February 27, 2023

You Had One Job…

A nation not educating its young is contributing to its self-destruction.

By Mark W. Fowler

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” —Nelson Mandela

Education is not just a powerful weapon for changing the world; it is a tool to improve one’s life. And while a teacher can open the door, the student must walk through it according to a Chinese proverb. A nation not educating its young is contributing to its self-destruction. Consider three school districts: Chicago Public Schools, Baltimore Public Schools, and Memphis Public Schools.

In Chicago, according to a 2022 study recently released, 22 schools had no students — none — who were proficient at their grade level in reading. The same study revealed there were 33 schools where no students — not one — were proficient in math. In Baltimore, a recent survey of 2,000 students from 22 schools including elementary, middle, and high school showed that none were performing proficiently at grade level in math or reading. Only 7% of the students in the entire school system were grade proficient. In Memphis, a 2022 study in every category showed less than 25% were proficient in any topic.

Failure in educational performance has many causes: lack of parental involvement; lack of student motivation; lack of discipline; ineffective teachers; and ineffective leadership. The release of these statistics should have been met with outrage and interest on the part of the parents at least. That is not the case. The lack of interest and outrage is but one more manifestation of moral decay in our nation. The consequence of educational failure is societal decay. We cannot continue as a superpower without an educated workforce.

The plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education sought to end segregation because African-Americans were receiving an inferior education. They would be appalled to see what has become of education today. In too many places, education has given way to state-sanctioned babysitting. Avoiding imagined slights to student self-esteem has become the benchmark for success rather than measured achievement. Students are promoted despite their lack of achievement. Grading standards are meaningless, with some systems adopting a no-fail policy, awarding points for having a pulse. High-achieving students are handicapped by administrators withholding their Merit Scholarship test results so those not winning that award don’t have their feelings hurt. We are hurtling to the bottom in a race to achieve equity and meaningless self-esteem.

These students aren’t being prepared for success; they are being prepared to carry a grudge and being set up for failure. This is understandable, since they have been betrayed by their teachers instead of being afforded a challenging and valuable education. What can be expected of them when they face the employment environment with virtually no intellectual skills but a robust self-esteem? Do they know they have been betrayed by the very people hired to help them build a foundation for their lives?

Of course, they know. So do the Russians, Chinese, and Iranians. The teachers unions apparently do not, or else we might have heard their call for reform by now.

The tragedy here is that not only have they been deprived of the tools for financial success, but they have also been deprived of the joy of a greater understanding of life that comes with literacy and numeracy.

We need a prophet proclaiming for the education of young people to lead them to the freedom that a solid education can bring. We need a Nelson Mandela for education.

One final thought: Each of the superintendents of schools of Memphis, Chicago, and Baltimore receives a salary over $300,000 per year, for dismal results.

Mark W. Fowler is a former attorney and board-certified physician. He can be reached at [email protected]

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