The contemporary system of public education in the United States of America has elicited mixed reactions. There has been surging debate on whether the system is workable or not alongside the suitability of the strategies being fixed in place to address the concern. Opponents to this argument strongly deliberate that the system is packed to capacity with a myriad of challenges ranging from the classroom level to the top bureaucrats and policymakers. In addition, they believe that throwing money to the problems has never and will never be an appropriate solution to the degrading education system in public schools. On the other hand, proponents of the current state of affairs tend to see no iota of desperation and call for alarm.
The performance index of most public school students is apparently on a downward trend not to mention the discipline query and purported inability by the government to handle the looming crisis.
Nonetheless, this paper attempts to explore the seeming contradiction that exists when some argue that the challenges facing public education cannot be tackled by delegating huge funding to them while at the same time communities with ample resources are unwilling to share their resources with less affluent districts.
Is the public education system at crossroads?
In spite of the pieces of legislation governing the quality and standards of education currently in place, the situation in basic and public high schools cannot be given a deaf ear. According to Kreyche (1997), the schools’ social amenities are down on their foot despite the reluctance by citizens to approve more fund allocation for them. Besides, public schools have gone through traumatic times for the past twenty years or so owing to unworkable programs being adopted and implemented by the educational bureaucrats. Proposed clauses in the law that led to these failures have already been annulled notwithstanding the heavy damage caused thereafter. Consequently, parents have been compelled to transfer their children from public schools to self-owned learning centers where standards have not been compromised. This was probably the best way out for parents who felt their children were not getting value for their time in schools bearing in mind that these young people have a single opportunity for worthy education (Johnson, 1998). Furthermore, the state government adopted and implemented a “general” policy that many education analysts thought would dilute and weaken the prevailing standards. Teachers had little or no say at all in regard to this government directive. They had to integrate it into the system irrespective of the outcome.
The stinging issue of undisciplined students is yet another problem being faced by teachers at all levels. Coupled with this is a lack of basic respect for seniors and the demeaning desire to learn. “Decorum in the classroom virtually has vanished” (Kreyche, 1997). There has also been raced to label among the excelling black students who are termed as trying to “act white”. Several cases of school dropouts have also been reported especially concerning students with gross violations of the law and afraid of facing the full wrath of the justice process. Such occurrences have not gone down well with some schools in regard to the state school funding which is usually pegged on the student population. To aggravate the already worse situation, Smith (2006) argues that the government permits the admission of immigrant students with a limit of twenty languages allowed in any one given class. This indefinitely beats the logic. How will a mathematics or science teacher transmit information using all these languages simultaneously? This is almost an impossible duty to accomplish.
Is it a Contradiction?
There are those who firmly believe that education standards in the public schools in the United States cannot be uplifted with mere funding to the affected centers. In a near twist and turn of opinions though, rich and well-established systems are quite rigid to lend a helping hand to poorer schools. Are the two observations contradicting each other or do they have the same implication?
According to Weir (2007), the greatest challenge currently being encountered in public schools is inadequate funding alongside other disparities which are being witnessed in district learning centers. There is a popular concern that children from posh neighborhoods are awarded first-class academic materials that will not only enable them to score high grades but also lead a decent lifestyle thereafter. Those from humble economic backgrounds and questionable locations are given skewed treatment. Definitely, this will culminate in significant differences in terms of resource and power accumulation. However, this difference is overemphasized and highly regarded in the United States. Moreover, the aspect of race has also become a thorn in the flesh for the mere fact that the minority groups are notably poor and fall within the low-income earning bracket (Shrag, 2000). For a fact, if the United States of American government has pledged to offer the best education to every citizen, why are the low-income minority groups predominantly unable to afford the best academic and education standards compared to the most affluent in society? If funding would not be a problem, then there would be no debate on standards and disparity at all. This point of view would equally hold some truth that inadequate financial resources in less wealthy neighborhoods are the root source of all the tribulations being encountered in schools. Poor fiscal supply to the district schools will undoubtedly account for such problems as poorly trained and ineffective staff, reading resources, laboratory equipment among other requirements.
Nevertheless, the negative societal perception in regard to low-class citizens as well as an ego-centric attitude has worked against achieving some kind of tangible financial equity (Johnson, 1998). The situation has been aggravated by factors like racism, undesirable political games and lack of a common goal and concern from the general public.
The overall outlook in the funding challenge to district schools is a blatant struggle between having and the have-nots. Resources are inevitably scarce leading to a host of challenges being experienced currently in the education system. Shrag (2000) has a differing point of view to the underlying problem of public school education in the U.S. He reflects the state government strategy of undertaking a universal High Stakes testing that would ensure and monitor performance progress and accountability for both staff and learners in public schools. These tests are standard and are aimed at assessing the performance of students while at the same time evaluating the effectiveness of teachers. The writer argues that such tests have been deemed workable and effective and that it ensures every child gets the best quality of education. If these tests are done away with, the current education system will slack back to the long-forgotten undesirable practices. The writer adds that those who do not embrace high-stakes testing may as well be accommodating the most unclear educational standards. These are the same teachers who offer so little to the students while demanding excellent results from them. From these observations, it is quite vivid that lack of funding poses the main challenge to the public education offered in the U.S today. In fact, rich schools are not willing to help poorer district schools because such a move may de-stabilize their financial strength. In a nutshell, it is a contradiction that funds are not necessary to solve problems being experienced in public schools while rich schools are too stingy to help the poor ones.
No Child Left Behind Act
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) was enacted way back in 2001. It mainly dealt with the intellectual aptitude of an estimated five million learners (Shaul, 2006). These students were considered to have less ability in the English language. It was not easy to obtain the test scores of these students bearing in mind that their language proficiency was very low. Many states have already adopted and executed the language aptitude test as per the guidelines of the No Child Left Behind Act. Through this piece of legislation, several students with low language proficiency have received much-needed help. However, as Smelser and Almond (1974) observe, this may not be the right solution at all. Congress voted unanimously for this act with the aim of improving academic standards as well as reducing the disparity in performance. The act further demanded all the states to have attained the “proficiency” standard both in languages and counting. This achievement has been earmarked to be attained by the year 2014. The act specifies that there should be an upward trend based on an annual scale. Besides, low-performing learners alongside those with poor language ability ought to reach the same performance target just like the rest of the learners. This focus was mainly based on languages.
Although this act’s implementation did not yield fruits immediately after it was enacted, there were quite a number of changes and proposals that were chipped into the act so as to make it valid and reliable. To begin with, the Education department has adopted some of the recommendations like developing valid tests that are compliant with learners whose language proficiency is below par. In addition, some data were collected with the purpose of determining the success rate of students with low aptitude in the language (Shrag, 2000). This data was further analyzed and necessary steps were taken in regard to the results that were obtained.
Realistically speaking, learners with restricted language proficiency are a widespread lot. They may be able to communicate in a variety of languages although going through an acute need for better and standardized education. This group can comprise those students under refugee status with limited official schools. Learners who can read and write in their own local languages also fall into this category.
In achieving its main objective of carrying out valid tests and assessments, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) authorizes each individual state to give assessments in English, mathematics and art. This should then be used as determinants on “the annual performance of states, districts and schools” (Shaul, 2006). From this perspective, it can be observed that the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act go hand in hand with the fact that educational standards in public schools are demanding. For this reason, the government instituted this action to safeguard the students’ needs for quality education. However, the debate on inadequate funding as the source of the many problems experienced in public schools does not feature at all in this children’s act (Apple, 2003). The act squarely addresses the need of carrying out educational tests and assessments in order to determine the performance progress of states, schools and districts.
Dawkins’ concept of the selfish Gene and the Meme
A meme is described as a means of conventional thoughts and ideologies, behavior or some kind of patterns that can be passed on from one psychological phase to another through such channels as gesticulating, one-on-one conversation as well as imitations among others. Dawkins (1990) argues that meme is applied in the spreading of genes and in the rule of natural selection as expounded in the theory of evolution. Some of the set examples of memes described in his book include “melodies catchphrases, beliefs, clothing fashion, and the technology of building arches” (Dawkins, 1990).
According to Dawkins, the rule of natural selection and genetic make-up of individuals is a very important study that needs to be understood by every person. In his submission, Dawkins believes that the rule of natural selection and genetic make-up of individuals defines them in totality. In relation to the above submissions, Dawkins’s scientific theory attempts to explain why some students were found to be naturally incapable of attaining high-level English proficiency despite the numerous efforts put by teachers to improve their grades on an annual scale (Williams, 1980). As a result, the No Child Left Behind Act had to be revisited and fresh recommendations added to it so that the tests and assessments carried out could be valid and appropriate even for slow learners.
The broader meaning derived from this is that understanding controls and coordinates the behavioral pattern in man. Most human beings work tirelessly hard to attain; sometimes we increase our abilities but to no avail (Johnson, 1998).
The contemporary public education system in the United States has undergone tremendous transformation despite the relentless debate critics for the dropping standards. In this regard, the government through the education department from each state has developed a model that is used to evaluate performance in schools, districts and states. It is due to this reason that the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted in 2001 to address the need and urgency in the provision of high-quality standards of education. In spite of this noble step, some believe that the main challenge lies with the lack of adequate funding to schools which has led to deteriorating standards compared to rich neighborhood schools which are mainly dominated by the affluent class. Finally, Dawkins explains the rule of natural selection derived from the popular theory of evolution. This can be related to the category of learners who may not improve in their language proficiency beyond a certain level.
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Shaul, S.M. (2006). No Child Left Behind Act: Education Could Do More to Help States Better. Washington D.C: United States Accountability Office
Shrag, P. (2000). High Stakes are for Tomatoes statewide testing of students, with penalties for failure, has run into opposition from parents across the political. Web.
Smelser, J.N and Almond A.B. (1974). Public higher education in California Los Angeles: University of California Press
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Williams D.J. (ed). (1980).The state of Black America, 1987. New York: National Urban League Inc.