The Security Threat of Uneducated America

Introduction:

Recently I, Bridget Daly, have sought to understand why my education let me down. I seek justification for why students are ill prepared for college despite legislative changes and a large education budget. In 2012, I graduated from high school as a valedictorian with honors. I was told that I was ready to go any where or do anything, so I went to college. From day one, I realized how badly my education had let me down. In Chemistry, fewer than half of the students who began the class were present for the final. Of those who stayed, two received an A, three got a B, and the rest attained a C or below. Perhaps it was a bad section, or the professor was lousy, but these statistics were similar to the other sections. I believe there is a fault in our eduction. It lies at the lower levels where teachers are forced to teach to a test rather than educate students. For this reason I ask what the cause of our failing education system is, and what are some of the long term impacts?

The Public Writing:

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To Senator Jeffery Merkley

Junior Senator of the State of Oregon

121 SW Salmon Street

Suite 1400

Portland, OR 97204

To the Honorable Jeffery Merkley,

I am writing today to ask that you begin drafting legislation to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act that was signed into law by President Bush on the eighth of January, 2002. This act, written with the best of intentions, has failed to meet its purpose. Instead of educating our country, it has lowed our academic standards, increased the achievement gap, and limited the education that can be received by our most needy citizens. For the safety of our nation, the No Child Left Behind Act must be repealed and replaced by legislation that will achieve the primary goal of a quality education for every citizen, not just for those from states granted waivers.

Long ago, before No Child Left Behind, a high school diploma could earn a living wage for the average family. Now these jobs can only be attained by people with Baccalaureate degrees. The primary hurdle in getting this sort of degree is ones ability to enter and succeed in college. Since the implementation of the act, more than a decade ago, the number of high school seniors who are prepared to attend college or enter into the work force has decreased to below forty-three percent. To succeed, the remaining students must take remedial courses in the hopes that they will be able to be on par with their peers. Our students have no chance of competing successfully in the global market. In mathematics, the United States ranks twenty fifth, behind South Korea, China, and India. We are fourteenth in science and seventeenth in reading. Scientists of the past were able to innovate us out of any crisis. But now, the scientists that companies call upon for pioneering ideas, hail from foreign nations. To regain our status as a world leader in education, we need to repeal the ineffective legislation of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Condoleezza Rice, in 2005, noted that large swaths of undereducated people endanger our national security. One of her reasons was diminished cohesion. We have seen throughout history that a lack of education leads to an increase in cultural tension. Take, for example, the tensions currently present between American Latinos and other cultures. Up to eighty percent of Americans only speak English, and some large percentage of immigrants only speak their native language. When these two groups intersect, tension caused by a breakdown of communication, ensues. This tension forces lawmakers to make decisions and implement policies which are detrimental to the ideals of America. These ideals include perfect equality and the ability to create a better life through hard work and education. No Child Left Behind had the intent of creating educational equality, however, its implementation has caused schools that are often attended by minorities to fall behind those in more affluent districts or expensive private schools. This in turn creates a larger gap between cultures by keeping the children essentially separated.

Just answer this one question for me. How can the students of tomorrow be innovative if they are being taught using last decade’s educational system? No Child Left Behind is broken. It does not reduce gaps in achievement, it is not cost effective, and it does not elevate our students onto the same level as foreign students. Worse though, it creates disunity within the country that will cause destabilization and a national security threat. I ask that you propose legislation to repeal the No Child Left Behind Act for the good of our children and the security of our nation.

Sincerely,

Bridget Daly

The Body of Research:

Source Number 1:

Citation:

“Rice: Failing Schools a National Security Threat.” CBS New.com. CBS News, 20 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57400620/rice-failing-schools-a- national-security-threat/>.

Summary:

This article is reporting on the opinions of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice regarding the national security threat posed by a lack of education. Her argument is that poor education injures the nation of five fronts: economic competitiveness, physical safety, intellectual property, global awareness by the United States, and national cohesion. She continues to to argue that large swaths of uneducated people weaken the nations ability to defend its self and keep information secure. Furthermore people with a lack of education will be unable to achieve their ends through diplomacy. Rice proposes the use of a common core, allowing for the auditing of schools, and allowing parents to withdraw their children from failing schools. She wants the core to specifically focus on mathematics, science, reading, foreign language, and computer skills. This piece gives clear evidence for the dangers of a weak education system.

Source Number 2:

Citation:

“U.S. Education Reform and National Security.” Mar 2012. Council on Foreign Relations. Aug 2013.

Summary:

This report authored by Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein, former director of New York Public Schools, notes that the United States spends more on education than any other developed nation, yet we have one of the least effective school systems. According to this report, American high schoolers rank 17th in reading, 25th in math, and 14th in science skills. More than one quarter of students take longer than four years to earn a high school diploma. Nearly 80% of students only speak English.

America can not keep pace, let alone lead, globally until the problems with our education system are resolved. Again this piece illustrates the dangers and realities of our failing education system.

Source Number 3:

Citation:

Kenny, Charles. “The Real Reason America’s Schools Stink.” Bloomberg Business Week. Bloomberg News, 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 10 Aug. 2013. <http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-08- 19/the-real-reason-americas-schools-stink#p2>.

Summary:

This article places the blame of failing schools squarely on the shoulders of the parents. It says that the parents of today are not able to be in the classroom as they were before. Parents of today are less empowered to make change, and they can’t be sure if their child is actually learning. The standard should not be arbitrary, but instead should be a measure of improvement over the year. This piece explains one possibility for the cause of the failure of education system.

Source Number 4:

Citation:

Holland, Sally. “Duncan:’No Child Left Behind’ Creates Failure for U.S. Schools.” CNN Politics. Cable News Network, 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Aug. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/09/education.congress/index.html&gt;.

Summary:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated recently that four out of five schools will not meet the 2014 bench mark set by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Instead of fewer schools failing, as time goes on more will fail. A one size fits all policy can not succeed in a country as diverse as ours. This piece speaks directly to my first question, and proposes a reason for our failure, the no child left behind act.

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6 comments

  1. I appreciate the work you have done and the heart you put into it. I suggest we have been missing an important clue to the failure of our students. 1) We expect our schools and teachers to do something they haven’t been able to accomplish in 50 years, and not from a lack of trying; we just tell them to try harder. 2) We expect our parents to do something, but then ask them to shuffle papers and do bake sales to donate money. Do we really believe that going to school and pressuring teachers who are really doing the best they know how will somehow catapult our children to new heights? 3) We have been ignoring what consistent studies tell us works. Unlike most who will simply complain about our schools, I direct you to the answer. But, I can tell you it will not be found in the actions of our governments or our school boards, evidenced by the past 50 years of their failed promises. The answer also will not be found in expecting teachers to work harder or longer hours. (Many studies prove more hours simply decrease productivity.)

    So where do we look for the answer? Many studies point to three specific components which lead to children who learn to read well, love to learn, and excel in school. 1) The presence of books in their home. 2) Their parents read to them. 3) They see their parents read. Children who lack these components consistently do poorly in school.

    I wish to point out something else about children who generally do very well in school. They show up at school well advanced in their reading ability, in part because the previous three components are in force. They are prepared. If your child wanted to play on a baseball team, what would you do before signing him up? Wouldn’t you teach him to throw and catch a ball; maybe even how to swing a bat and hit a ball? The kids who join the team who are prepared with their skill in place–they get to be first string and play most if not all of the games. The child who is not prepared spends a lot of time on the bench. The child who plays has fun and wants to do more of it; the child who is “no good at it” would just as soon be home doing something else.

    What’s the prime reason our schools are failing? We are sending our kids to school unprepared to learn and be “good at it”. On top of that, we expect teachers to take on 25 unprepared kids and turn them all into superstars. The problem is that the first day of school is too late to teach them to throw and catch, What’s the problem with America’s schools? We believe that our children’s learning is somebody else’s job. We think it’s the job of the government to write the laws to force the schools to get it right. We think it’s the job of the school board and the teachers. So we hope our kid gets the TV Super-Teacher.

    It’s time we be honest with ourselves and do what it takes for our children to succeed. When we start doing what makes sense and stop expecting other people to do what we can (and should) do, then we will see our education system transform overnight. How do I know? Because I’ve done it. http://www.pointtoreading.com Thanks

    • bridgetmdaly

      Sir,

      My question is what do you considered prepared? I lived in the middle of nowhere, did not attend a preschool or kindergarden, and would not generally consider myself prepared for school, yet I succeeded and was a Valedictorian with honors. So I wonder, how do you account for people like me? I am not special, nor am I unique. I had average teachers, normal parents, did not do my homework, and played my sport. By all measures I was average. So what, in your opinion, propelled me to such heights?

      Secondly, I never suggested that our teachers work harder or longer. I simply suggested that they work smarter, and that to do so, we must remove an obstacle. Namely the No Child Left Behind Act, which has labeled more than half of America’s schools as failing for being unable to reach an arbitrary standard of proficiency. If you read my body of research you will note that I mention that parents do not prepare their kids for school. Nor do they help once they are in school. I list this truth also as one reason for our failing schools.

      For me,the most important thing to note is that I do not know nearly as much as my father does. By the time he graduated high school, at the bottom of his class by the way, he could work metal and wood, completely build/ finish houses, rebuild automobiles, fly and maintain twin engine (and smaller) air planes, and he had a job that allowed him to support his parents and have a degree of freedom. His parents did not prepare him for school either, however, when he went to school, the teachers were unencumbered. They could teach what they needed to. The schools seemed to have adequate funding, despite receiving less per student even after being adjusted for inflation, and the arts such as music, painting and shops thrived. So again I ask you, what happened?

      Although I agree with you that parents could do more to help their children, I do not agree that this is the main reason for the overall deterioration of the school system. This is a multifaceted problem that will require many solutions. One solution may be to encourage reading, but another is to remove legislation that is simply not working. I admit that there are more steps that must be taken. However, I chose this one because I am familiar with it. I had to attend a No Child Left Behind failing school. I know what it is like, in a way I can say that I am an expert. This puts me in a unique position to write to Senator Merkley because I am able to use facts and a personal narrative to ask that he begin the process of change.

      My letter was just one drop in the bucket to be added to your drop and that of millions of other people. Perhaps one day that bucket will get full and change will happen, but not today.

      I thank you for your interest.
      Sincerely,

      Bridget Daly

  2. Hi Ms. Daly. I thank you for your reply. Communication is less than easy without visual and auditory clues to get context. I am very sensitive to your message, considering you are out there putting your heart into the battle. I agree with you that there are many laws which are hamstringing our teachers. Looking at the decades of effort from the sixties and seventies to turn around the educational slide, I do not believe the answers will come from our legislatures. The movie, Waiting for Superman, made some interesting points in portraying another side to the problems which seem to stand in the way of improvement. What I recognize is that there have been many fine and intelligent people over the past fifty years who gave everything they had to make a difference. I do not believe we will see true change by continuing to do what has already been done over and over, while expecting somehow to get a different result.

    You asked an important question. “How do you account for people like me?” I believe we will find success in our schools when we answer that question. You may indeed not be special or unique, but there is something about you and your life that contributed to how you did and what you have become. If we discover what is common to those children who excel in school, maybe we could apply that to others. By the way, I think there is an important clue in what you told me about your father. Some of best teaching is what we do by example. Sounds like he was a fine example.

    As for having to wait for a bucket to get full and today not being the day, maybe so. I look at it a little differently. Many of the arguments today over education remind me of the sixties when engineers used slide rules to guide astronauts into space. When the digital computer came along, nobody had to pass laws, do expensive marketing, or write books to convince the engineers to throw out the slide rule. In the nineties, when the cell phone came along I was forced to buy one because my pager couldn’t compete. When we figure out what allowed someone like you to succeed like you did, to paraphrase Star Trek, “Resistance will be futile.”

    Keep up the good work you are doing. I will keep working from my end and hopefully we will soon find the idea whose time has come.
    Henry

    • bridgetmdaly

      Sir,
      Thank you for clarifying your point substantially. I suspect that I read it initially as a rebuttal rather than an expansion of the conversation, for that I am sorry. You are quite correct in your assertion that visual clues would have been helpful in the comprehension of both of our comments. Just as a fun side note, I do not keep a cell phone and I used a slide rule all the way through college calculus. I site this as proof that sometimes the old ways are better than the modern.

      As to my father, unfortunately, I am unable to learn from him, he simply can not be patient with me. However, being exposed to him and his phd friends probably was a driving factor in my need to peruse education. You asked what is unique to students who see education in the way that I do, from experience I would like to suggest that it is a desire to please. I had a professor of French, a class that I struggled with in the extreme, ask why I worked so hard on a class that was so obviously beyond my scope. My response was, “It would kill me to disappoint you or any other professor. The subject matter has no influence on my opinion that doing other than my best is an insult to you. I can’t insult you.” Respect is what we need to instill if we want to improve schools. I make it a point to respect everything around me no matter what.

      Thank you for your interest, and good luck with your endeavor,
      Bridget Daly

      • Hi Ms. Daly. Really nice to hear from you. Being an old guy, myself, I struggle with making the leap to new technology. I think much is lost of what was good and made sense from older generations.

        Your thoughts on what drives you to excellence is quite interesting to me and another confirmation of my belief in the power of relationship. It is unfortunate in our mass production era that our schools do not have the resources that allow for the time necessary for a teacher to be able to build a relationship such that the student will desire to please his or her teacher. Such an important key. It’s not that volume of time alone is what makes it all work, but I think this idea of “quality time” is fallacious. What children desire is a quantity of quality time.

        I wish you a lovely long weekend. Thank you for the pleasure of your company in letters.
        Henry

  3. Bridget: The power of your writing has already reached beyond our WR 122 circle! The passion and the facts combined make what you’re doing very impactful. I, too, hope that we can join together to “fill the bucket” to really act toward educational equity in our communities and beyond!

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