Only one part of equation

Published 9:00 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

To the Editor

I agree that the lack of discipline is part of the problem in America’s public schools today, but that is only one part of the equation. I do not blame the teachers or administrators for this; I blame a lack of parenting and character development in the children’s upbringing.

A child’s education is fundamentally the responsibility of his or her parents, not the school they attend or the teachers who provide them instruction. It is a heart-breaking calamity when a child is told they are stupid or useless by their parents. It is a difficult starting point for a teacher when a child has little to no parental support and has never been taught to respect others or their property, the value and honor of hard work and the economically liberating effect of a good education. I do not envy the teachers and administrators who earnestly want to teach and nurture children but are trying to overcome these factors in a child’s upbringing. When the parents are absent or only superficially involved, the teachers cannot make up this void.

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That being said, the public school system is to blame for the other half of the equation, educating our future generations. Public schools today are overly enamored by the so-called pursuit of “life skills” and “college and career readiness” that they no longer teach children the tools of learning, to value knowledge for its own sake and to become free and independent citizens. I don’t blame the teachers; I blame the flawed teaching philosophy they are taught in education school. The merit of a teacher should not be solely measured by how well their students do on a state standardized test. The standardized test system is the worst possible measure. At best, it ensures students achieve a very low bar of education; at worst, its focus limits the pursuit of true knowledge, wisdom and virtue we should want for every American. Some try to deviate from the system, but they are quickly put back into their box by their peers or by the necessity to raise their standardized test scores. In many ways, we are equally stifling great teachers as much as we are great students.

That is why I believe our best hope at improving education, not just academic achievement, is through expansion of school choice programs like public charter schools, voucher systems, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts. I am an advocate of the classical education approach, grounded in the liberal arts of the trivium and quadrivium, and I would like to see this type of teaching philosophy flourish in our schools. The status quo in public education is not acceptable, and I invite anyone reading this to dialogue with me on the expansion of school choice in our state and locale. A child’s education, like their upbringing, is fundamentally the responsibility of his or her parents, and for that parents must be accountable. They should also be able to choose the best education for their children.

Andy Gist

Suffolk