Every generation has a defining issue and no issue more defines a generation than how it educates its children. Education influences the future, a society, its culture. History repeatedly teaches us the same lesson: freedom and liberty breed a very different future than do dictators and despots.
The American public education system, in fairness, was never designed to be perfect, or to be the cure-all for everything. It was always meant to be a compulsory system born out of an Industrial Age that was structured to create a workforce. Yet, even with that reality looming overhead, there has always been one window open and it had a name: American Exceptionalism. No, that doesn’t mean we’re better or smarter. It means we were taught to see our world through the greatness of our founding principles, even with its flaws. We may have come from all walks of life into a classroom but we were united by the melting pot of the American experience where teachers ignited children’s passions through classic literature, history, the arts and sciences. Yes, some of us struggled through the precision and rigor of math and suffered through subjects we could have lived just fine without, like chemistry. No, learning wasn’t always easy. It required us to have persistence and determination. No, our history wasn’t always perfectly accurate either but there was also a unwritten mandate to always question and seek out the truth.
We live in pivotal times. This is the information age we all heard was coming in grammar, middle and high school. It didn’t start with the federally led program known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative but it’s certainly part of an American tragedy where our classrooms have been hijacked by education bureaucrats, private interests and political agendas. They say our classrooms are broken. They say our children are broken. They say we can’t compete.
In the days when K-12 standardized testing was at a minimum and teachers wrote their own curricula, the classroom was filled with far more joy and delight than we are seeing today. Those immeasurable qualities like creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, collaboration, problem-solving and passion cannot be assessed but they are and always have been the drivers of resulting American innovation. These are intended consequences of a free society in classrooms with an open mind. A place where children are taught to think–for themselves. Not what to think or how to think or when to think or why to think or where to think. Not groupthink, but to use our noggins, as my dad would have said.
I am the product of public education at a time in America when education still was thought of as the way up and the way out. The sky was the limit. You could grow up to be anything you wanted to be. Master of your own destiny, if you worked hard in school. You didn’t have to choose a college and career ready path by grade 9. Or have one chosen for you based on the results of an assessment. For some, we found our passions in college. Others of us were still clueless after those four years. Still, for many, college wasn’t even on the radar. You know, a lot of free-thinking mavericks have blazed trails and changed the world. Then and now.
Over the years, I have covered entertainment, lifestyle and cultural issues, and was even a columnist writing about the comedy scene in Los Angeles, all happy topics. In more recent years, that topic turned to education and culture–not so happy. The topic found me because it found me as a mom in the Southern California suburbs, caught in the headlights of No Child Left Behind and the Common Core State Standards Initiative. You see, I am not just a writer. I am “that parent” and I am proud to be that parent for every parent because I am that parent with a pen. Well no, actually that’s the president. I have a laptop.
There is nothing more precious or important than our children. The ongoing fundamental and federally led transformation of education is spilling across the cultural landscape, affecting each and every one of our children. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia are part of the federal mandate, although quite a handful of those states are fighting to free themselves from the shackles of Fed Led Ed. States like Texas sit on the sidelines but are conjoined with the mandate through assessments. Yes, there is a war raging for the ideological and philosophical future of this nation because of this very education. I come to you from the trenches, in Dallas, Texas, honored to lend my voice as a contributing writer covering these very issues here at Breitbart Texas, the online leader in bringing the truth to light.
Merrill Hope, Education Contributor, Breitbart Texas