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Let's Make Better Use of Free Education

Student rioting in London over the hike in tuition that will raise the limit from 3,000 per year to 9,000 per year ($4,752.88 to $14,258.64) underscores the urgency of improving the ability of our elementary and secondary schools to deliver a form of adult literacy.

One of the London protestors pointed out that the tuition hike would have the effect of making universities “finishing schools for the wealthy.”

In many ways that’s already true in the United States. The doors of the best universities–yes, some are better than others–are already open chiefly to the children of the wealthy. Students from diverse, i.e. “not wealthy,” backgrounds had better have above-average academic qualifications and/or be willing to assume a staggering debt in order to get in and to stay in.

Time is running out for high school students and their parents who imagine that mere school attendance equates to becoming educated.

Children and youth must be expected and enabled to make the most of the free education that is provided to them up to the age of 18.

Unless their earnings are being used to pay family living expenses, teens should not be working three or more hours on weekdays.

Students who work on weekday afternoons and evenings frequently make up lost sleep during class.

Students who work on weekday afternoons and evenings frequently make up lost sleep during class.

Let them have weekend jobs to earn spending money, but keep their time during the week available for study. And see that they use it for that. If the only reason that a teen works after school is to pay for a car and car insurance, then the community is at fault. Where’s the public transportation?

The days when a young person can goof off in high school and take remedial courses in college are, one can hope, coming to an end.

Advertisement for Grease, 1978 movie depicting high school life in which teen car culture takes precedent over the academic aspects of adolescent development.

Advertisement for Grease, 1978 movie depicting high school life in which teen car culture takes precedence over the academic aspects of adolescent development.

An eighth-grader who cannot read and write about Golding’s Lord of the Flies, or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man at a a competent level of literacy is not ready for high school. The time for remedial courses in English is between the eighth and ninth grades.

Competency and not age should be the determining factor in school promotion.

Percentages of entering U.S. college freshmen who required remediation courses in 2006.

Percentages of entering U.S. college freshmen who required remediation courses in 2006. Regardless of race or ethnicity, these figures are unacceptable.

Competency is achieved through practice. This a concept that all children should learn, not just those in athletics. Fluency in reading, writing, and thinking results from hours of practice that must take place outside the classroom.

If the United States is not to become a nation of half-educated underachievers governed by a wealthy educated elite, parents need to insist that better use be made of the years of free education that are available.

2 comments to Let’s Make Better Use of Free Education

  • Glenn Pickel

    I don’t believe “no child left behind” and “benchmarks” are working. From what I have read and heard, neither do the people who know – the teachers and administrators. It seems to me that the best approach is to pay and respect the teachers as the professionals they are, even if it means building fewer spectacular sports arenas.

  • This is an excellent article. Every living American who can read English should read it and take heed of its message. Sadly, too few will get the chance, and of those who will, how many will be able to understand the gravity of its simple message.

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