- - Sunday, August 4, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Anything just given away is worth nothing. America’s public education system has become the quintessence of that idea — a “free” system that produces unprepared and overly entitled youths worth little to nothing to the future of America.

High-minded progressives see public education as something to be protected from private competition and the ravages of better, more innovative systems, not just from domestic competitors independent of the decayed U.S. institution, but also those from abroad.

In my previous column, I spared teachers from my ire, but they are not without fault. However, I feel most teachers are the whipping boys of education reformers, especially among the right.

In public education, teachers are not specialists in their fields unless they are coming to it as a second career. Typically, mathematicians do not teach trigonometry, nor do those with English literature degrees teach high school English. The vast majority of teachers are education majors with a subject-matter certification.

An education degree confirms general knowledge of a broad range of topics. It is the equivalent of Googling for knowledge, because the first page of hits on biology, particularly Wikipedia, probably tells you as much as or more than many public school biology teachers know.

You also get to learn the “more important” issues such as integrating special-ed children, improving self-esteem, and teaching to the lowest denominator.

Furthermore, as public education teaching does not pay the greatest salary, you tend to get teachers of lower quality coming out of inferior schools. Honestly, why would you want to pay more money for schooling, earn less, and put up with all the garbage that teachers have to endure these days, if you had the opportunity to make big bucks as a computer programmer, lawyer, doctor or venture capitalist?

That is not to say there are not plenty of smart, qualified and exceptional teachers. But there is no denying the brain-drain in education can be directly correlated to higher earning potential in other fields.

Qualifiers aside, the result of such inadequately prepared educators is that the smart children tend to go unchallenged and get bored, in turn becoming a disruption in class and being inadvertently tossed into the dustbin of “what might have been.”

So the generalist enters the unruly classroom focused on trying to maintain order, insuring that the dumber and less motivated children are catered to over the ones with true potential. Teaching itself has now become geared toward training pupils how to answer standardized-test questions, rather than developing the students’ understanding of the how and why.

And no longer is discipline taught or enforced in the classroom. Rather, an elaborate system of bribes has been introduced to keep students on task. The result: Businesses now have to offer more and more incentives beyond a paycheck just to keep employees motivated to do the most basic tasks.

No wonder our children are falling behind.

But we also have the problem of how the purpose of high school has evolved over the decades. No longer is the point to produce citizens who are literate and have basic skills in order to be productive tax-paying Americans, capable of furthering the American ideals they learned to cherish without feeling entitled to the six-figure job.

Now the goal is to usher through children to reach the goal of college. At some point college became a holy grail, a right and the only way to succeed in America.

Vocational technical programs across the country have been derided and slashed. Better for the student who does not understand calculus and cannot read to be passed through in order to flunk out of college, rather than cultivate his interest in a job that can actually pay the bills.

Owing to the belief that you cannot succeed without college, blue-collar jobs are largely seen as an anathema rather than a way to make a good living and possibly even a great one — without all the debt and misery so many college grads are encountering today. All you need to do is look around at the successful electricians, plumbers, mechanics and lawn-care professionals to realize this fact.

Around the world, higher-rated public school systems regularly channel students into careers for which they show an aptitude and can find success. That does not mean taking a person’s choice of careers away, but it does mean admitting everyone is not the same and of equal ability. Youngsters are funneled into subjects that meet their passions and abilities.

When you look around and talk to successful people, you find the overwhelming majority found the specialty that best melded their abilities and interests. They were able to pursue their dreams with passion and confidence. Talk to the average college graduate, and most will be flummoxed to tell you exactly what they want to do, much less how to get there.

At every turn we are putting obstacles in the way of preparing our children to succeed. Every politician’s speech on education reform results in America ceding ground to the rest of the world. Each parent who insists her child is an angel and should be passed despite never doing homework is dooming future generations of Americans through entitlement and low achievement.

We watch as America burns from the ground up, focusing on bullying and self-esteem instead of knowledge, achievement and success. Acceptance of the status quo is, without a doubt, akin to saying, “I hate America and my children.”

Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4 to 5 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.