What is the future of American public education?

What is the future of American public education? I pondered this question recently as I read an article on teacher shortages.

On the surface, it seems public education has everything going for it: and endless supply of money, a government monopoly on children, and an expectation that it will always be there.

But a closer look reveals a spongy mess: soft, squishy, and degrading at an alarming rate. I mean seriously – as our nation becomes more dystopian because of progressive madness, formerly respected institutions such as public education are engaged in a relentless downward spiral in quality. Is it salvageable?

My opinion of public education has been declining for decades. It’s why we decided, back when our now-adult daughters were infants, to homeschool. Because we were never involved in the school system, we had no daily awareness of the radical changes taking place at all levels – from the boots-on-the-ground classroom teacher to the upper echelons of the National Education Association and federal Department of Education.

But many parents whose children were enrolled in schools were similarly unaware of the radical changes taking place. It wasn’t until the game-changer of the pandemic lockdowns arrived (and with it, remote schooling) that parents saw – many for the first time – exactly what was happening in the classroom. Horrified, they yanked their children out by the millions.

So not only are public schools suffering from the funding impact of fewer students, but it seems teachers are leaving the profession in droves, thus contributing further to the downward spiral. An enormous number of teachers have quit over the last few years, perhaps as many as 300,000 nationwide.

But why are teachers leaving? If a teacher is politically conservative, the answer is simple. Who wants to teach in such a hostile environment? But what accounts for the number of progressive teachers leaving?

A lot depends on the state. In Texas, a recent survey revealed a staggering 70% of teachers were thinking on leaving their jobs, in large part due to clashes with state legislators over unwoke curricula. Doubtless many of these teachers would feel more at home in places like Portland or Seattle, where it’s practically against the law to be unwoke.

But even liberal places like Virginia are struggling to fill teacher vacancies. In fact, the liberal rag Vox confirmed the dire teacher shortage nationwide. Apparently teachers everywhere are realizing they’re caught in the middle: Impossible demands from education boards, and impossible demands from parents. “For many teachers, politics has filled their classrooms with land mines that they have gotten tired of stepping on over and over again,” notes this article. “With administrations, teachers’ unions and teachers themselves pushing extreme, left-wing ideologies instead of just teaching the basics, teachers on both sides of the aisle are getting fed up.”

Additionally, teacher salaries are stagnating while administrative costs (such as Diversity positions) are skyrocketing. Add to this the chaos of misbehaving undisciplined students, and you have the makings of the perfect storm.

But despite the declining quality of public education, no good monopoly ever gives up its stranglehold without a fight. The current administration is making sure competing institutions such as charter schools and private schools have to jump through increasingly hostile hoops simply to be allowed to operate. I suspect if the government got its way, homeschooling would be illegal too.

But that doesn’t mean American education is underfunded. Far from it. Right now, the public school system (K-12) receives about $900 billion per year. By comparison, the entire national defense budget is about $800 billion. Yes, the government spends more on public education than on the military to the tune of $100 billion.

Despite these figures, the NEA is engaged in never-ending demands for more and more and more money. And for what? So every kid can get a different personal pronoun but can’t balance a checkbook or read his own diploma? Taxpayers are beginning to question how much bang for their buck they’re getting.

To add insult to injury, public education in America – once the envy of the world – has become a laughingstock on the international stage. While Chinese students learn advanced math at young ages, American students are taught math is racist. Which holds the key for future greatness? Some conservative politicians are calling this education gap a national security crisis.

And, of course, there is the growing hostility between schools and parents, to the point where concerned parents are branded as domestic terrorists and investigated by the FBI (which frankly doesn’t do a whole lot to instill confidence in the quality of education). This is a terrifying development. How long before children are snatched by Child Protective Services because mom or dad objected to Critical Race Theory or gender ideology?

So where does this leave schools? What is the future of public education in America? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. All I know is the current trajectory is unsustainable. “Pouring endless sums of money into the government-run education black hole is a terrible idea,” writes Larry Sands in American Greatness. “It does little for children, and scams the taxpayers. But it does fortify and enrich the educational industrial complex. It’s now time to change course and become competitive in the field of education. Our future depends on it.”

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At the moment, it seems the liberals have a permanent stranglehold on public education, where prospective teachers are literally screened out if they have the slightest conservative inclination. Thus the downward spiral is self-reinforced through hiring practices and disciplinary actions. In short, “many parents are fast coming to the realization that public education as they knew it is a thing of the past.” [Kendall Qualls, The Federalist]

On the flipside, of course, alternative educational options are blossoming: homeschools, pod schools, private schools, charter schools, and a host of other creative possibilities. Education was not mentioned in the Constitution for good reason; the Founding Fathers knew it was not a federal matter.

“Some people still believe we can get our public schools back if we can get control of school boards, eliminate CRT, and the eradicate gender indoctrination fluidity programs,” continues Qualls. “But, even if we are successful in achieving these feats, the DNA within the school systems has been radically altered along with administrators, teachers, and many students.”

As any real scientist can affirm, it’s impossible to alter the DNA of a creature without destroying the organism. Perhaps it’s long past time to correct the gigantic and costly public education mistake and scrap the whole thing. Maybe it’s time for public education to die.

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