America’s floundering education

SCHOOL: High standards lead to better student preparedness.


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t is no secret today that U.S. public schools are slipping quickly behind other developed nations in every subject area. The federal government continues to throw more and more money at the Department of Education with no results. This problem is not one of funding, it is a problem of politics in public education. Politics that have no business being there.

A recent report issued by ACT Inc. showed that more than 25 percent of U.S. high school graduates are not prepared for their first year of college. More than 60 percent of ACT test takers failed at least two sections of the exam.

The most apparent reason for this decline in American aptitude stems from legislation such as “No Child Left Behind.” This piece of legislation attempted to improve students’ grades by awarding funding to schools who showed better performance from year to year. The results of this political meddling was that the course curriculums were significantly dumbed-down to artificially inflate schools’ overall performance.

Students are being lied to by their educational institutions. They are graduating from high school with the belief they are prepared for what life has in store for them. Instead, they have been fed lies by an education system more focused on money than human condition.

Recently, an eighth grade exam was uncovered from 1912, which shows in dramatic fashion how far American public schools have slipped. There are questions on the exam today’s college students would need to look up answers to. One question on the exam, courtesy of, is as follows, “Through what waters would a vessel pass in going from England through the Suez Canal to Manila?” Could you have answered that question in eighth grade without looking it up?

Here is another question from the same exam, “Name three rights given Congress by the Constitution and two rights denied Congress.” Most adult Americans today could not answer that question eighth graders were expected to know in 1912. How many Americans can even list the amendments in the Constitution as they are today?

Both teachers and students need to be held to higher standards if we are to see any appreciable improvement in American academia.

Test scores are not the only casualties of mounting ignorance. American students are not reaching their full potentials as human beings and are grossly unprepared for adulthood. When schools water-down curriculums, it demonstrates a sincere lack of commitment to their students’ well-being and an alliance with politics and money over America’s future. Schools should be working their hardest to prepare students for college and to be self-sufficient. By slacking off in academic requirements, schools are demonstrating that actual student preparedness falls second to government grants, thereby putting a lower value on children’s lives.

Here are a few more startling facts courtesy of Only 29 percent of Americans know who leads the executive branch of government. The percentage of Americans who know what ocean lies off the East coast of the U.S. is less than 62 percent. A full 27 percent of Americans know the two main parts of Congress.

The list goes on.

Students graduating high school cannot balance a checkbook or communicate at a high level. Texting abbreviations show up constantly in essays and writing assignments — at least the essays that can be read when the handwriting is legible. Schools also used to teach cursive handwriting. While it is not true anymore, cursive writing in the past was seen as a sign of an educated individual.

Another dilapidated skill that is no longer enforced thoroughly is the skill of listening. It sounds ridiculous, but Americans only internalize around 25 percent of what they hear from a speaker or presenter, according to the Business Encyclopedia. Remember the game “telephone” when you were a child? It was funny then, but if students cannot clearly listen to and communicate a message that is fresh in their minds, how can they possibly stay informed once they reach the professional world?

We are all victims of a poorly managed and corrupt public education system in the U.S. Not all American students are behind, but work still needs to be done. We can fix this by removing the politics from our schools and by becoming a more results-focused academic society. We need to stop simply throwing money at our public schools and streamline them to produce students that are prepared for the future. It comes down to discipline and uncompromising standards of academic excellence.

It is time for a return to America’s old habits of hard work and perseverance.

Adam Christianson is the managing/opinions editor at the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]