LEGISLATORS: We Need To Get Back To Educational Fundamentals

Editor’s Note: a guest post by State Representatives Beryl Amedee, Raymond Crews, Kathy Edmonston, Larry Freiman, Brett Geyman, Dodie Horton, Charles Owen, and Phillip Tarver

Hall of Fame basketball Coach John Wooden of UCLA and Vince Lombardi of NFL fame were both said to be acutely focused on the fundamentals of their sports.  Their teams rarely did things that were complex, or exotic.  They practiced and then executed their sports brilliantly because they emphasized and executed the basics at extraordinary levels.

Without question, fundamentals are what we need in our K-12 education structure in Louisiana.  The State needs to decide what it wants and expects from its public education system.  The hard question that must be levied is, do we want an education system, or do we want something else?  What that “something else” is needs to be discussed and a decision needs to be made.  We’re against “something else” and we’re for a good education system that emphasizes fundamentals.

In our estimation, the mission of education in the public sector is to provide a foundational system that teaches, evaluates, teaches AGAIN if necessary, then graduates into the work force the school-age children of our citizens.  The state is obliged to provide to the taxpayers who live within our borders a safe and healthy environment for students from elementary grades up through the completion of high school.  Anything else is extraneous and potentially distracting and harmful.

Society has slowly morphed the expectation of what our public schools should be to something that is almost unrecognizable from days gone by.  The State now has a litany of requirements that are strangling the morale and wherewithal of teachers in our schools.  Louisiana has requirements that are levied on our students that are superfluous and a colossal waste of time.  Most everyone KNOWS these things, especially teachers and the families of the students in our system, such as it is.  Some refuse to admit we’re going the wrong way, but deep down, they know we are.

The mission of our schools should be to teach children first the basics, then intermediate, then, where appropriate, advanced levels of instruction.  Children need to be able to read.  They need to be able to write and speak in the English language (yes, it’s ok to teach foreign languages, but English is the language of our country).  They need to be able to understand and demonstrate basic skills in mathematics.  Children need to be able to understand and apply varying types of science, including biology, chemistry and physics.  Students need to understand and use the Scientific Method.  Finally, students need to understand the framework of history and how our governments are structured and how they are supposed to work.

Our framework of education is one of the things that allowed the United States to catapult itself into the leadership role of the modern world.  A rigorous undergirding of education that promoted those who thought freely and excelled made this country great.   The U.S. education system was the basis for how we went to the moon, broke the speed of sound, discovered countless cures and treatments of disease and did untold other things that exceed the cumulative achievement of mankind by an immeasurable order of magnitude.

But somewhere along the line, we started tinkering with what was actually working.  We replaced rigor with tolerance. Instead of demanding excellence, we promoted feeling good about ourselves.  Achieving average became the new goal.  Nationally, we have fallen off track and we have certainly fallen off track in Louisiana in many ways.

Schools should expect to receive as students young people who have been reared to a sufficient degree that they can function in an orderly classroom setting.  Sadly, many people these days are not rearing their children at all.  They are having children and allowing smart phones, televisions, and other electronic devices to impart an understanding of the world that is usually distorted and often times counter-productive.  It is disturbing that teachers now must both rear and educate children; in many instances, children come to school with no understanding of basic norms or how to behave in a way that is not destructive to others.

The sad truth is that teachers and principals wind up spending more time on children who are socially dysfunctional because their parents haven’t bothered to rear them than on students who are there ready and willing to learn.  The public responsibility for dealing with unruly citizens is a topic all unto itself and we may write on that another time.  For now, however, let it suffice to say it is wrong on many levels that our teachers are hamstrung because a lot of adults simply refuse to be adults.

As a brief aside, it is obvious some children have learning challenges and actual disabilities.  The public schools must and can take care of the most vulnerable among us.  Our professional educators know HOW to do that and they’re getting better at it all the time.  This editorial is not about children with special needs; it’s about the vast majority of our students that the State is failing because we’ve abandoned fundamentals for  “something else.”

What our students do NOT need is to be socialized or given instruction in social skills outside the bounds of what western civilization has crafted and practiced for many centuries.   It is not now, nor should it be the job of the school system to relay to students that the culture of our country and state are wicked, depraved, nor that it is bankrupt morally and needs to be destroyed.  It is not the duty nor job of the school system to introduce a dialectic that is contrary to the norms of society.  Yes, we’re speaking of the devolution of society and the insidious assault on traditional and nuclear families, the basics of order and chivalry, and even the changing of meanings of words to suit an apparently insidious plan that focuses on pronouns outside the bounds of the English language.

Children should not be the focal point of a nefarious aim to change society.  The conspiratorial and even openly admitted efforts to transform America and Louisiana should not be allowed within the walls of our schools.  Covert efforts to slowly indoctrinate children and change their attitudes about things such as family, the rule of law, and the very fabric of society should not be elements of public education.  These efforts are antithetical to the fundamentals of education.  They are a waste of time and they violate trust between the tax paying public and the children the State is obliged to educate.

We need to allow our schools to focus on the fundamentals of education.  If that means prohibiting in law things that work to distract from our basic framework, so be it.  In the next legislative session, one of us may offer up an omnibus bill that eliminates extraneous requirements on our teachers.  Someone may offer up a bold change to the testing paradigm that is absolutely ruining the professional lives of our teachers, wasting precious time in our classrooms, providing high levels of stress for students and parents and producing data that is mostly irrelevant and useless.

Our school age children need to read, write and speak English well.  They need to be exposed to and taught the basics and then intricacies of math, science and social studies.  Everything else needs to be pushed aside.

A year ago, the State proved it COULD move the educational needle well in a real team effort.   The Social Studies Content Standards Louisiana crafted and adopted were a true return to fundamentals, and these standards are now being benchmarked as some of the best in the nation.   The project was also a great example of teamwork and state coming together.   We can do these things. We just have to decide we want to and we need to keep working together.

P.S. – We’re not against alternative forms of education or parental choice in education, nor are we against early childhood education.  We are FOR the public schools.   We are FOR a focus on education fundamentals.

 

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