In the early 1800s, Prussia created a top-down model of education to educate the masses with an emphasis on quantity not quality. This same model was imported to the United States in the mid 1800s, and now 150 years later, our country's education system continues to teach children in the same form, fashion and formula created generations ago.
This model of education was brilliant for the industrial revolution, but in today's world it is wholly unacceptable. Our country's inability to improve the way in which we teach and reach students is a result of those who are wedded in defense of the status quo.
Case in point: Recently, Jack Rothman and Amy Rothman penned a blog titled, "Why Education Reform Fails." This column is a perfect example of those who cannot see the forest for the trees. While I dare to say the Rothmans agree with my assessment that our current education system is not doing enough to help children, the Rothmans' reluctance to let go of what they know prevents them from embracing an education revolution that can transform the way in which children are taught.
Recently, those who defend the status quo have changed their tune from education reform to economic equality. This clever change in messaging allows those like the Rothmans to defend the status quo -- an illogical belief that a 200-year-old education system is competent and blame "poverty and racial segregation... (as) the 'root causes' of our educational woes."
This patronizing argument has been repeated by many of those who benefit from today's stagnant education system.
In translation: Poor black or minority children cannot learn. This offensive argument blames students, poor students, poor minority students as the cause for our country's underperforming education system.
Rather than confront an education system built for mediocrity, the Rothmans, teacher union bosses and anti-reformists seek to blame the students.
But, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results, which the Rothmans cite, demonstrates that the status quo is not working. The PISA results found that 17 countries scored higher than the United States in Reading, 21 in Science and 26 in Math. As the Rothmans wrote, "American students did not make it into the top 20 on any of these tests across the 65 participating nations."
Today, 73 percent of children attend public school, and as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reported, the U.S. spends more on a students' education each year than any other developing country.
To summarize: A gross majority of students are enrolled in our antiquated public education system, a system that is well funded, but with results that are unacceptable.
This is why we must ignite an education revolution to resolve the education crisis in America.
While much can be said about the importance of addressing socioeconomic discrepancies and student proficiency, the two are not mutually exclusive.
Hundreds of thousands of children in school districts across America fail to fit into the Prussian education model. These children are found across the country, in urban, rural and suburban communities.
Some children learn better at home, which is why homeschooling is the fastest growing form of education. Some children learn better online, which is why Sandeep Thomas, who was orphaned as a child in India and faced tremendous challenges, used virtual learning to not only make up lost ground but graduate from high school at the top of his class.
The inability for the public education system to reform is the reason why public charter schools are growing at a rate of 6.3 percent a year, and in Washington, D.C. there is a 22,000-person waitlist. Also in D.C., more than 89 percent of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program students graduate high school, in contrast to their peers in D.C. Public Schools, only 58 percent of students graduate on time. And, to further undermine the argument made by the Rothmans -- the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program is only available for low-income students, nearly all of whom are a minority.
While public education may work for some children, this top-down formula is failing thousands of them. Blaming the woes of our education system on poor and minority children is unacceptable.
If we are to return America's education system to greatness, we must build a new system that embraces innovation and customizes education to the way in which a child learns, rather than expecting a child to fit into a one-size fits all model.
This innovation is possible by empowering a parent to choose the best educational environment for their child -- no longer defining a child by his or her ZIP code or socioeconomic status, but by breaking down every barrier to educational choice and unleashing an education revolution.
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