Education in America - Part I: Can We Talk About Our Education Problems?

Education in America is in crisis. Can we fix it? It is my contention that our crisis in education demands more than another Band-Aid fix and it is well past time to overhaul the system.

This is part one in a six-part series on the state of education in America.

It is my belief, and I am not alone in this, that we face a major crisis in education in America today. One has only to watch TV for awhile to eventually see one of a couple of commercials produced by ExxonMobil or by the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization calling attention to the problem. It is my desire to present facts to you on our present dilemma, along with comment, for your consideration. Additionally, both of the commercials mentioned will be discussed.

Some, of course, will denigrate all that I say, as has happened in the past, and I will be attacked. We will not really discuss the facts at that point; instead we will resort to stone-throwing and name-calling. Those who participate in such behavior either don’t like me or have a stake in the status quo, and thus have no desire for any change; therefore, I become the face of the enemy. Did we not just witness such a struggle unfold in Wisconsin?

I will first put my cards out on the table so that everyone can see my hand.

(Disclosure: I am not a professional educator. I did, however, actively participate in the lion’s share of the education of my six children through home-schooling. Due to some grade skipping, my six children’s education tenure is represented by 69 school years—43 of those school years were spent in home-schooling, five were spent in private schools, and the remaining 21 were spent in the state-funded government school system.

As for my own education, 1st through 8th grade of my education was spent in a private school and I believe honestly that, other than a public school 9th grade algebra class, most of whatever real education I acquired after my private school stint was acquired through books rather than actual classroom learning. Additionally, I have received two technical certificates from time spent in technical school and community college and eventually earned a bachelor's of science degree from a four-year institution.)

In my own studies I have come across the following important philosophy: “You can’t fight something with nothing.” I have attempted to adhere to this philosophy in my own criticism of those things that I consider in error. I have criticized the public education system on Patch before, but I am not suggesting the dismantling of the state-run government school system without realizing that I have at least some responsibility to outline a better idea. In fact, I am not a professional educator or legislator, so I have no ability to form policy but I do have ideas, some of which I have hinted at, and I believe they have been successfully implemented in other places, so, while I call for the dismantling of our current system, it is not without proven, working alternatives in mind. It is not my intent to provide those alternatives here at this time. Rather, this is a consideration of whether it’s finally time to actively seek out alternatives to our current system.

Having provided my intent and a full disclosure, I will begin in Part II to discuss the current situation, because I believe we are in crisis and the beginning of a fix is to understand and accept the fact that we have a problem.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pete Heinbaugh June 19, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Good job, Paul, in laying the groundwork for Part II and beyond. As I agree that new, creative ideas are needed in our education system, I look forward to reading your views with an open mind. One prerequisite that I would need to see with any new idea is that there has to be equal and total access for all; that lack of money, lack of connections, location, etc., do not hinder access to the system. Our current public school systems' mission is to do just this. But like seemingly most every large institution, over the past number of years, things have gone awry. This mission has been contaminated to the point where a disproportionate amount of resources are being spent on individuals who do not demonstrate personal accountability. So, as I write this, I guess I have identified another prerequisite. That personal accountability be woven into any new ideas. That those who demonstrate a lack of accountability will not be coddled; but will endure consequences. I am sure will have more comments after Part II.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 19, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Thanks for reading, Pete, but as stated above, "It is not my intent to provide those alternatives here at this time." Again, my main thrust with this series is to essentially establish that there is a problem; some refuse to admit that. Given your comments, however, and with further encouragement, I have no problem opening up with my ideas as well as listening to other ideas that make sense. I appreciate what you have to say with regards to coddling and accountability. It makes a lot of sense. I think we are past the point of trying to force on some what they obviously don't want to the detriment of those who do and therefore have their chances of learning ruined.
John Reynolds June 20, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Paul, I think you may have a problem going up against the NJEA with their $120,000,000 a year war chest! We should start a collection for you. Can someone tell me why it costs $20,000 a year to run a kid through the Camden public school system, when it only costs $14,000 a kid in Cherry Hill? I read an article in the CP this past year. citing a Rutgers education "expert", hired both by the unions and the government. He said the current system is working because it works in the suburbs. He also said they should pay good teachers more to attract them to places like Camden. But he said it is difficult to evaluate a teachers performance. OK, but how the hell is he going to know who are good teachers in order to pay them more?
Paul J. DiBartolo June 20, 2012 at 03:52 PM
You don't want merit based pay unless you want an uprising to contend with. The teacher's union wants tenure and guaranteed incomes not performance based income. Just remember when you're voting to raise the $16,000 per student in Gloucester Township to an ever higher amount...it's for the children. You wouldn't want to vote against that...how could you?
agoldy June 21, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Okay, Time to speak up. As a public educator, let me first say that I do not have a choice about whether or not I want to be a member of the union. I can not teach in New Jersey without paying dues. Next, if we are going to address education today, we must also address "parenting". As a mother of 3 boys that attend public school in GT, I spent many hours "teaching" my boys, not as their teacher, but as their parent. Most connections to language and learning are made within the first 5 years of life. I taught my kids kindness, manners, repsect, accountibilty, responsibilty, compassion and how to behave. I spent countless hours being consistent, even when I felt like giving in and they are all good students today. I believe that as a parent, I contributed to their success in school. Many children come to school these days with a blatant lack of respect, lack of integrity, and no work ethic. The HOME is the first school and the PARENTS are the first teachers. Teaching a class of 25 students can be quite a challenge when simple social behaviors are lacking. In any dialogue about education and wanting to make it better, we must address how things have changed in technology, family values & parenting time, work ethic and integrity over the past 10 - 20 years. Times, They are A Changin'. The classroom can be a very challenging place to be in 2012.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 21, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I cannot disagree with your comments or opinion. I, myself, was very involved in raising and educating six children. Unfortunately, I have to say that I believe the educational system and its architects has been complicit in the building up of the nanny state and the removal of the (literal and figurative) rod of discipline from the parents of today's youth. Rather than leaving parenting to parents the progressive educators of today feel that they, and only they, know best. This has contributed to the situation we see, and you describe, today. I hope that you understand my response and am reluctant to take this any further but will do so if pressed.
Darren Gladden June 21, 2012 at 02:34 AM
Listen it takes ALL to come together and understand , We all have a say . I'm tried of Teacher feeling they are always being Attack ......... We all can Learn something from each other if we care to LISTEN ...............Just care , I do
Paul J. DiBartolo June 21, 2012 at 12:25 PM
While "We all can Learn something from each other if we care to LISTEN" sounds good on paper, in the real world things don't always work out that way. Some issues are clearly defined and you can't have two differing views and say that both have good in them. Sometimes that's just not the case and in such issues there is no good compromise. Some people talk up compromise until it comes time for them to compromise and then it's a whole different story. Okay, I guess an example is in order. Today 'Intelligent Design' is the boogie man. I am not interested in discussing religious views here but there are plenty of scientists who question evolution and favor some aspect of Intelligent Design without necessarily holding to some hard and fast view of creationism. Unfortunately, those who hold to evolution, which is only a theory, consider all who mention Intelligent Design as knuckle-draggers. Intelligent Design, or Creationism, is not science they say. Well guess what, either is evolution. Second example, try to get funding for research when you question global warming. Those who question global warming have been associated with Holocaust Deniers. Yes, sad to say, compromise is never what it claims to be.
agoldy June 21, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Care?...that is why we chose this profession. I love my job, please don't get me wrong. We listen, we adapt, we try, we change, we must be flexible and have loads of patience (and not just with kids, but with curriculum and daily changes). Who feels attacked? I, too, believe reform is due in our educational system. But with restiictions and yearly curriculum changes, a lack of freedom and creativity, we also have our hands tied. I have joined this conversation on my own free will. And whether you want to admit it or not, your response was an attack, with tone, might I add.
julia donahue June 21, 2012 at 02:01 PM
$16,000 per student? where is that documented? please reveal the source....under $11,000 was my figure in GT
Paul J. DiBartolo June 21, 2012 at 02:13 PM
I'm not sure where you saw that because it's in Part II, which is not scheduled for posting until this afternoon, but, no problem, here it is: "BHPRSD spent $16,025 per pupil in 2010-11, down from $16,497 the prior year, while GTPS spent $13,662 per child, down from $14,221 in 2009-10" You can see that in the Patch article titled, "New Jersey Issues Annual School Report Card," published on June 6, 2012, at: http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/articles/new-jersey-issues-annual-school-report-cards
Paul J. DiBartolo June 21, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Oh, okay, I see that I published the number up above in one of my comments. Anyway, there you have it, there it is!
N/A June 22, 2012 at 03:33 AM
NaPauleon the next time you tell people the truth will be the first time. I will correct you as I always do: Julia, you are correct, the actual cost to educate a child in GT taking the average from kindergarten until high school: $10,044. The figure NaPauleon is using to sensationalize his position is $13,662. That is the figure you would use if you wanted to add in the value of the schools themselves which unlike Cherry Hill we are still building new schools and maintaining them. Which when we do downsize our school needs like Cherry Hill is doing we will realize the profits from selling those building like CherryHhill is doing. http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/rcreport.php?c=07;d=1780;s=040 The figures for the High Schools student is $11,834 The figure $16,025 NaPauleon uses includes again the cost of the 3 high schools including the New Timber creek High and maintenance each. http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/rcreport.php?c=07;d=0390;s=020 What NaPaleon leaves out is the fact that thanks to Governor Christie and intentionally blowing the Race To The Top Federal funding application we lost $13.6Million dollars $8.3M to the high schools and $5 Million to the Elementary that certainly would have made an amazing impact on your tax dollars and would have averaged $578 of tax reductions per home in GT. Christie also robbed our school budget $1.2 Million for the charter school another $51 tax savings per home in GT. Christies battle with unions cost us each $628.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM
For the benefit of my readers... As stated in Part II of this series, seen here... http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/blog_posts/education-in-america-part-ii-when-is-16k-per-year-for-education-not-enough ...my numbers are quoted from the June 6th, 2012, Patch article titled "NJ Issues Annual School Report Card, seen here... http://gloucestertownship.patch.com/articles/new-jersey-issues-annual-school-report-cards I specifically state there that the numbers I quote are for the BHPRSD (Black Horse Pike Regional School District). Are we not responsible for Timber Creek? Anyway, the number reported as the 2010-2011 Total Cost Per Pupil is...(drum roll)... $16,025 - this number can be seen at the bottom of the page here: http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/rcreport.php?c=07;d=0390;s=020 If "Not/Applicable" wants to blow smoke she should go somewhere else and do it. If anyone wants to argue that the number that the state has published is inaccurate, I am willing to entertain reasons as to why that number is incorrect as long as the conversation can remain in the realm of civility without the name calling...however, just DUH! facts, ma'am!
Paul J. DiBartolo June 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM
N/A, do you understand the meaning of BHPRSD? Maybe you should look it up and you would appear a little more intelligent. As to your other comments...give us all a break. BTW, I'm still waiting for one person to agree with anything you say.
N/A June 24, 2012 at 05:10 PM
NaPauleon, I never disputed the $16,025 figure, I disputed what the figure stood for it is not education of the child only as you tried to refer it to be, and that figure would be only $11,834. The figure you are using is for the cost of the buildings maintenance and transportation also, which many other towns do not provide and Cherry Hill which you refer to as your model town is currently reducing schools and selling off the assets to reduce school costs. When we sell the buildings also we will see a cost reduction when the buildings are paid for. This is specifically why they use the two separate numbers. By the way the real figures of Cherry Hill High Schools are $12,067 to educate a child that is higher not lower then GT as you fictitiously reported and the school cost including the buildings is $15,704 per Considerably higher than our cost as they only have 2 schools we have 3. They also do not bus all their students WE DO. C.H. has no new schools WE DO! If I lived in Cherry Hill I would be asking the Republican school district how can GT bus all their students, build new schools and keep costs lower per school then Cherry Hill when all things are considered. You keep making things up I’m here to expose the truth. Cherry Hill High figures from State of New Jersey: http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/rcreport.php?c=07;d=0800;s=030 Gloucester Townships School Figures from State of New Jersey: http://education.state.nj.us/rc/rc11/rcreport.php?c=07;d=0390;s=020
Paul J. DiBartolo June 24, 2012 at 05:18 PM
N/A, do you understand the meaning of BHPRSD? Maybe you should look it up and you would appear a little more intelligent. As to your other comments...give us all a break. BTW, I'm still waiting for one person to agree with anything you say.
N/A June 24, 2012 at 05:18 PM
NaPauleon,You would look much more honest if you would use correct stats. One thing is certain people are tired of high taxes and since the school district is the largest portion of our budget, the way to see significant savings would be to make sure they tightened the belt a few loops, but even your comment above using statistics you provided, shows they are doing a very good job of doing exactly that. The School district still produced a savings of almost $400 Per student vs. last year’s numbers and that was without the Race to the Top Award of almost 13.5 M in aid we lost from last year thanks to Governor Christie. I for one thank them for that due diligence. You can criticize but the question is still a simple one; Why the vindictiveness toward a school district that obviously saved the tax payers a ton of money this year despite the personal vendetta and incompetence of Governor Christie’s actions in, deliberately fudging the Race to the Top application that would have saved all homeowners another $628 this year in property taxes?
N/A June 24, 2012 at 05:22 PM
NaPauleon ,As to your comment about Timber Creek Not sure if you know this or not since you home school your kids , or at least you claim you do. Timber Creek is part of the Black Horse pike Regional School District so the figures I used do include that school. I would assume the editor did not use fictitious links and that the state did not put fictitious information on the state website, although I would not put it past Governor Christie to mislead the public after all it would certainly not be the first time would it....I remember Race To The Top application. My taxes are $628.00 higher this year than they should be because of his war with the teachers union, which as we all know is simply because they donated to democrats and not his election fund. Every time you call me Not/Applicable by the way only shows how shallow and naive you are. N/A certainly does not stand for that but if it makes you feel better call me what you wish after all calling people names is your bully M/O. The facts about this story certainly do seem something here is Not/applicible and that would be the facts to the blogger who wrote the story Im responding to. Just like your imaginary stories here little guy, your name calling is laughable.
N/A June 24, 2012 at 05:31 PM
NaPualeon, I certainly do understand BHPRSD the real question is, Do you? Highland, Timeber Creek and Triton make up one (1) school district and the figures are the same for all. Don’t believe it? Go to the state website and find Highland, Timber Creek or Trition ...I will save you the time YOU CAN'T. The state recognizes them as Black Horse Pike Regional School district and statically only reports on the cost for the 3 as a combined number. The education and school cost numbers are all the same for all 3. It's amazing you keep making yourself look more and more foolish with every post and believe me even I didn't think you possibly could do that after you wrote this story.
Paul J. DiBartolo June 24, 2012 at 10:16 PM
You are just all over the map, N/A. You obviously have not even read my blogs through because your comments are all over the place. Give it a rest and allow those who know what they're talking about post comments. I, for one, have neither the time nor the patience to respond to you any further.
mr June 25, 2012 at 12:30 AM
I know where you're coming from . Teachers cannot do it alone; they need parental/guardian support. But what do teachers do when they are trying to work with kids from a culture which does not value or respect education.


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