I have long been appalled by the lack of education that occurs in our public schools. I was fortunate to have been born at a time when discipline was allowed in the schools, when memorization was mandatory and when the basics were drilled into the students. Today we have college students who have never had to write an essay after their freshman year, who do not read, who cannot do math (they use calculators), who do not know geography (they go to mapquest), who know nothing of our governmental structure and who know nothing about economics. These students in an earlier time would be classified as illiterate. This is a product of my generation coming to power. Growing up in the hippie age, competition was viewed as a bad thing so even losers started getting trophies, students were not challenged because we did not want to damage their esteem. Of course there was no effect on the top 10 percent or the bottom 10 percent. But the middle 80 percent became condemned to mediocrity because without being constantly challenged and motivated, they simply resigned themselves to not bettering their lot. To turn this around one needs to start back at the beginning - kindergarten. The key is making certain that every child who enters the first grade can read. Kids who have to catchup when they get to the first grade never do even though the statistics show that they learn at the same rate as those who can read by the end of the third grade. However the statistics on being able to read by the third grade are abysmal (see www.education-consumers.org). Some of this poor performance is directly attributable to schools of education who produce teachers from poor students who cannot teach (see http://www.education-consumers.org/Teacher%20prep%202011%20reading%20.pdf). Part of the solution would to make funding of these colleges dependent upon the results engendered by their graduates. However, the immediate question is how to address the issue of poor reading kids now. The answer is direct instruction (see http://vimeo.com/5293093). Of course because it challenges the status quo, direct instruction is resisted by many teachers, most principals and virtually all school superintendents and colleges of education even though it works (see http://www.education-consumers.org/ELGIN%20FIRST%20YEAR%20RESULTS.pdf). The kids do not have an advocate and the dumbing down of our children should be a national scandal. Alternatives like charter schools have met stiff resistance from the education establishment, the teachers unions with their allies in the democratic party have blocked vouchers and most parents cannot home school. So since we have condemned our children to the public schools, the question is how do we force our schools to educate our children?
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com