-jews-and-christians-basically-have-the-same-religion/, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Talk to Islam, Do Muslims Believe in the Bible?, http://talktoislam.com/39/do-muslims-believe-in-the-bible, retrieved May 5, 2018.
 Eternal Productions, 101 Scientific Facts & Foreknowledge, http://www.eternal-productions.org/101science.html, citing multiple sources including John Hopkins Institute and Pacific Health Center, retrieved May 6, 2018.
There are many different ideas on how to maintain a healthy diet. After consulting many of the leading research out there, I am convinced that we need to rethink how we view food. A number of the past nutritional guidelines have proven to be detrimental. For instance, I was raised with the “food Pyramid” that looked like this:
As you can see, this shows that the bulk of our nutrition should come from the “Bread, Cereal, Rice, & Pasta Group”. We now know that this group is loaded with carbohydrates. Although carbohydrates give us energy, it can be detrimental if we do not burn off that energy. If you are working a labor intensive job, like construction or farming, this would be great. But, as we have moved to a more service-centered nation, we are spending more time at desks and less time doing labor intensive tasks. This leads to weight gain and obesity, which has become an epidemic in our nation.
This model was also based on 3 large meals a day. Diseases, like diabetes, are on the rise and affect a growing number of Americans each year. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes “kills more Americans each year than AIDS and breast cancer combined” (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/infographics/fcf-001-the-diabetes-epidemic.html, retrieved 5/23/2018). The statistics are astounding! The latest data is from 2015. Here are just a few quotes from the American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/, retrieved 5/23/2018):
- “In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes.”
- “5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year.”
- “In 2015, 84.1 million Americans age 18 and older had ”
“The rates of diagnosed diabetes in adults by race / ethnic background are:
- 4% of non-Hispanic whites
- 0% of Asian Americans
- 1% of Hispanics
- 7% of non-Hispanic blacks
- 1% of American Indians/Alaskan Natives”
These numbers are almost identical to the 2016 statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC states “More than 29 million Americans are living with diabetes, and 86 million are living with prediabetes, a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.” (https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm, retrieved 5/23/2018).
The scariest part of this epidemic is that the CDC claims that “without major changes, as many as 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes by 2050.” (CDC, Number of Americans with Diabetes Projected to Double or Triple by 2050, https://www.cdc.gov/media/pressrel/2010/r101022.html, retrieved 1/26/2019). As if the complications of diabetes weren’t enough, there are the financial costs. “Care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for 1 in 4 health care dollars in the U.S.” (US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, American Diabetes Association, Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29567642, retrieved 1/26/2019). That is way too much time, energy, money, and especially emotional cost for a disease that can be prevented.
These are staggering number by anyone’s standards, especially when we know that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through diet and exercise. As a person with a number of diabetics in my family, I have spoken with a number of nutritionists and medical professionals. Every one of them has advised eating 6 smaller meals each day, about every 3 hours. This has been explained to me as a way to maintain glycemic levels at a more constant level throughout the day to prevent sharp increases following a large meal, then followed by a sharp crash hours after that meal.
If adults with diabetes should eat 6 small meals a day, shouldn’t we teach that to our children? Maybe we can stop the spread of this epidemic of diabetes into our next generation. Wouldn’t it be nice if our children grew up without the threat of diabetes, heart disease, blindness, and amputations? Wouldn’t it be great if our children could benefit from our current knowledge of this disease and they did not have to tackle this epidemic?
That is why I believe that we change tomorrow by changing what we teach children about health and nutrition today. This needs to start in kindergarten. It would make meal times simpler to deal with.
According to my plan for an overhaul of our primary and secondary education system, detailed in Educating For Success, our schools would typically be open from 6am to 8pm. Meals would start at 8am and a typical school day would have meals at 8am, 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm, and 6pm. The children would not be there for that entire time. But the child would get at least 3 – 4 meals during the time he or she is in school for that day.
Many would say that this would be extremely expensive. On the contrary, it would be very economical because of the manner in which these “meals” would occur. We have to rethink what constitutes a “meal”. A meal does not need to be an entrée, 3 sides, and milk. A meal can be ½ cup of yogurt and 1 TBSP of granola. Take a typical school lunch menu for one day. They may provide cold cereal, graham crackers, craisins, juice, and milk for the breakfast and chicken nuggets, potato rounds, baked beans, juice, 2 condiments, and milk for lunch. Let’s divide these same items up and provide them throughout the day. It would look like this:
8am cold cereal and milk
10 am graham crackers and juice
Noon chicken nuggets and potato rounds, with milk
2pm baked beans and juice
4pm craisins and water
6pm chicken nuggets and potato rounds, with milk
We will not be starving our children for 4 hours, then feed them a big meal that will make them sleepy during the afternoon classes. Instead we will be providing smaller amounts of nutritious food to stave off hunger, yet not stuff our children into sleepy zombie mode. Yeah, laugh at the “sleepy zombie mode”, but you know exactly what I am talking about. When you eat so much that you just want a nap and have problems concentrating because you are so sleepy.
We can provide smaller nuggets of nutrition more often throughout the day, teaching our children that “meals” are not meant to be feasts, but are designed to fuel us for the following 2 – 3 hours. This is an incredibly healthy routine to get our children into. Even when they move from school into the workplace, they will be able to continue this practice because most jobs allow employees to have a snack at their desks. Remember these are not time consuming “meals”. These are quick and easy refueling moments.
In the new and improved Every Child Succeeds classroom, this works out even better. As I described in that plan, there would be approximately 50 – 60 students per double-sized classroom, with approximately 3 supervisors (teachers). However, the students are there during different, flexible times and the supervisors have staggered shifts. About 5 minutes before the “meal” time, a supervisor assigns 2 students to go to the kitchen to get the “meal” and dishes. The two students come back with a cart that has bowls, spoons, glasses, industrial sized containers of cereal, an industrial size milk dispenser, and a tub for the “served, but uneaten” leftovers.
The children would line up, grab a bowl, dispense one serving of cereal, grab a spoon, and get one glass (filled with milk by the supervisor), and head back to his or her seat. After about 10 minutes after the last child sat down, the supervisor advises the students to bring their dishes back to the center table, where the supervisors and older students take the dishes and stack them in the “dirty” bins. Then 2 students are chosen to return the cart(s) back to the kitchen.
The process would repeat about 2 hours later, except there would be 2 different student helpers and they would be bringing small plates, glasses, graham crackers, a juice dispenser, and a tub for “dirty dishes”. In a class of 60 students, 6 meals per day (30 per week), each student would be a helper to get the meal cart and to return the meal cart at least once a week. Remembering how things were when I was in school, the students would be excited to be honored with this type of chore because they get to see the “magic” of the kitchen, receive “please” and “thank you” pleasantries from their peers, and be able to contribute to the school community. Children typically love helping, as long as we give them the opportunity to prove they are no longer babies.
These Healthy Children meals teach our children healthier eating habits and remind them that mealtime is a time to commune with those around you, to serve and be served, to exchange pleasantries, and promote community cohesiveness. By working together to clean up, we teach them that we all win when we take turns serving each other, rather than serving only ourselves.
Healthy Children meals teach our children about proper portion size, diversity in meals, and community service. Not only would we be using meal times to provide nutrition for their bodies, but also nutrition for their minds, hearts, and souls.
Educating for Success
We all know the plethora of arguments regarding education in the United States. Whether we are debating curriculum, teacher salaries, teacher quality, school safety, gun violence, school lunches, extracurricular activities, or some other issue, we all agree on one thing – our education system is broken and millions of children are being left behind.
We need to fix this broken system. But how can we fix it? I have stumbled upon one of the greatest secrets to great education. Let me explain my story. When my oldest child was 3 years, 6 months old, I took her to be tested for Preschool. This was in March. The results of the testing were that she was “ready for kindergarten”. I was a little proud of my smart little girl. So, I asked the next natural question, “When are the registration dates to get her enrolled for kindergarten this fall?” The answer floored me! I was told that she could not enroll in kindergarten until the fall of the FOLLOWING year. The reason was because she would only be 4 years old that fall and she can’t start kindergarten until she is five years old.
How stupid was that?! I was not going to let my child remain stagnant for 18 months. I got a homeschool preschool curriculum and began homeschooling my daughter. Since we were living on one income, the cost of the curriculum became too expensive when we were ready for kindergarten, so I built my own curriculum using workbooks and textbooks.
That worked fine for a couple of years, but as my oldest was racing towards third grade, I started looking for more textbooks for her grade level. That’s when I stumbled across a curriculum that completely changed the way I viewed education and the role of the teacher.
It was from a company called A.C.E. (Accelerated Christian Education). Yes, it was a Christian-based education, but it utilized a completely different model of education, one that could be used even with a secular education. You have seven subjects: Math, English, Literature & Creative Writing, Word Building (spelling and vocabulary), Science, Social Studies, and Bible Reading. Each subject is divided up into 12 mini books, called PACEs (Packet of Accelerated Christian Education).
To understand how it works, let’s take one subject, such as Science, and one grade level, such as second grade. Those Science PACEs would be numbered 1013 – 1024. The Science 1013 would have approximately 40 pages. The student begins the PACE on page 1, which has goals listed, as well as some reference material (phonetic list, memory verse, etc.). On page 2, the student is introduced to new words. The next page will be material that the child reads, followed by questions regarding the material he or she just read. This is repeated through the PACE – read, answer questions, read, answer questions, and so on. After about eight pages, there is a “checkup” that serves as a review.
Periodically (every 1 – 5 pages), there is a reminder to “score” the pages you have completed. “Scoring” means grading the work. The child takes the PACE to the “scoring” section of the room, finds the appropriate score key and checks his or her work. The incorrect answers are marked wrong. Then the child goes back to his or her seat and reworks the incorrect questions or problems, then scores the material again. The child is not done with the assignment in that subject for that day until the assigned pages are all correct. This provides the child with the reinforcement needed on questions or problems that he or she initially found difficult.
After the last “checkup”, there is a Self-Test that covers all of the material in that particular PACE. Prior to taking the Self-Test, the student is encouraged to review the “check-ups” throughout the book (often 3 “check-ups”) before taking the Self-Test. It is NOT an open book test, but the child must get at least an 90% on the Self-Test to be able to take the TEST. The Self-Test must be corrected and studied prior to taking the TEST. The final TEST for that PACE is NOT open book and it is NOT timed. We are more concerned with doing things correctly than with racing through the task. There will be plenty of time later in life to develop speediness. During childhood, it is better to emphasize doing the task correctly.
There are two possible outcomes with the TEST. If the child does NOT score at least 80% or higher, the child will repeat that PACE (Science 1013), which is only the equivalent of two or three weeks of work. This is repeated until the child achieves at least an 80% on the TEST for that PACE. Once the child gets 80% or higher on Science 1013, the child moves on to Science 1014, and the process is repeated. However, only the passing grade is recorded. The previous attempts merely constitute as “practice”.
The beauty of this is that the child advances ONLY when he or she has mastered the previous material. The child is not pushed on to the next “grade” before he or she is ready. Another beautiful aspect is that the child can advance more quickly in subjects that he or she excels in, but take extra time in the subjects he or she struggles with. So, a child may be in Science 1030, Math 1034, English 1028, Literature & Creative Writing 1027, Social Studies 1033, and so on. This allows for individualized advancement through the subjects, based on each child’s individual abilities.
By utilizing the A.C.E. education model, we can provide every student in the United States with individualized curriculum and make it virtually impossible for a child to “flunk” or “get held back”. Under this model, the student progresses at his or her own pace, rather than advancing or not advancing as a group (class).
The Role of the Teacher
This education method has the child studying on his or her own, learning on his or her own, and taking ownership of his or her education. The “teacher” is not really teaching, but rather a facilitator, or supervisor. The teacher is there to answer questions when the student is having difficulty finding the answer. However, the teacher still does not help the student with the answer, even when the child is struggling. Instead the teacher first asks the student if he or she read the material on that page or the previous page (whichever is relevant), asks the student if he or she read the question fully, reminds the student to look for key words or phrases from the question, and then looking for those key words in the reading material. The teacher is not helping, but rather guiding the student on how to locate the answer. This builds independence and the ability to research to find answers.
This is a skill that the student will need throughout life. We are doing our students a severe disservice when we spoon-feed information to them. The best key we can give our children is the ability to seek out answers, where to look, how to research, etc. We need to give the gift of independence. After all, the goal of raising children and teaching children is for those children to be strong, intelligent, capable adults one day.
Another great benefit to this model of education is the “goal card”. In first grade, the child is taught how to set goals on his or her goal card. The child will assign his or her own goals, with the supervisor at first. As the child completes the Science pages for that day, the child crosses off the Science goal for that day and sets a new goal for Science for the next day. Again, this teaches the child about goal setting, planning, completing tasks, and accountability. A child on this program will have a lot more confidence in his or her ability to tackle large tasks later in life. He or she will know how to take a large task and divide it up into small, bite-size tasks, then tackle each small task until the whole job is completed.
Now, I did state that this particular curriculum could be used to develop a secular program based on this same model; however, I do not think that needs to be done. I have come to this conclusion for a variety of reasons. First, why reinvent the wheel when there is a perfectly fabulous program already available. Second, Christianity and The Bible played a fundamental role in United States education until the early 1900s. I know the argument of separation of church and state, and that argument can be easily refuted, which I do in my article, “The Bible and Public School”. Here, we are discussing this “model”, not the subject matter.
However, if a school district wants to make sure a secular option is available via the public school system, which can also be arranged. All we need to do is make a duplicate curriculum, but without the Biblical aspects of the A.C.E. Curriculum and replace the Biblical Memory Verses with Famous Quotes for the children to learn. Both the Biblical curriculum and the Secular curriculum can be taught in the same classroom since the children are working independently. The supervisors would just have to make sure that each student receives the correct curriculum type (Biblical or Secular), subject (i.e., Math), and level (i.e., 1042) when the student is ready to move on in a subject.
This allows for the parents to decide what type of education their children will receive without having to incur a higher financial cost simply because the parent made a choice that is different than his or her neighbor. This will also make it possible for families of modest means (poor and middle-class) to provide their children with a Biblical education, if they want. Under the current system, these parents do not have that option because they are limited to secular public schools only because they lack the funds to give their children a private, Biblical education. This system allows parents to decide between Biblical-based education and secular education, regardless of the class status or income of the parents.
With this model, we can implement additional measures that greatly benefit the students, teachers, and parents. The students would enter the public school system whenever they are ready based on a simple skill set. Before a child can enter the public school system, the child should be potty-trained and be able to recognize 1) primary and secondary colors (red, yellow, blue, green, orange, and purple), as well as black and white, 2) basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, rectangle, star, oval, heart, and diamond), 3) all 26 letters, and 4) the numbers 0 through 9. Some children will be ready to start kindergarten at age three, others may not be ready until age 6 or 7. That’s okay. Children develop at different rates.
The teacher to student ratio would be very low at this stage as it requires much more hands on learning and individual teaching. But by the time the student finishes First Grade, the child is ready for independent study, with the “teacher” acting only as a facilitator or supervisor.
Most children can complete their PACE goals for the day in about 2 – 4 hours. This leaves plenty of time left in the school day for Physical Education, Music, Art, Lunch, Snacks, Recess, Life Skills, and even extracurricular activities.
Instead of softball practice occurring after school, it can be incorporated into the school day. This alleviates the pressures on the student and parents to rush the kids from school to practice. The family unit will have their late afternoons and evenings back. This provides families with more time to spend together, creating those strong familial bonds that we need. It also allows the children the time they need in the late afternoon and evening to play, relax, and enjoy their childhoods.
We often discount play time as a luxury. In the development of a child, it is so much more than that. A child that is spending that play time engrossed in dolls, Barbie’s, playing house, playing doctor, playing with cars and trucks, or simply reading are engaging a part of their brain that activates creativity. We want our children to be creative and grow into creative adults. Advancements in technology and science can only happen when someone dares to dream of something that has not been accomplished, and then follows through with making that dream solution into a reality. To grow as a society, we need creative adults inventing new technologies and making new discoveries in all fields (science, engineering, technology, medicine, philosophy, mathematics, etc.).
When we load up our children’s days with school and extracurricular activities, we limit the time they have to develop their creative minds. In turn, this stunts their growth. We need to give our children their childhood back. Allow for them to have the time and space to use their imaginations. Simply put, let the kids have time to play!
This model also allows for “Life Skills” training to prepare the children for independent life. This could be teaching housekeeping skills (washing dishes, doing laundry, sweeping floors, mopping floors, washing windows, cooking, etc.), financial skills (banking, loans, mortgage, insurance, budgeting, planning, retirement, comparing prices, saving, charitable giving, etc.), interpersonal relationship skills (identifying healthy and unhealthy relationships, dating, marriage, parenting skills, conflict resolution, the art of compromising, the art of effective communication, etc.), woodshop, auto shop, and so on. Of course all of these Life Skills would be offered at age-appropriate levels. Children at the lower “grades” would learn more about housekeeping. But as they get to ages 12 – 14, they start learning about child rearing, dating, retirement, mortgages, woodshop, auto shop, etc.
Wouldn’t it be great if our children graduated from 12th grade with all the skills needed to be independent? Wouldn’t it be great if our children all entered adulthood with the confidence that they can support themselves and take care of themselves? They should know how to set a budget, sew a button back on an item of clothing, make a meal for themselves or a group, keep their homes clean, have healthy relationships, create a resume and cover letter, be professional at work, and have a sense of civic duty to their community. Remember, we are not merely tending to children, but rather raising the adults of tomorrow. We cannot shelter them for 18 – 25 years then release them into the world unprepared. We need to start preparing them at young ages and gradually introduce age-appropriate life skills so they can succeed as adults.
Even at the lower grade levels, the children can learn life skills and how to contribute to the community by starting with the school community. Each classroom can have a couple students assist in the school’s kitchen with minor tasks, including assisting with gathering the dishes needed for their classroom for the “meal”. When the food is ready, the students assist with transporting the food to their classroom via carts. Older students can assist younger students, all with adult supervision. Then after the meal time, a couple other students take the garbage, dishes, and leftover food back to the school’s kitchen. The older students may even be able to help prepare the dishes to be washed or assist with the disposal of the garbage.
At the end of the day, the students can assist with sweeping the classroom floor, cleaning their desks and chairs, wiping windows, or helping the supervisor inventory the supplies to see what supplies need to be ordered. All of these tasks give the children a sense of community and a sense of pride in helping each other.
Early Diagnosis of Problems
My suggestion is that the students stay with the same supervisor/facilitator throughout grades 2 – 12, unless a change is warranted. This gives the supervisor more time with his or her students, allowing them to get to know the students much better. This allows the supervisor to be able to pick up on changes in behavior and performance a lot more quickly and be able to get the child the resources that the child may need.
Imagine a child who is usually very focused and is usually the first one done with his work and is suddenly being the last one done. The supervisor can sit down with the child and see what is going on. Since the student has been with the same supervisor for the past two or three years, the student has come to trust the supervisor and will be much more willing to open up. Whether the problems stems from troubles at home, with peers, abuse, or a physical problem (such as poor eyesight), it can be identified much more quickly and the child could be referred to the proper school, medical, or community resources long before the issue becomes a big problem.
The goal of the supervisor is to guide the student in his or her learning process and to watch out for signs that the child is struggling. This allows the supervisor to refer the student to special services that the child may need. The end goal is that every child is supported and encouraged in the journey of learning. Weaknesses are identified rapidly and resolved before they escalate into big problems.
School Violence & Safety
One thing that is plaguing our schools in the 21st Century is school violence. This model of education aids in solving that problem in a number of ways. We can identify children with problems earlier (mentioned above) and we can prepare the classroom of tomorrow so that the children are always safe from an active shooter.
Since the children will be studying all of their subjects in one classroom, there would be less movement of the children from one classroom to another. This cuts down the traffic in the hallways. The classrooms can also the locked during the time that the students are working on their PACES. With the classroom doors locked, an active shooter would be limited in the number of students he or she could access during a shooting spree.
Although I do support teachers being armed, I do believe that it should be limited. With this model of education, we can easily have 3 supervisors in a large classroom of 50 – 60 students. Only one of the supervisors would be need to be licensed for a firearm. However, the other 2 would not need to be licensed. The supervisor with firearms training would not even need to have a firearm on him or her, especially with the classroom door locked. There would be a biometric safe in the classroom, with a firearm and ammo in it. That supervisor’s handprint would be required to open the biometric safe. He or she would be the only one in that classroom that could access the firearm.
If there is an active shooter situation, the firearms licensed supervisor accesses the firearm, loads it, and positions him or herself between the door and the rest of the class. The other two supervisors would corral the students to one side of the classroom and keep the students calm. If the shooter does breach the classroom door, the supervisor with the gun shoots to disarm the shooter, or kill, if needed. Either way, that teacher has the means, training, and will to protect the students.
The reason I think it should be only one supervisor per classroom that is trained is simple. In the heat of the moment, we need a clear distinction who is to guard the door and who corrals and calms the students. We do not need chaos to ensue. This gives an orderly process to the situation.
This helps with the argument that is currently raging about whether teachers should be armed. This allows for the teachers to be unarmed, yet have the access needed if, and when, a situation was to arise. The students would not even be aware which teacher is trained in firearms, nor would they be aware of the location of the biometric safe. All of this, coupled with the locked classroom, allows for the children to safely get an individualized education, have their individual issues identified early and dealt with before they become problems that hinder the child’s education, and provides for the protection of the children in an active shooter situation.
Year Around Education and Attendance
One of the best benefits of this program is that the children do not miss anything when they are sick and unable to attend school. If a child gets the flu and is out of school for a week, that child just picks up where he or she left off in his or her PACEs. The child does not miss lectures or lessons. He or she does not fall behind just because he or she was not at school.
With this program, we can have school all year, with a full week off for holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day and New Year’s. However, the children would be able to have 20 – 25 personal days per calendar year. This allows the families to be able to take vacations whenever they want, not just during the summer months. It does not matter when the child takes time off school; he or she will not miss anything (other than extracurricular activities).
When children have a large break, like three months for summer vacation, they tend to regress a little when they return to school in the fall. Most teachers spend the first month of the new school year reviewing and repeating what had been taught at the end of the previous year. By having school all year, with shorter breaks throughout the year, the students will not regress as much and they will not have to waste a month repeating old material.
This will provide a better school / life / family balance for the students and also better prepare them for the type of schedule they can expect in the workplace later in life. This provides continuity throughout the year, where every child keeps moving forward.
Expanded School Hours
School districts would have to see what works best in their own district, but in general, most schools would be open from 6:00am to 8:00pm. Now, this does not mean the students will be there that whole time. That would be the availability of the school. This means that the parents can have some control over when their children will attend school.
Each classroom would have approximately 50 – 60 students, with 3 supervisors. One supervisor may work 6:00am to 2:00pm. A second supervisor may work 9:00am to 5:00pm. A third supervisor may work noon to 8:00pm. Obviously during the majority of the day (9am – 5pm), there would be at least two supervisors in the room, with all three there during the busiest time of day (noon -2pm). Since the students are working independently, with minimal direction from a supervisor, the student can attend at a time that is best suited for that student and his or her family.
This works out great for working parents who have work schedules that conflict with traditional school hours. Plus, it answers the questions “what do I do with my kids during the summer months?”, “Who can I get to pick up my kids from school at 3pm and babysit until I get home at 5pm?”, and so many more. However, this wouldn’t be a “drop-in” system. The parents and supervisors must have a set schedule for the student.
As an example, let’s take a single mom who works as a waitress. She does not have a set schedule, but she often knows her schedule in advance. So, as soon as she gets her schedule, she informs her child’s supervisor of the upcoming schedule. If the school is 15 minutes from her job, she would want to drop her kid off 30 minutes before. So, her kid’s schedule may be Monday 10am – 5pm, Tuesday 10am – 4pm, Wednesday noon – 8pm, Thursday 9am – 5pm, and Friday 11am – 7pm. That child would spend a total of 37 hours at school and no time with a babysitter. The child will be getting the individualized education he or she needs and the parent gets the flexibility she needs.
This also provides greater flexibility for the teachers/supervisors. The teachers who are early birds can supervise children earlier in the day, yet have their afternoons and evenings to themselves. The “normal business hours” teachers/supervisors get to have their “normal” schedule. The teachers/supervisors get to have their relaxed mornings and work during their prime cognitive hours. And the best part for the teachers/supervisors is that they do not have to create or write lesson plans or grade homework after they leave the school for the day. They won’t have much, if any, outside work to do. It relieves a lot of pressure from the teachers and parents.
So, when will the children complete high school and graduate? That depends on the child. Some children may complete high school around age 13 or 14, others may not graduate until age 18 or 20. Regardless of when the child graduates, the child will be prepared for college or for entering the workforce, with the necessary skills to succeed at either. More advanced children could even take college preparatory classes that could be transferred to college, allowing the students to gain college credits while still in school with their peers.
We have the ability to provide an individualized education for each and every American child. We can advance the children based on their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. We can let our children race through “easy” subjects, while taking extra time on the subjects more challenging for that child. We can provide a system where no child “flunks” or is a “failure”, but where every child succeeds (just at different rates of success).
We can ease the burdens on teachers and parents, while giving children their childhood back, allowing them to sprout wings of creativity. We can provide them with real life skills, giving them the confidence to enter the “real” world with all the tools for success.
With this model, we will be shaping our children into the strong, independent, intelligent, loving, compassionate, creative, and courageous leaders of tomorrow. Isn’t that the future we all want for our children?
Diagnosis of Public Schools
In the state of Illinois, only 37% of our students are meeting or exceeding expectations in English, 34% in math, and 51% in science. Yet, we graduate over 85% of our students. That means we are graduating students that are not even meeting expectations in English and math, the two most integral subjects that will be needed in adult life. This is completely unacceptable.
With IEPs (Individual Education Plans), formerly known as special education, at 14% and chronic absenteeism (defined as missing more than 10% of school days) at 17%, we have a lot of problems that simply are not being addressed under our current system. The results are horrendous. But, what are the root causes of these problems? Before we define those problems, let’s take a look at how Illinois’ 2nd Congressional district measures up. Let’s break it down by the various areas of the district.
Illinois’ 2nd Congressional District:
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 29.1% in English, 27.5% in Math, and 42.1% in science. Yet, 93% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 92.1% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 16.2% of students and 14.1% of our students have IEPs.
Will County (Beecher, Crete, Monee, (parts of) Park Forest, Peotone, and (parts of) Steger):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 34.4% in English, 22.1% in Math, and 40.8% in Science. Yet, 86.4% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 90.3% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 19.3% of students and 15.4% of our students have IEPs.
Cook County South Suburbs (Burnham, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Country Club Hills, Dixmoor, Dolton, East Hazel Crest, Flossmoor, Ford Heights, Glenwood, Harvey, Hazel Crest, Homewood, Lansing, Lynwood, Markham, Matteson, Olympia Fields, (parts of) Park Forest, Phoenix, Richton Park, Riverdale, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, South Holland, (parts of) Steger, Thornton, and University Park):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 22.4% in English, 15.5% in Math, and 31.9% in Science. Yet, 74.8% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 85.9% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 19.5% of students and 12.5% of our students have IEPs.
Chicago’s Southern Neighborhoods (Avalon Park, East Side, Hegewisch, (parts of) Hyde Park, Jeffrey Manor, Calumet Heights, Pill Hill, Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland, South Chicago, South Deering, South Shore, West Pullman, and Woodlawn):
The amount of students meeting or exceeding expectations are: 16.3% in English, 11.1% in Math, and 28.4% in Science. Yet, 81.6% of 9th graders are supposedly “on track” and 80.3% graduate. Chronic absenteeism plagues 24.5% of students and 14.1% of our students have IEPs.
Needless to say, each section of this Congressional district is below the state averages. However, there are a few exceptional schools within our district. But, overall the news is not good. These numbers tell me that something is wrong on a massive scale. It’s widespread. It’s not a failure of the teachers. It’s not a failure of the students. It’s not a failure of the parents. These numbers are indicative of a system-wide failure. Due to the lack of positive leadership from our political and government leaders, we have ignored the education system, causing it to crumble and fail our precious children.
Issues Contributing to the Problem
8am – 3pm
Everything about the “school day” ensures that children fall through the cracks. For the most part, nearly every school system in the United States operates from approximately 8am to 3pm, Monday through Friday, for 9 months of the year. As many parents can attest to, the brains of children and teens are often not “awake” at 8am. Our children have very different biorhythms (cycles of alertness and sleepiness). Yet, we educate all of them as if they are all the same. They are not. We need our public schools to be as flexible as our children are diverse. Children deserve a chance to succeed, but if the child’s brain is foggy for half the school day, that child is going to struggle, trying to force his or her brain to “think” when it’s foggy and groggy.
Often, the child’s school schedule conflicts with the parents’ work schedule. The 9a – 5p, weekday schedule was the overwhelming norm and standard for the 20th Century, but the typical schedule of the 21st Century family in the United States is not as standardized. We live in a 24/7 world now. Work schedules are much more diverse. Yet, school schedules have not kept up with this changing culture. The single mother is the one most affected by this conflict. If she does not have family or friends to help, she is in a constant state of trying to figure out how to balance her work schedule with her child’s school schedule, with both of those schedules being very inflexible. It’s extremely burdensome for our single parents who are already struggling in other areas. We don’t need to add to their burdens.
Months: 9 on, 3 off
There were significant reasons to operate a school with the three months off for summer. It was because children from farming families weren’t in school during the summer months when they were needed on the farm. But, times have changed. The vast majority of students do not live on farms and farming technology has made it possible to run a farm without as much help from children.
Even though there is no need for this schedule, its continued use is very detrimental to our children. When children have a lengthy time away from school, they regress in their knowledge. Most teachers see this at the beginning of the school year, when they have to spend time reviewing concepts that were already covered in the last month or two of the previous school year. Basically, our children take 5 steps forward and one step back each and every year. The time, spent re-learning forgotten concepts, is time wasted. We need a system where the children are constantly moving in a forward direction, without regression.
Missed days = missed lessons
The high rate of chronic absenteeism means that our children are missing a lot of lessons and instruction. This puts these children at a disadvantage when they are in school. How can a child learn division if he or she missed a lot of school when the class was learning their multiplication tables? Missing those key building blocks makes it impossible for the child to move on to more difficult topics. Often, the onus is on the child to meet with the teacher or get additional tutoring to get that missed instruction.
We need a system where the student is not reliant on lessons from the teacher, but can learn on his or her own, with guidance (if needed) by the teacher. Our children should be able to take a day or two off of school for illness and be able to pick up where he or she left off before the illness, so that he or she has not missed anything important.
Advancement As a Group
Under our current educational system, the teacher dictates when to move on to a new topic in the course. The class moves on as a group, regardless of whether the students are ready. Most teachers do not move on until most of the students have grasped the previous concepts, but there are usually a couple students who are not ready to move on. Additionally, there are often a couple students who caught on to the previous topic the first time it was explained. These students are at risk of becoming bored while they wait for the rest of the class to catch up. So, most classes have some students who are bored and some who are confused and lost, yet the class moves on as a group.
Each student is an individual and this group mentality of moving from topic to topic as an entire class completely ignores the various rates at which our children learn and grasp various concepts. It’s not the teacher’s fault. The teacher has to do what is in the best interests of the majority of his or her class. But, it inadvertently provides openings for some children to fall through the cracks.
Fixed Time Per Subject
Most schools have a time schedule to which the teachers must adhere. In the lower grades, this tends to be more flexible. But in middle school and high school, it is a lot stricter. Remember when you had “hours” or “periods” throughout the day. First hour was English, second Math, third P.E., and so on. This type of schedule usually only affords 40 – 60 minutes per subject. The typical student has subjects in which he or she is really good and subjects in which he or she struggles. Yet, the student is given is same amount of time in every subject.
One student may need 60 minutes in Math, but only 20 minutes in English to learn the new concepts and do the assignments. Another student may excel in Math and only need 20 minutes in Math, but struggles in English and needs 60 minutes in English in order to grasp the concepts and do the assignments. Under our current educational system, both of these students are given 45 minutes in each class, causing student A to fall behind in Math and student B to fall behind in English. We need a system that can be easily adaptable and tailored to each student’s individual strengths and weaknesses, so that every child gets the time he or she needs to fully grasp each and every concept being taught.
There are many problems with the type of curriculum that we have in our public school system. First of all, education is based on age. It’s a cookie-cutter system that takes all 5 year old children, dumps them into kindergarten, and moves them along a conveyor-like system, then spits them out 13 years later, with a diploma, and says “congratulations. Now go conquer the world.” Yet, no one questions this method of education.
Teaching to a Test vs. Internalization of Knowledge
We have this idea that education is about the information you teach (input) and how the children perform on tests (output). Education is supposed to be about learning and gaining knowledge. It needs to be internalized and be capable of being remembered later, far after the test has been administered. We need to ask ourselves, what is more important, having our children perform better on a test, regurgitating disconnected facts which are forgotten minutes after the test or developing a wealth of knowledge that will better serve our children for the rest of their lives? We need a system that focuses more on the learning, ensuring that each child advances in each subject ONLY when the child has truly mastered the previous topic. This allows the child to be confident in his or her knowledge instead of lost and confused. Side note: This also builds true self-esteem and confidence.
Age-Based Education vs. Skill-Based Education
In our current educational system, everything is based on your chronological age. Yet, this method exists nowhere in the rest of society. Our work environments are not age-based. Our neighborhoods are not age-based. Marriage is not really age-based. People marry in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and so on. Why do we think that children need to be separated and grouped by age? Some children grow intellectually faster than others. Some grow at a slower rate. Some children are ready to start kindergarten at age 3. Others may not be ready until age 7.
A child’s age is not reflective of his or her intellectual maturity. It’s only a reflection of his or her time on this Earth. If we want strong, confident children, maybe we should start seeing them as unique individuals rather than a group of “cohorts” of a particular age. If we must “group” children, then maybe we should group them by skill sets, not age. After all, that’s the way the world actually works.
One area that I have seen dissolve in recent years is teaching of life skills, those skills that a person needs to live an independent life. Schools used to provide home economics, wood shop, auto shop, and much more. Although we need to be focused on Math, English, Literature, Vocabulary/Spelling, History, Science, Health, etc., we cannot ignore the basic skills of taking care of oneself. Our children will become adults one day and they need to be prepared for this transition. They will need to know how to cook, change a tire, check the oil in a vehicle, change a diaper, balance a checking account, pay bills, set up a household budget, solve problems, put together a bookcase or entertainment center, sweep a floor, and much more.
Most of these skills can be taught in a relatively short amount of time and can be grouped together in an “Adult Living” course. One area that every child should learn is finances. Our children will one day be making financial decisions and we need to make sure that they are prepared and have the knowledge to make great financial decisions. Topics need to include APR, interest, budgeting, paying bills (and the effects of late payments), FICA scores, bank account management, insurance, comparison shopping, and so forth. When educating our children, we must be focused on the end goal – to prepare our children for success when they are adults because as much as we want them to stay young forever, they WILL grow up. It’s our job to make sure they are ready when that time comes.
Lack of Religious Freedom in Public Schools
Although we often hear the phrase “Separation of church and state”, it is not in our United States Constitution. As a matter of fact, it did not really become a part of the American culture until 1947 in the United States Supreme Court case of Everson v. Board of Education. It was written by Justice Hugo Black who stated, “The First Amendment has erected ‘a wall of separation between the church and state’ … that wall must be kept high and impregnable.” (Side note: Justice Hugo Black was a Democrat and former Klansman)
The point of the First Amendment was to ensure that the state (government) stayed out of the church’s business. There is no evidence that the church was ever meant to be kept out of the state’s business. However, it has become a standard that we currently have in the United States.
Our First Amendment right to freedom of religion is seriously compromised when we have a public school system that ONLY guarantees a secular education. Every parent supposedly has a right to choose to have their children educated with a religious education. However, that right can only be exercised if the parent pays thousands of dollars per year per child to send the child to a private school or if the parent gives up a job to stay home and homeschool the child.
Most parents do not have the financial means to do either, effectively forcing them to use a secular education system, whether they agree with it or not. It’s even worse for the single parent who cannot just quit a job to homeschool. This effectively infringes on the rights of the parents to choose the method of education, secular or religious, for their children.
We need a system that allows our children to receive the type of education that the parents want, not just what the parents can afford. Religious education should not be reserved only for the wealthy. It should be available for all students. This does not mean that it should be forced on anyone. Parents should have the freedom to decide whether their children receive secular or religious education.
We need a system that protects the rights of everyone, regardless of religious affiliation or economic status. Freedom is based on options. When options are limited, freedom and liberty are destroyed. Freedom only exists in a world of options and choices. Our children deserve to have those options available to them.
Burdens on Teachers
We expect far too much from our teachers today. Not only are they trying to educate our children, but they are spending countless hours outside of the classroom grading papers, test, and assignments, but they are also preparing lesson plans, photocopying worksheets, logging grades, and so much more. As if that was not enough, they spend money out of their own pockets for supplies needed in their classroom to make up for the supplies that children from economically disadvantaged families are unable to purchase. These teachers are devoting so much of themselves to educate our children. Sadly, this devotion often goes unrecognized and unappreciated.
Teaching should not be an all-encompassing profession. Teachers need a break at the end of the day, not more work. How would YOU feel if you spent 8 – 10 hours a day with 20 children demanding your attention while refusing to give you their attention? Try to wrangle 20 or more children into their seats to learn about long division or photosynthesis. Most teachers go into the teaching profession because they truly love children, but let’s be honest, everyone has a limit. Even the most adoring, loving, compassionate, and patient parent has moments when he or she loses his or her cool.
Teaching should not be as stressful as it is today. It used to be a highly rewarding profession. Now, it has become a stressful profession, with everyone looking to blame the teacher for the students’ poor performance or behavior. Our children spend 6 or more hours a day with these heroic bastions of knowledge tirelessly trying to impart some of that knowledge into our children. Do you want your child’s teacher stressful, exhausted, and irritable? Or do you want your child’s teacher cheerful, relaxed, and calm as she guides your child on his journey of knowledge? Maybe it’s time to rethink the role of the teacher and start honoring these “everyday heroes” and “everyday heroines”.
Limited Teacher / Student Time
In the lower grades, students often spend the majority of their school day with one teacher. But as our children move into middle school, junior high, and high school, their schedules change drastically. The student moves from classroom to classroom, from teacher to teacher depending on the “hour” or “period”. These shorter periods of time with each teacher makes it much less likely that any one teacher will be able to identify a child with struggles.
Childhood is often filled with a plethora of life struggles, from changes in financial situations to changes in family structure (marriage, divorces, remarriages, changes in custody), to abuse and neglect, to the loss of a loved one (family member, friend, or pet), eyesight problems, hearing problems, learning difficulties, and so much more. During each and every change or challenge, the child’s educational needs change. Unlike adults who have already faced these types of challenges, children are usually more deeply affected but lack the vocabulary to voice their hearts and minds. Sometimes the only way to detect a child who is struggling is when there is a change in behavior and/or academic performance. Other than parents, teachers are in the BEST position to notice these changes. But when a child is only with a teacher for an hour or less per day, it takes longer for the teacher to notice changes in the child.
Limiting our children to the number of teachers they interact with each day, means our children get to spend more time with just a few teachers, building trusting relationships. The teachers get to know the nuances of each child and be better able to pick up on the slightest changes. The teacher can then get the child the proper resources to ensure that the child does not fall through the cracks.
In an age when people are more disconnected than ever, we need to give our children the connections to resourceful adults that are in positions to assist them through the difficulties of growing up. Childhood comes with many “growing pains”, but teachers, who are limited to a smaller group of students during the day, week, month, and year, are better positioned to ease these growing pains and help to make the journey of growing up a little less stressful.
Burdens on Parents
Excessive Assignments and Homework
Our children already spend an average of 7 hours per day in school. Why do they have homework? Shouldn’t the schoolwork be able to be completed during that timeframe? When school bleeds into home life, it places an additional burden on the parents and family. It also takes away family time, childhood exploration, and play time. Everyone needs a break. How would you feel if you brought work home every day after working a full day? School is “work” for children. They need their downtime just as much, if not more so, than adults.
Plus, with the burdens that modern parents already have on their plates, parents just do not have the time to devote to spending hours each night supplementing the education of their children. When the school day is over and the children return to their home, this is vital time for the children to spend bonding and reconnecting with their families. Homework disrupts this vital function of the family. Parents and children need this time for the healthy growth of the family, especially the children. Parents, especially single parents, need this time to relax with their beloved children. It keeps stress levels down, ensuring a healthy, stable family and home.
Not only does homework interrupt the already small amount of time that children have to spend with their parents each day, but extracurricular activities often destroy whatever time is left. We need an educational system that also allows for extracurricular activities to take place during the school day. This allows for the American family to have their precious evening back to relax, reconnect, and enjoy time with each other.
Although there are many, vastly different views on how to prevent school shootings, one thing is clear. We are all concerned about our children’s safety in an environment that used to be a bastion of safety and learning. We want that back. We need policies that ensure the safety of our children. But, it must be balanced so our schools do not begin to look like prisons. Schools should not need metal detectors, and armed security in order to keep our children safe. We need common-sense solutions that utilize technology, skills, and deterrence to build a shield around our schools so they will again become the safe haven they once were.
Bullying and Fights
Children, by their very nature, lack the maturity to fully comprehend the damage that bullying and fighting can inflict on others. It is up to adults to minimize the opportunities for children to bully and fight. We need to give them productive conflict resolution techniques to resist the lure of bullying.
It is obvious that our schools are failing. Between the inflexible schedules, outdated curriculum designed to pick winners and losers, additional burdens on teachers and parents, and safety concerns, many of our children are falling through the Grand Canyon-sized cracks in our system. It’s time to re-invent the way we educate our children. Our children deserve the chance to be educated for lifelong success.
 Library of Congress, Everson v. Board of Education, http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep330/usrep330001/usrep330001.pdf, accessed February 23, 2019.