Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Publik Edukashun

Education reform has been a topic Congress has danced around for years now and it's time something was actually done. I am a product of the public education system, so you might think that I would favor what I am accustomed to, but I don't. Honestly, I feel that I am a fluke of the system. Actually, any intelligent person who makes it out of public education is a fluke of the system. We are fortunate that despite years of poorly run government education we still have some sense left. How much longer can we expect our country to last when our government runs an education system that fails to teach and instill American values and ideals within our students? They don't learn about our history. They don't know why America is great. They don't pledge allegiance to the flag. They don't sing the national anthem unless they are at a sporting event. And they sure don't pray in school. Instead, they learn why America has to apologize to the rest of the world.

In tackling this topic I find myself pulled in so many directions that I'm not exactly sure how to keep all of my thoughts on this coherent. Like always, though, I think that anything that has the governments hands in it is being run less efficiently than it otherwise could be. Education is no exception. I prefer privatized education with pay incentives for teachers meeting benchmarks with their students.

One of the main reasons that I prefer private education over public education is the aspect of competition. Just as with the economy, competition will have a positive impact on the education of all Americans. Why are professional athletes so much better than a little league squad? Years of competition and training. Why are professional actors so much better than any high school play you've ever seen? Years of competition and training. Why are foreign students becoming smarter and winning jobs over American students? Years of competition and training. Competition brings out the best and brightest in everyone. As private schools compete for students parents will begin to differentiate between schools based on the education quality that is being offered. Think about it as if you are shopping for furniture. If all you are ever offered is a couch from Wal-Mart (public education) you might occasionally get a couch that is well built. But for the most part, each couch will be poor in quality and will break under minor strain. (And this is from the same government who wants to handle your health care.) If, on the other hand, you buy a couch from a reputable and respectable furniture store (private education) you might occasionally get a poorly made couch. But for the most part, each couch will be a quality product that will stand the test of time.

Another aspect that I find really frustrating is the strangle hold that teacher's unions have on education politics and politics in general. It is amazing how quickly a politician will give up on a good idea when a teacher's union threatens to remove their approval of that candidate. With the great power that they wield they are not standing behind candidates that will improve education. They support the candidates that will allow them to continue with status quo. And that status means that more and more kids are graduated each year who can't read, write, or do basic math. That status means that more and more unqualified and unmotivated teachers get tenure and seniority, essentially securing them a cushy position doing nothing for a paycheck for years to come. Teacher's unions don't promote improvements or competition. If you need more information or proof of the negative impact of unions you can read all about it here.

Under the current education system there is no motivation for teachers to improve. Good teachers, like intelligent graduates, are a fluke of the system. And they deserve a lot of praise and a lot more pay than they are getting. Doing the right thing when there is no reward is not always easy, but there are great teachers out there who go far beyond their duties and pay to reach out to students. Altruism is a rare, but needed quality. In Confucianism it is believed that the teacher is the most noble and honorable profession a person could attain. Teachers were highly trained and highly paid because they taught and inspired the rising generation. Teachers still teach and inspire the rising generation, but for the most part teachers will only inspire students in so far as they are compensated for that inspiration. Is it any wonder that societies based around the ancient teaching of Confucianism are the very societies that are surpassing America in all aspects of education?

People may argue with my idea of the complete privatization of the education system saying that there is no way they could afford to send their kids to private schools. On the surface this may be a valid argument, but we are all paying for kids to go to public school and get a poor education. Public education is funded from our taxes, mostly from state income taxes, property taxes, and federal taxes. The amount of money the government spends per student annually is phenomenal in some areas. And yet the number show that students don't do any better when more money is spent on them in public schools. If we eliminate the public school system, even if only at the high school level, we will free up thousands of dollars in tax money for parents to use towards a private education. And if that's not enough, then maybe parents will be forced to take a more hands on approach to educating their kids. When the parents are involved the kids are more likely to take education seriously and compete for scholarships at private schools. Paying for public education out of tax money has separated many parents emotionally from the system because they are not physically writing out a check for their child's education, unlike with private education. Education will never succeed without the involvement of the parents from start to finish.

I will admit that this is a big step to take at once, but I certainly feel it is the right step. But if we must move in small steps, the we must reconsider the topic of school vouchers. These vouchers would provide government funds for parents who want a private education for their kids. The funds would not fully pay for the education, but it would supplement the parents' funds. Also, I am encouraged the many charter schools that are being opened up around the country. These school focus the curriculum towards the interests of the students with the end goal being an intelligent and skilled graduate. I am sure there are many great ideas out there for improving education and I have not even touched the surface as to the many reasons we have a need for reform. But we must be sure that reform happens soon or we will have a rising generation that will be less intellectual that the one previous.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Economy

Let me preface this by stating that I am no expert in economics. But, I feel, based on the current economic situation, that being an expert may be part of the problem.

America is a land of ingenuity and advancement. The entrepreneurial spirit is more alive in American than anywhere else in the world. This spirit is the foundation of what we refer to as the "American Dream" and the reason why so many people from all over the world seek out our shores.

Our economy is founded on the principles of capitalism, which essentially means that the people control the economy by how they choose to spend their money. Businesses thrive because they are better able to provide a service or a good to the people with money. Businesses that are unable to generate customers fail. Hence the need for ingenuity and creativity when starting a business. And Americans have done very well. America is the birthplace of electricity, light bulbs, television, computers, automobiles, airplanes, the internet, etc. American companies are recognized the world over - Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Ford, Chevy, etc. And family owned and operated businesses build a strong backbone within our market. I worked in a family owned small business all through my childhood and it helped to teach me the value of work, money, and creativity.

The driving force behind capitalism being a success is that the government does not control the market. When government controls the market or even over regulates a market we move away from capitalism and into socialism. Some would argue that this might be a good thing, especially in the light of the dishonest actions within the housing and lending markets that have led to our current troubles. I would say that you should ask Russia how it turned out for them having a government run market. And yet, this is exactly the route we are taking. The government is reaching its greedy hands into the market, taking over businesses in the financial sector and even the auto industry. In my opinion, the government, behind a sneaky liberal agenda, is trying to expand ever further to slowly swallow our economy to pay off our enormous debts. It won't work because the more the government interferes or controls the market the less entrepreneurial spirit we will see.

Businesses come and go. It is the way of free trade. When a business is no longer relevant someone will replace it with something better. With the government stepping in to bailout hundreds of businesses over the last couple of years we have seen our debts rise and our economy crash. The Fed interfered with the natural flow of capitalism and we are seeing the devastating consequences that cannot be escaped so long as politicians continue to meddle in affairs that they understand less than I do. What should be happening in stead is the American people should be changing their spending habits. We were all hurt by immoral lenders over inflating home values and home builders feeding into the climate it created. These businesses deserved to fail. These businesses would have failed and been replaced with smarter, better solutions if not for our leaders. It is corruption preserving corruption, and when that happens we all lose.

Our economy can recover. Our economy should recover. But whether or not our economy actually does recover will depend on the people regaining control of the market. There are many factors at play within our capitalist foundation and none of them can be ignored. Education is one key component. Without highly educated and skilled people many businesses will never get off of the ground. Work, hard and honest work, is also necessary. More and more people are neglecting work and looking for the next government handout to sustain them. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness will never be handed out in a welfare line. These things are earned with blood, sweat, and tears. When we combine education and hard work we can become productive. And productivity is exactly what we need right now.