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According to Michael Moore, forty-four million adult Americans read and write at the fourth grade level or below. In his essay “Idiot Nation,” Moor expresses his point of view and different facts concerning education in the USA. He has provided a wholesale condemnation of American public education – its inadequate funding, its practices, and its “sell-out” to corporate America. These factors, he concludes, result in a system that fails its children and, ultimately, relegates America to the second- or third-class status within the world community. Moore is absolutely right!
Federal funding for education and libraries has never been great. In effect, Washington has charged states with this responsibility, and, unfortunately, states are unable to provide the funds necessary to obtain excellence in educating their children. As Moore states, the Congress would rather build more bombers and pay its own membership large salaries than invest in the increasing global competition of education. The schools are thus in physical decay, over-crowded, poorly equipped, and staffed with teachers who are under-paid. With appropriate funding, as Moore suggests, we could have some inviting physical environments for students, better libraries, and smaller class sizes; we could have the latest in technology (perhaps, tablets instead of book bags!); and, while many teachers enter the career out of a sense of mission, increased salaries would allow the field to attract more of the best and the brightest.
Classroom practices seem to be driven by testing performance, and I believe this is true. All states have proficiency tests, and there is a strong move to hold teachers fully accountable for how their students perform these tests. It is no wonder, then, that teachers must always maintain focus on the skills and content that will be tested, and this leaves little time to foster creative thinking, to allow students to move into “uncharted territory,” or to simply develop the behaviors that result in independent learning and discovery. Good teachers hate this situation as much as students do, but, for the sake of structure and those test scores, everyone must conform.
In an attempt to supplement their lack of funds, many school districts have entered into partnerships with large corporations, such as Nike and Coca-Cola. Marketing and sales targeted at a captive audience mean more profits! Soft drink manufacturers provide money to districts that give them exclusive vending contracts; other companies pay to advertise on the school busses and within schools themselves; scoreboards proudly display the products of the companies that have provided them; computer software runs streaming advertising. Because kids spend so much money, and because they are a captive audience, corporations are “buying” them just as they “buying” politicians.
The future of American education is bleak, and Michael Moore has provided the reasons why it is so. The question now is this: When will our politicians realize the fact that we are falling further and further behind and do something about it? If this trend continues, all of the innovation, all of the research, and all of the important discoveries will occur in other countries. America will have only the memory of a once-great country.