We hear many different arguments on the cause of the deterioration in America’s education system. Some blame teachers for being unprepared to teach in today’s changing world. Others attribute the problems to parents and their lack of discipline and supervision; while yet many others see the problem with the youth themselves. Some administrators, educators, and parents complain of a lack of funding. We have no shortage of opinions on this vital struggle. The complete lack of consensus on what should be taught only adds fuel to this all important fire. But what is the problem? Why are we failing? Free public schooling reduces the quality of education, robs parents of their rightful roles, obstructs teacher efforts, inflates the costs, and contradicts the very dictates of God.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, evaluates the educational systems of nations by testing and measuring skills. Most recent results indicate the United States has continued to slide and is now near or below the average in mathematics, reading, and science. The U.S. once provided its own supply of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians, but now we see foreigners taking more and more of those jobs. Our struggles go beyond academics; today’s high school students rarely know how to perform basic useful skills. Few drivers can change flat tires or engine oil. The industrial arts have all but vanished in our schools. Skills that were once common like framing, plumbing, electrical, and welding are now neglected. Few women know how to sew, bake or can foods. Few of the young adults can balance a checkbook, which coupled with today’s “I want it now” mentality, may give us an explanation as to the rise of debt. Why have the schools discontinued teaching these vital skills?
The shortcomings go far beyond the schools, as parents have gone AWOL on teaching their children. Most homes today struggle to meet financial obligations and parents feel compelled to both be in the workforce. More families divorce which adds great strain to the parent(s) to assist, oversee and push their children. My parents divorced when I was young, and yet my mother was an incredible single parent. She worked her tail off to provide for us children, but my grades suffered. She remarried when I was 9 years old and was then able to return to being a “stay at home mom”, and my grades immediately improved drastically. She believed the school was there to help her teach her children. Overwhelmed parents often leave the teaching to the schools, and expect the results to be favorable. The government runs the schools, prepares and administers standardized tests, implements teacher certification guidelines, and of course pays for the whole thing. With the government continuing to take more and more control over what our children learn, how they learn it, who teaches it and with what methods, it is only natural for overly stressed parents to relinquish their role.
As the educational results continued to slide, the government initiated more and more requirements for teachers, schools and districts. Teachers find themselves busier than ever with continuing education classes, newly administered reporting requirements, and being forced to teach to an upcoming test. In order to meet the ever increasing demands, many teachers go into work early, stay late, or take work home. Most teachers love teaching but struggle to meet school mandates and personal teaching goals, while maintaining a happy personal life. Many teachers work more hours, while seeing weaker results in the classroom.
According to the government entity, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the total spending per child for the 2011-12 year in the United States was $12,401. The cost of a class of 25 students equates to over $310,000. We know teacher salaries are a small fraction of that, so where does the money go? Funding has continued to increase more than inflation for decades. The educational system adds more transportation programs, health checks, food programs, special education programs, early childhood development programs, and after school programs, while simultaneously decreasing the arts, life skills, home maintenance, skill labor classes, sports, and adding “pay to play” requirements. The system polices everything, except the spending of our dollars. If the government was to cut a check to parents for $12,401 per child per year, would parents figure out how to get better results? If parents cut the checks directly to pay for their child’s education, would they not do all they could to make sure they had the best value for their dollar?
Whichever entity cuts the checks, likewise makes the rules. This can lead to the teaching of false philosophies. The early prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints warned the members to avoid free public education at all costs. Regarding “free” schools, President Brigham Young stated, “Would I encourage free schools by taxation? No! That is not in keeping with the nature of our work.” President John Taylor warned, “Shall we employ teachers that will turn the infant minds of our children away from the principles of the gospel, and perhaps lead them to darkness and death?” and President Wilford Woodruff in a letter to stake presidents as he introduced a new church school system in 1888, stated that the church school effort was, “. . .one of the most important factors in establishing the kingdom of God upon the earth.”
It has taken decades to get our educational system to its current lows, and likewise it will take years to return to good sound principles. Free schools falsely remove responsibility from the parents and children, and they are anything but free. Parents must return to their sacred duty and rightful role as teacher. Whether it be home schooling, private schools, co-operatives, industrial schools or apprenticeships, it matters not, for each parent and child is different. God knows the stewardship is ours, regardless of what the governments say. Free public education has failed miserably. The only option is to return the money and the responsibility back to the parents, and let them choose how best to educate their children.