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Shaun Johnson

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The American Ambivalence Towards Education

Posted: 10/09/11 09:20 PM ET

Although a bold statement, I'm starting to wonder: can Americans actually care less about education? I don't think so, and here's why.

On a broader scale, there is an overwhelming attitude in this country that embraces and champions ignorance. It seems all right to publicly admit a misunderstanding of science or government, for example, in a kind of "Golly gee, aw shucks, do you reckon" fashion. And then you sort of turn to the education system and ask how this kind of thing is able to continue.

But it is able to continue because Americans don't really care about education. We say we do, citing education as the great equalizer, preserving the American Dream, while extolling the virtues of the educators responsible for it. Come on, isn't that just lip service?

Here are some absolutely undeniable givens that prove Americans don't care about education, and tell me if I'm off base here because I do hope that I am:

-Despite various court rulings and federal laws, racial and income segregation in our education system continues.

-Many school systems are chronically under-funded to the extent that resources for a basic and equitable education are unavailable.

-The workforce that many claim to be selfless and noble in their pursuits is constantly demoralized and ignored in public debates.

-We allow untrained and untested persons into classrooms that likely require the most caring and well-trained professionals available.

-Many persons are permitted to claim expertise in education because they've either been a student, are a parent, or play a teacher on TV.

-Finally, this country tolerates the obvious invasion of large amounts of private money into a traditionally public institution, as evidenced by the overwhelming participation of philanthropic organizations, foundations, and for-profit companies in the drafting of public education policies.

Don't be fooled by all of the town halls, special programs, and high-minded rhetoric. Americans don't care about education. I mean, how bizarre is it that folks would send their children off to someone for several hours a day only to turn around and belittle that person's profession and livelihood in public conversation?

The overwhelming trend in this country when it comes to education is clearly to spend less time and less money on this valuable public service. And the lesson that so many are ignoring in this pursuit: you get what you pay for. You always get what you pay for, don't you? Whether it's the cheap toaster from a big box store or some low cost garbage you "won" in an online auction, in a few months' time you end up right back where you started.

 

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