In order to build a stronger, more self-sufficient America, America must first be willing to change. To build a progressive and competitive society, America's most important challenge is to change its antiquated educational system. In every political administration, education must be first and foremost. Without a strong and revitalized educational system, America will never progress to greatness nor be able to alleviate any of our other ills.
The three R's - reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic - is how our children have been taught since the beginning of time. But we're now in the twenty-first century, and we have a responsibility to our children, to America's future, to educate tomorrow's leaders and teach future generations the skills they need so they can survive in a world that is becoming increasingly more difficult to survive in.
Today's youth are not like yesteryear's innocents. There are no more shows like Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best. Instead, we have accepted the censors lack of discretion where our children (and adults) are concerned by inundating the airwaves with swear words never before heard on television. It has become part of our children's language, and school teachers cannot do anything about it because the media has dictated that freedom of speech, of any speech, is the accepted norm, the right of all Americans, no matter their age. How could it be bad, many ask? They hear it everyday on TV. If it was bad, it wouldn't be allowed into our living room. The news programs have become more graphic, verbally and visually, educating our children more in the ways of adult themes and topics, like never before. And our morals have changed for the worse as our children are taught that their sexuality begins at an earlier age, and it is an important and exciting part of their lives.
Today, our children's rite of passage precedes their concept of right or wrong. Along with that open education, computers and the information highway, our children are more intelligent, more worldly, and older than children of similar ages were decades ago. Since we can't go back in time, although many adults wish we could, we need to treat our children as the young adults they have been forced to become. Consequently, America has to drastically reinvent its schools. Teacher tenure should be abolished in that this reward is irresponsible to the family and the consumer. If someone is doing an inadequate job then that employee should be monitored, and, if need be, replaced. No contract, like the rest of America's workplace, should be lifetime. This would ensure quality education.
America must do away with the law that its children can quit school at sixteen. All children must stay in school until graduation; if not public, then in vo-tech schools learning a trade. The excuse that a child must go to work at sixteen to help support their family does irreparable damage to the future of the child being forced to be his family's provider. Staying in school until graduation will break the chain of poverty, and, with it, crime and welfare will greatly diminish.
The school day must be longer. America is in last place in first world education. There is no reason why the school day must only be (approximately) six hours long. By increasing lunch by ten minutes (so our children don't have to wolf down their food), and by adding another five minutes for passing to one extra class, and forty-five-minutes for that class, our school day will be only one-hour longer. This would make a big difference in the quantity of education our children.
But, it's quality we must have for our children to rise to their true potential. To achieve that goal, American schools must incorporate into their present curriculum new Life Studies courses to prepare our children for the world in which they are becoming an integral part. Within partnership with the fifty state universities and state public education commissioners, along with noted educational psychologists and sociologists, a Master of Science Degree would be offered in part scholarship to already certified teachers.
American schools must add these Life Study courses and stay open an hour longer each day if America wants to be a competitive force in the twenty-first century.
This Education Reinvention Bill would help working parents, especially single mothers, in that their child will in school an hour longer everyday, costing them less in day care, thus receiving more in salary to help the family, therefore more taxes paid to the government on salaries and durable goods. This is financially greater than the tax refund that has been gratuitously given to America's middle class.
On the elementary level, classes in creative writing, confidence and self-esteem, manners and etiquette, ecology and the environment, safety, and the new 3R's (respect, responsibility, and reward) would be added to the yearly curriculum; one course for each grade level.
On the intermediate level, students would be required to take yearly courses in money management, interpersonal communications, and social awareness (which would include a cooperative commitment in volunteerism).
High school students would study one course in each of their eight semesters in career development, comparative cultures and religions, philosophy, ethics and morality, analytical and deductive reasoning, persuasive speaking, colleges, and parenthood.
The cost of educating these teachers and creating jobs for them in every public school sector would be repaid when the first graduating class enters mainstream America. With mandatory student graduation, the cost for this new educational system will be repaid with the money saved on law enforcement and a consistently reduced welfare system, along with more people in the work place paying taxes and generating money in American commerce.
The Education Reinvention Bill is not just imperative for our children's success, but for our country's survival. There is a lot America must do to change for the better and again be a respected force in today's world. Education reform is just one of many ways we can accomplish that goal.
It is also the most important one.
Bruce Schwartz is a lifelong political activist. THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, his novel on politics today, discusses this subject as well as others that affect every American. It is on sale on the Web at http://www.thetwentyfirstcentury.com and at http://www.amazon.com. All of the author's royalties will be donated to the Alzheimer's Association.