This is a reprint of comments posted to the Sanford Herald online, in response to Lee County Commissioner Richard Hayes’ letter to the editor, subject: “Success of Schools Secures our Future.”
I know Mr. Hayes to be an honorable and decent man. He genuinely believes what he states in this letter, and he is sincere in expressing his desire to protect the current educational bureaucracy. He honestly thinks this is the best way to prepare our children for to be productive adults well into the future.
Just one problem with his point of view- he’s deluded.
No sane person in Lee County wants our children to languish in the 21st Century jobs market or in contributing measurably to the advancement of society. But we continue to chase the penultimate educational experience for our children by expanding the public school bureaucracy, spending ever more money on new programs, and by diversifying school curriculums; all the while losing ground to children from other modern nations as measured by scholastic testing.
Our public school system is failing the nation. Sure, a healthy number of gifted students are acquiring unique opportunities to learn and some at-risk students are getting help that most of us never knew when advancing through public schools. But in the end, the vast majority of public school students appear to be “dumbed down” from generations past.
Community College leaders and local employers lament the fact these post-high school students and workers are not fundamentally ready, many requiring remedial education to function adequately. Simply stated, our kids aren’t mastering the fundamentals of writing, reading comprehension and mathematics essential for advancing to higher education and becoming productive employees.
I think it imperative for us to completely re-examine our educational systems. We need to identify the features of home and private schooling that contribute to student success, then emulate them in our public schools. We need to open up competition in the public school arena, through expanded charter schools, so lower income families have choice of schools in educating their children.
So far, I see no support for these kinds of initiatives within the local BOE or the LCSS bureaucracy. Instead, we see resistance and protection of the status quo.
While we should commend Commissioner Hayes for his commitment to helping our children achieve their full potential in life, we also need to challenge the costly framework for that educational process and bureaucracy. In so doing, we will discover what many of us know to be available and accessible- a more cost effective educational system where students learn the essential social, communications, and technical skills to be responsible young adults, competitive in global markets.