The War on Education

Social work pioneer and activist Jane Addams felt that America’s future would be determined by both family and education. She stated that we become what we learn, and whatever that turns out to be is up to us. In North Carolina, the future is looking pretty grim where priorities are given to private corporations over the future of our country.

tanita wallaceThese values in our current policies are not helping our children flourish. Currently, state lawmakers want larger class sizes in grades K-3 ,even though smaller class sizes are more beneficial to students. They also want to cut Pre-K and to cut teaching assistants in grades 2-3. North Carolina is already ranked 48th in per pupil funding among states and 46th in teacher pay, what will we be ranked after these polices are implemented?

There are differing opinions on this issue. Some of the beliefs behind this bill is that it will let districts lower class sizes for at-risk students while having larger ones for kids who don’t need as much help. However others feel that this will disproportionately affect low-wealth school districts, and that smaller class sizes and more funding are needed.  The misguided legislators behind this bill say that rising class sizes could “maximize student achievement”.  Senator Jerry Tillman stated in the article:

“…Local school officials who feel they can improve achievement by raising class sizes to use the money for some other educational purpose should be given the opportunity. If districts don’t raise achievement after raising class sizes, he said that they should be held accountable.”

In contrast, a glimpse of the Finland’s school system, where the gap between the strongest and weakest students are the smallest in the world. Finnish students take only one mandatory standardized test, at age 16 and this is with some interesting outcomes… “Fully 93% of Finns graduate from high school – 17.5 points higher than American students. And 66% of Finns are accepted to college, a higher rate than the US and every European nation”.   Because Finland is not obligated to prepare students for a nation wide standardized test, teachers can do what they do best and target lesson plans that best meet their students needs. This is a person centered approach where students are met where they are at.

Why are people who were not trained to be teachers making decisions on education? The teachers are the experts so why is our government not taking their advice? This shows us that a better system is possible if we want it, if it is important enough for us. We need to bring our state toward progress again. Education is a right for all people, this means a quality education as well. If we don’t nourish our educational system, how will we nourish our society? A country’s values is determined by how its most vulnerable people are treated.

What will our values be? Rallies  and press conferences  organized by Progress North Carolina are gathering all over the state in response to this issue. If you would like to take part in the peaceful civil disobedience, please write for what you can do to help. There will be more to come.

Photo credit: Progress North Carolina

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Lydia Long

Lydia Long is the Politics Staff Writer for Social Work Helper. Her career goals includes working in social justice, policy, and community outreach/organizing. Lydia has work experience in progressive community engagement serving vulnerable populations in mental health and addiction. Lydia is a Masters of Social Work Candidate at the University of NC-Greensboro and NCA&T University Joint Program. View all posts by Lydia Long

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