The Whitehouse has posted a form to gather feedback from parents, teachers, and students. I recommend adding your opinion about education in the United States here. Here is the letter I sent in through the form.
Dear President Obama,
The first suggestion I have is to abandon the notion that every child is going to succeed at college until we solve the problem of poverty at home. If you really want to increase the number of college graduates, and give everyone equal opportunities, your nation’s children need to enter kindergarten at the same stage of development. Some children enter school with absolutely no academic readiness skills.
The second suggestion I have is to find a way to funnel funds from the penal system into education. A high school drop-out costs the US $260,000 over the course of their life-time in additional services, and for this cost, you could send every child in danger of dropping out to private schools from k to 12, or even better, fund public schools at the same levels as private schools.
You need to stop focusing on a bipartisan approach to education. Your Republican libertarian counterparts want nothing less than a complete dismantling of public education, and you cannot compromise on this point. If you lose public education, you lose the ability to transmit American culture from one generation to the next, except through the consumption of media. Given the track record of the media in the US especially, I would not trust them to do anything but control the minds of the youth for corporate interests. Public education is therefore essential, everyone must have an opportunity to absorb culture, and to think and discuss it critically.
College readiness is not going to be done by making kids study on math and reading. NCLB, RTTT are both forcing schools to reduce the amount of time kids spend learning real things, and focus on rote learning. Please don’t try to claim otherwise, this particular message is easy to find in nearly every school in the US. College readiness requires critical thinking skills, which can be found in any subject area, but especially science, humanities, and the arts.
In a nation whose people are the most overweight on the planet, cutting back on physical fitness and other activity programs in schools will lead to greater health-care costs in the long run, as your population’s health degenerates.
Finally, socialism is not a four letter word. The countries with the strongest education systems in the world are all socialist.
Thank you for your time,
(A reminder: If you aren’t sure why a Canadian is at all interested in public school education in the United States, remember that my son and wife have US citizenship, and that our local politicians have a habit of watching US education reforms too closely for my comfort.)