It’s up to the American family to make our schools more successful
America’s constitutional republic is a “singularity,” a word used in general relativity that describes an event like the “Big Bang” that happens only once; an event so uniquely different, so singularly astounding that it goes beyond precise empirical explanation or understanding.
This American singularity has brought into existence the most productive nation on earth, which can only be described as having its roots in the entire American experiment and the unique form of freedom that permeates the very sinews of our culture.
Yet there are those who maintain that the singularity is in trouble. They say that the American school system, a government entity, is responsible for the future demise of our American singularity. They show that American children are increasingly academically inferior, and do not meet the evolving expectations necessary to successfully compete in future global markets. As evidence of these fears, they show that more American high school graduates are forced to take “bone-head” English in college than ever before (as I did 50 years ago). They compare statistics such as test results and high school graduation rates with children of other countries.
While we cannot predict how successfully American graduates will compete in the future economy, the use of such comparisons are most often invalid. They constitute fallacies of reasoning that, at least for the state of Nevada, and, probably for the nation, frequently produce alarming conclusions proving nothing except the fallacy of the argument.
As an example, I just finished reading an editorial by a Las Vegas High School math teacher proclaiming the poor quality of students admitted to his math classes. The entire piece blames the school system, with one exception. Toward the end, he blows his entire argument when he states, “make no mistake, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the students. …” He’s almost right.
What an admission from a highly qualified teacher deeply enmeshed in the travails of teaching in a metropolitan high school. I have no quarrel with his and many other observations that some students, as he says, “… arrive in high school without the ability to multiply single-digit numbers. ….”
Why do we not see the string of cause-and-effect relationships from the school system, to the student, to the parents to the family and to the underlying changing culture? Why do we continue to turn away from that institution with the most power and influence to affect the success and failures of our children? Why do we refuse to believe that the American family is the critical difference between success or failure of our children and our culture?.
Despite popular belief, while schools have the authority and are responsible for making academic value available to children, schools are not delegated and should not be delegated authority to force children to learn. In fact, for the most part, schools can do very little for children who are not ready to learn other than make academic value available through competent teaching. Thus, why do we continue to hold schools responsible and accountable for results they do not have the authority to achieve?
On the other hand, parents are delegated authority from the state of Nevada for the socialization of their children. This includes the obligation to ensure that children are school ready and are academically and socially responsible.
To those who say that liberal teachers and unions are the cause, I put forth that our children will absorb and practice the social and political values and beliefs fostered by parents, not those taught in schools by liberal (or conservative) teachers. In fact, our children will be outspoken in defense of family values and in defiant opposition to liberal (or conservative) interpretations of fact.
Yet, even within the midst of such remarkable historical singular success, the American family is becoming lazy and abusive. Responsibility to produce school-ready children and to ensure at least standard academic performance is being shrugged off to American schools. Then, when our children fail, many parents blame lazy and incompetent liberal teachers and a dysfunctional school system. Yet when our children succeed, we take the credit.
Just as our experiment with a constitutional republic is a singularity in the annals of history, so are the human products of that singularity, our children. Hence, if we agree that the American experiment is a singular success, it would be difficult to deny that we as parents and our children who are now parents have the responsibility to carry out that success as it is inherited, resides in, and is manifest by the American family, not some government institution.
• Dan Mooney is a conservative, regular contributor to the Nevada Appeal opinion page, and a frequent critic of conservative attacks on the American school system. His e-mail address is Nevada4@aol.com.
John DiMambro, whose column normally appears in this space, will return next week.