American Education Conflict

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What an incredibly controversial topic education is in America. Any attempt to discuss education in a public forum usually devolves into debate and heated contention. The reason is that a great many Americans don't trust others to educate their children, and many a school personnel are witness to some horrible parenting at home.

Parents are very limited teachers, incapable of being versed in the myriad topics and specialized knowledge that young people must learn if they are to maximize their opportunities and talents in our complex society. In order for society, in a technological age, to function efficiently its citizens must have a common language and education, insuring future citizens, workers, and employers are able to communicate and relate to each from a common base of knowledge and understanding.

To the extent that there are differing bases of knowledge and understanding, disagreements and debates arise, creating expensive and contentious inefficiencies in the social and organizational life of a nation. Conversely, to the degree that everyone holds the same knowledge and understanding, creativity and innovation can be stifled, and 'group think' in our organizations can result in seemingly incomprehensible and inappropriate decisions being made.

From the dawn of the human species, education served survival and provided the means to taking a position within the group for safety and security. That's the evolutionary perspective. From the creation of man and woman, education has served both the clan and the gods end of providing humans with a sense of god's purpose and human's place in the universe. That's the religious perspective.

They have in common, the view that education is to prepare children for their productive and inclusive role in society. To the extent that parents or schools fail to prepare children in this way, the society suffers the consequences of mal-adapted individuals who become sexual predators, thieves or extortionists, and murderers exacting inordinate costs and anxiety upon society.

In what is commonly and erroneously viewed as the traditional view of education in America, schools were to provide vocational oriented education, and parents, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue were to provide social values education. But, America's educational system has never been that clearly segregated, nor purist in reality. Government run schools for the children of American Indians were very much about teaching social values and conditioning. Vocational education for minorities were virtually non-existent in most parts of early colonial America. And American rural communities placed a far higher value in 'on the job' education on family farms than in rural schools.

America's educational system is in transition from the system that existed for an agrarian America to one arguably better suited to an information and technological America. And as with all systems in transition, marked failures and advances are evident. At the root of all education however, is the relationship between teacher and student, based on mutual respect, patience, and positive feedback.

Cruelty can modify behavior, but, it never achieves its intended objectives or lessons learned. Cruelty, negative reinforcement, and punishment teach the student only of the necessity and means to escape the cruelty, negative reinforcement, and punishment. This has been demonstrated time and again in laboratory experiments on learning. Positive reinforcement and respect motivate students to achieve the objectives of the teacher far better than negative reinforcement.

Herein lies the heart of the debate over American education. If children fail to receive adequate positive reinforcement and develop respect for role models and parents at home, they are very likely to have difficulties establishing that mutual respect relationship between student and teacher in our schools. Schools which attempt to address such needs in students with behavioral or trust issues, are often viewed, and rebuked, as usurping the relationship between parent and child at home.

Both parents and society at large have a vested, self-interested stake in the education of their children. Many parents view their children as an extension of themselves, with the potential of becoming more, and better than the parents with guidance around the pitfalls which the parents experienced. The pride of other parents is heavily invested in the reflection their child will direct back upon the parents in social settings, requiring their child reflect the image of the parent.

Schools and educators have their own security issues, financing and pay issues, and esteem issues vested in the education of their students, in addition to the overt objective of developing student's potentials for higher education or vocational roles in adulthood. Too often in America, parental and school objectives and investments in the student conflict, become a source of mistrust and non-interaction.

Wisdom dictates that parents and schools should be partners, working cooperatively with each other in a very open and active communication environment in which the best interests of the student are paramount. Despite parent - teacher associations (PTA's) in existence in virtually every school system in America, only a small percentage of parents are active members in PTA's, and schools, ever pressured to find funding for student development activities, rely ever more upon pressuring PTA's to cough up more money for extra-curricular activities. This in turn, alienates many parents with lesser income means from participating.

There are no easy answers to America's lackluster educational performance compared to other industrialized nations, 24th. A wise parent knows their involvement with their child's education is important, and making the time and energy available to take an active interest in their child's daily school activities and learning and applaud their child's efforts and learning will benefit their child.

The wise school district will focus like a laser on eliminating the obstacles they can that exist between student's parents and the administrators and teachers within the school, establishing open door policies, and providing incentives for parental involvement in communication with their child's teachers and school administrators.

Old habits however, die hard, the saying goes. And America's educational system is transitioning. If government and quasi-governmental agencies are to be prevented from having complete control of student's education quality and performance, then parents must resolve to get involved. And wise voters will pay particular attention to their school board elections, and vote for those whose objectives and agenda reflect first and foremost, the needs of students to fully develop their learning potential and expand their repertoire of personal and vocational skills and talents.

Below are some quotes from some historical figures who had something to say about education in their time.

Albert Einstein:
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.

Alvin Toffler:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Anatole France:
Nine tenths of education is encouragement.

Ariel and Will Durant:
Education is the transmission of civilization.

All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth.

Carl Rogers:
If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.

George Santayana:
A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.

George Santayana:
Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Mark Twain:
First, God created idiots. That was just for practice. Then He created school boards.
Many public-school children seem to know only two dates--1492 and 4th of July; and as a rule they don't know what happened on either occasion.

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It is true upto some extent that the parents are limited time teachers but when we look in the depth of truth so we come to know that they are the base of education and the rest of the life depends upon what a child learns from his house. Further, they also provide paper writing help to the children.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 8, 2009 11:42 AM.

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