A National Public Radio study in 2012 reported that American high school students ranked below average that year in math among the world’s most-developed countries. They were close to average in science and reading. That’s five years ago. More recent global studies report varied results, but they all reflect a steady decline in the ability of the U.S. to educate its citizens’ children. In its report of 2012, NPR said, “In mathematics, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin, up from 23 three years ago.” In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009. Twenty-two nations. In reading, 19 other nations scored higher than U.S. students, up from nine in 2009.
How important is the quality of our nation’s public education? It is the heart and soul of the future of our children and of our nation. That’s all.
In 1785, John Adams wrote, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”
Calvin Stowe, a 19th century theology professor and abolitionist, characterized its importance this way: “The most effectual, and indeed the only effectual, way to produce this individuality and harmony of national feeling and character is to bring our children into the same schools and have them educated together.”
The NPR report on 2012 noted that our nation’s reading scores are the same as in 2009, while scores from Belgium, Poland, Estonia, Germany and Ireland improved and passed U.S. scores. High school students in Poland and Ireland outscored U.S. students in math and science, as well.
Do we have a problem? Certainly, but don’t ask the top 1 percent whose children receive their education in the insulated comfort of private religious schools and charters, which are paid for by our taxes but enjoy less accountability to us. These are the schools favored by Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to serve as the nation’s education leader. Ms. DeVos doesn’t like public schools, preferring private ones. She likes the idea of vouchers paid for by you and me to welcome students into private and religious schools.
Most of President Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions represent real danger to our nation. The prospect of our nation under their leadership is terrifying. Betsy DeVos’ threat to public education is by far the most dangerous of all. Finally, even a few Republican senators realize this and intend to vote against her confirmation. Are there any others with a conscience? Let’s all pray for their wisdom.