As today’s world evolves toward a more progressive education system, it seems that we are struggling to catch on in the United States, and even in Maine itself.
Born in Maine, I have attended all levels of schooling here, and will complete my collegiate studies here as well at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. Though I truly believe that I was educated well enough to succeed in today’s economy, I have also observed many shortcomings in our academic structure. Test scores, graduation rates and even college attendance are all down in Maine, while other states seem to be fairing similar or worse; where do we find the root of such an issue?
Many believe that the two saving graces of modern education in America (ranked 36th worldwide) are centralization and greater funding. A trend everywhere else in modern politics, there is no surprise that those in academia would have your taxes raised and your right to educational decision making neutralized.
More money means better results, right? Wrong. In fact the United States spends most in the world on education annually and only ranks a mere fifth in college degree holders ages 25 to 64 years old, and an even less impressive 12th place among 25- to 34- year olds.
This leaves us trailing nations like South Korea, with a degree holding rate of 64% in the 25-to 34-year old demographic. In a nation of quick fixes and failed re-election promises, “pork” spending and fiscal irresponsibility go unchecked for far too long and are seemingly accepted by the masses.
Most Americans have a deep care about their children in regards to their proper education and success in life. We all want Johnny or Susie to get good marks in algebra, get a scholarship to Yale, graduate successfully and move on to get married and have our grandchildren. Many are so vicious to fight for or against vaccinations, equal playing time on the ball field and freedom to use (or not use) whichever bathroom they wish, however the fight for actual education is meager in comparison.
What education needs is not necessarily more money, more social justice, or even higher educated teaching staff; our system needs an overhaul. The issue with attempts to better fund Maine’s schools (most recently Question 2) is that they simply throw money at an issue with absolutely no plan to use it, just a plan to take it. In order to fix education, focus needs to be put back into life skills and communication, as well as economic and fiscal reality.
As it pertains to curriculum, a nationally centralized “Common Core” style education couldn’t be farther from what our children need. The youth of this country, and more specifically this state, need to have a basic understanding of common language, mathematics and history. However, a politician (or more realistically a teachers union) in New York, Washington, D.C., or California should not control the academics of a fifth grader from southern, central or northern Maine.
Community engagement is key in our schools from the food served at lunch to the history of their town’s founding.
We must redistribute funds to areas where they are more needed and are more beneficial to our students (sciences, mathematics and the arts), instead of wasting our money on programs that benefit the few or faulty programs that have failed in years past.
It is time that we no longer accept the status quo for our children’s future, and no longer allow for a failed system to run on auto-pilot. Now is the time to take a real and aggressive stance on our students and our nation’s future.