FIRST THE BAD NEWS: Yes the USA Educational System is failing our kids.
As I mentioned in a previous article on our USA educational system, it has failed many of our students, in my opinion, due to following a corporate hierarchical model of top down management with decisions being made far from ground zero where the teachers and the students intersect and interact. Our model for education is quite similar to the model followed for corporate business. For many reasons this business model is as inappropriate for our educational system as it is for our government. Government, education and business have very different functions and goals and it is absurd to apply a one-size-fits-all corporate business model to all three. Each should have an entirely different model with very different goals. Neither government nor our educational system should be run like a Wall Street Corporation.
HOW DID ALL THIS FOCUS ON MATH AND SCIENCE BEGIN?
All this focus on math and science in our public school system began in 1957 when the Russians launched Sputnik. Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on October 4,1957. The leaders of the USA were in an uproar because the Russians had beaten the USA into space. It was considered not only a shame to our American educational system but also a threat to our national security.
Following this national realization that we were “second”, was a tremendous, even fanatical push to “make American students competitive with the Russians” in the fields of math, science and technology. If there was a choice between a math or science program and one involving the arts, it was no contest. The arts programs were cut. All the attention and focus was on the students who were college bound. A cookie cutter educational factory was designed to turn out scientists and mathematicians. This has largely remained the focus of our public school system for the past 70 years—math and science. Students with other kinds of intelligence were largely ignored.
As a result, not only have many students been ignored and left behind, our American culture has also been left behind. No doubt, over the past 70 years we have lost many dancers, artists, and entrepreneurs, who could have developed their interests in ways to enrich our culture. We have probably even lost a few scientists and technology wizards as well because not all students learn in the same way. Thus a one-size-fits-all, sit up straight and pay attention approach, sometimes turns students off to learning and they drop out.
Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 a day. [Miller, Tony. "Partnering for Education Reform." U.S. Department of Education]
Most students who drop out of school end up costing taxpayers more money than those who complete their educational path. Consider that 63 percent of all youth crime nationally is committed by kids who have dropped out of school or failed to find a way into higher education. Their incarceration and court costs saddle us with a $76.7 billion annual bill – not including the financial hit to their victims in medical care, lost work time or insurance adjustments.
For welfare and food stamps, the pattern is predictable: Drop out youth receive $9,660 more in lifetime welfare payments than those who graduate from high school, for an aggregate annual burden of $65.1 billion. [Seattle Times accessed June 18, 2019 http://blogs.seattletimes.com/educationlab/2014/01/03/how-much-do-dropouts-cost-us-the-real-numbers-behind-pay-now-or-pay-later/
That is the bad news. To summarize: Not keeping our students engaged and in school costs everyone big time. It would pay us all to work to improve our public school system.
NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS—AT LEAST IN MY CITY OF GARLAND TEXAS
Our local educators in the Garland ISD are working overtime to improve learning environments for our kids. Just this past week we had a Garland GISD-wide community meeting at Curtis Caldwell where citizens came together to listen and learn and provide their input regarding ways to improve our local public schools.
Manny Romero, Director of Community Programs, Richland College, Garland Branch
Today Carol Currie, President of Garland Area Makerspace and I met with Manny Romero, Director of Community Programs at the Garland Branch of Richland College. Manny and his team at the Garland Branch of Richland College are working overtime to bring those students (between ages of 19 to 29) who have been left behind back into the community fold by offering meaningful and free educational opportunities that lead directly to employment.
One example of these free educational opportunities is a Surveyor Technician Class. This is a free 8-week course that provides a National Society of Professional Surveyors—Level 1 Certification. Students in this class will learn about computer-aided mapping; field engineering; introduction to surveying; land surveying; survey calculations and safety and first aid. For more information call: 214-360-1234.
The purpose of our meeting was to explore ways that the Garland Area Makerspace and Richland Community College in Garland might partner together in a mutually beneficial relationship to strengthen our ability to meet the goals of our organizations and also for each of us to learn a little bit more about the other. A lot of great ideas came from our meeting that we plan to explore further.
For example, we will feature information regarding the great free classes offered at Richland College in Garland at the upcoming Fashion Show on June 27th at the downtown MillHouse Pizzeria. In July we hope to have a planning event involving makers and educators in the community for a large event to be held in September in the main area of Richland College. Details are to be filled in but we hope to have about 20 stations set up in this area. The event will be on a Sunday 1PM to 5PM. Attendees will be able to choose four stations. The presentations/making events at each station will last one hour. These stations will all be highly interactive. For example a station featuring an overview of the surveyor class might give visitors the opportunity to handle surveyor equipment. The maker area might have a section set up with sewing machines where visitors would have the opportunity to make a bag from a feed sack. Details will follow.
As Manny mentioned, the classes at Richland are not typical as each student is assigned a counselor who works closely with the student. These counselors have offices situated where the students come in. They care. They know the ones who are late or absent and they have conversations with the students. A lot of caring and empathy goes into their programs. Another thing you’ll see for students, not normally seen (except in gyms) is a shower. Students who are enrolled can use the shower with no questions asked. Some of these students may even be homeless and/or for other reasons, not have access to a shower.
At the successful completion of a class at Richland, the students will have a job interview. More often than not, employers are chopping at the bit to hire a student who has completed a training course at Richland.