Change the Perception of What You Do!

In spite of everything, public education actually works

Larry JacobsSchools have started for the 2017-18 year. In case you forgot why you’re an educator, here’s a reminder of what you’re up against:

55 percent of Americans wrongly believe that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation.

Only half of Americans understand that Judaism is older than Christianity.

Only 40 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government… which are Executive, Legislative and Judicial in case you’re in that 60 percent. You better not be! You’re an educator.

20 percent of Americans believe a friend or relative has been abducted by aliens.

Some good news: 84 percent know the basics of what happened at Pearl Harbor.

30 percent of Americans 18 to 24 can’t point to Pacific Ocean on a map. Hint, it’s the one on the left.

25 percent don’t know that American Revolution was fought against the British.

eclipse20 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth.

At any given time, 41 percent cannot name the sitting Vice President. (Sorry Mike)

30 percent could not name the year that the 9/11 attacks happened… including Rudy Giuliani who said during the campaign that there were no terrorist attacks under George W. Bush. Considering Rudy was the mayor of New York back then, you aren’t forgiven Rudy, and it takes away from W. who did a great job of keeping the country together in the immediate aftermath.

33 percent believe that they are not the product of evolution. Sadly, they probably aren’t.

Sixty-eight percent of Danes, 75 percent of Brits, and 76 percent of Finns could, for example, identify the Taliban, but only 58 percent of Americans managed to do the same—even though we’ve led the charge in Afghanistan.

Making people smarter, more aware and more literate matters! It really does.

Susan Jacoby, author of “The Age of American Unreason,” wrote: “Every shortcoming of American governance is related in some fashion to the knowledge deficit of the public.” And our knowledge deficit is growing:

  • For the first time in America’s history, this generation will be less educated than the last.
  • Sixty-eight percent of public school third-graders cannot read proficiently as manifested by the popular TV show “Are you smarter than a  5th grader.”
  • We’re 19th among young people with a high school or associate degree.
  • Where we once led the world in the number of young people with college degrees, we’re now in 12th place.
  • We’re 52nd in the quality of university math and science instruction.
  • Reading among all ages is declining rapidly. Forty percent of Americans under 44 haven’t read a book this year. Growing numbers of young people read nothing except required school assignments.
  • Nearly 50 percent of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are foreigners, most of whom will return to their home countries.

dirt road in fallScary, huh? Now for scarier… I have a guest on Education Talk Radio all the time named  Amelia Gamel and she’s a community college professor outside Detroit. She wrote a book with a scary title, “Help, My College Students Can’t Read.”

I don’t like any of those stats. Neither do you, but that’s what’s out there. That’s the perception of public education!  We need to change it.

All the above said, I happen to know you are all doing the very best job you can in very trying times. I know graduation rates are up and I know about the wonderful and innovative things you’re doing every day in public education, but I have a reason for showing you everything above.

There’s a lady named Betsy DeVos who is our new Secretary of Education and she is very much in favor of much more education choice. Keep in mind, we’ve had choice in public education for years; Catholic education and Christian schools being two, independent schools another.

But now it may be different. Mrs. DeVos believes that the money should follow the student to give parents more freedom. My God, that means that public education, already strapped having to take care of every child sent to it, will have less dollars for teacher salaries as well as everything that’s needed to make a school work.

kid in meadowIt could be a real challenge. Sadly the populace loves to hear bad news and bash teachers. They think that public education just doesn’t work. In spite of everything, it actually does.

And YOU have to make that known. I try to do that every day on my two podcasts, Education Talk Radio for professional educators and Education in America for parents and community. That’s not enough!

You, my friends, may very soon have strong competition for public dollars if Mrs. DeVos has her way. Don’t be angry. Inadvertently she is giving public education a real opportunity because competition is good. Without good competition, you get lazy and accept things the way they are as though they need to be there forever. In case you don’t believe me, ask Blockbuster Video, than ask Amazon . . . which begs the question . . . do you want to be Blockbuster or Amazon?

All those good things you’re doing, tell the world. My good friend Rich Bagin, Executive Director of the National School Public Relations Association wrote a book “Make Your School A School of Choice” and that’s exactly what you need to do!

graduation celebrationWant the good news about American Education?

It accepts everybody.

It’s diverse.

It offers unsurpassed educational and extra-curricular opportunities for the vast majority of kids.

It moves cautiously because we are dealing with a precious commodity.

For what it does, it is extremely cost efficient and most importantly it has YOU, the best teachers, every one certified!

Please work this year to change the perception and one last suggestion, this year on Career Day, invite an educator, a college Education Dean, a superintendent to extol teaching and education as a career for those kids you’re teaching.

Have a great year!

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