Thursday, May 3, 2012

Public Education? We have our heads in the sand

It was Pliny the Elder, a naturalist and good friend to the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who is probably most responsible for the idea that ostriches hide their heads in the sand when they are confronted by an unavoidable danger.  It is all mythical.  Ostriches don't actually do this but people do.  Are the parents who send their children to one of 99,000 American public schools sticking their heads in the sand?  Are they unaware of what is going on in the public schools or are they in denial?  Are Americans getting the best bang from their buck or are they flushing when they pay taxes totaling an average of $10,500 per student?

Here in the state of Georgia the high school graduation rates hovered near 80% until a new formula was introduced that revealed a more accurate assessment.  The new formula divides the number of graduates in a given year by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier.  Georgia's graduation rate dropped to 67.4%.  In Columbus, Georgia's second largest city by population, the graduation rate computed below 50% in two of the cities eight high schools.  Graduation rates in the Atlanta area also plummeted under the new formula.  Gwinnett County dropped from 83.7% to 67.5%.  Fulton County dropped from 85.9% to 70.1% and Atlanta City Schools dropped from 68.2% to 51.9%.  Can you imagine any company operating at a 50% production rate?  Can you imagine the U.S. government investing billions of dollars in a company whose success rate is only 50% to 60%?  If you needed a heart surgeon would you choose one with a 50% success rate?  Do we value our youth?  We need to pull our heads from the sand.  The 67% Georgia graduation rate is unacceptable.  

Academia is only half the problem.  Recent statistics released through the Indicators of School Crime and Safety Report reveal that there were 1,183,700 violent crimes in the 2009-2010 school year.  Some of the violent crimes measured were physical attack with or without weapons, robbery with or without weapons and rape.  74% of public schools were the scene of a violent crime in 2009-2010.  Amazingly, while the school systems reported 1.2 million violent crimes there were only 905,000 violent crimes committed on the streets of America.  Many large city public schools report an arrest daily.  If the parents of public school children would pull their heads from the sand they would be shocked to realize that some public schools are more dangerous than the streets of our nation's cities.  

A University of Michigan study reported that the big issues in school discipline in the 1940's included:  chewing gum, cutting in line, running in the hall, noisy disruption, violations in dress code, and littering.  The study compared the decade of the '40's with the 1990's when school administrators found themselves dealing with: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery and assault. Many shrug at these alarming facts by saying that schools have always had these problems, they just weren't publicized.  Not true, things are worse, much worse. 

Some parents make an excuse for sending their children into such violent environments by saying, "Well, they need to get out there in the real world.  Better now than later."   How can exposing our children to a little assault, a little rape, or a little molestation be justified?  It is heart-breaking to see parents who want badly to remove their children from such an environment but circumstances prevent them from doing so.  Some have no choice but to send their children where they will be indoctrinated to believe that fathers are unimportant and homosexuality should be accepted as a normal lifestyle and killing the unborn is a legitimate way to avoid the consequences of the sin of fornication?

The 2005 University of Michigan study revealed that 26% of all school children are victims of violent threats, 4% have been threatened with an actual weapon and 24% have been struck with a fist.  It seems we've lost our way, big time, in public education.  We are being told that it is all about the kids.  Are parents too gullible when they believe administrators of their local systems who they say that they are committed to providing our children with the best opportunity to excel academically?  They strongly proclaim that protecting our children and creating an environment conducive to learning is a top priority.  Are we are being sold a bill of goods?  Some prisons, where Bibles have not yet been listed as contraband, are safer than some public schools where Bibles are prohibited. 

School systems affectively teach us the failure of socialism.  Competition has been removed.  Compulsory attendance laws give the teachers a captive audience and help to destroy incentive to be the best at what they do.  What if teachers had to compete for students?  What if parents could choose their schools and their children's teachers based on past performance?  Unions make it impossible to fire an incompetent teacher and child predators prey on our children, like picking ripe fruit in an orchard.  Charol Shakeshaft, a researcher and author of a 2004 study that was prepared for the U.S. Department of Education revealed the astonishing prevalence of child abuse in public schools.  She said, "…the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."  The report stated that nearly 10% of all students were victims of sexual misconduct.  It's time to pull our heads out of the sand.  Would parents send their children off to a summer camp if they were told there was a 10% chance their child would suffer sexual abuse? 

It may be unfair to blame public education for all the ills of our society.  Our slide toward Gomorrah is due to many factors.  Motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar addressed the problem of protecting our children from a depraved culture:  "If I were to stand in front of an audience of virtually any kind in America and advocate drunken orgies, getting high on cocaine, pot or any other drug, they would look at me in stunned astonishment.  If I gave a sales talk on incest, adultery, homosexuality, necrophilia, bestiality, and even suicide, while generously sprinkling four-letter words throughout the presentation, there isn't one group in a thousand that would sit still and listen.  But the very group(s) that would assail such topics are the very ones who do it every day when they allow their children to listen to "popular" music." 

Parents must also share much of the blame for failing to build a hedge around their own children.  Our children are not just being exposed to pornography, violence, and immoral behavior, they are overdosing on it.  Fathers are commanded in Ephesians 6:4 not to "exasperate our children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."   Parents dare not send their kids into public schools without providing them an interpretation of morality based on a Christian worldview.  We cannot isolate our children in a monastic lifestyle, but we can prepare them to live clean lives in a filthy culture.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.


  1. This is a great article. I am very interested in other's insights into public education. I have three young children and my top priority is educating them spiritually and academically. We lived in Columbus, Georgia, for many years and understand the troubles of the public school system. My husband and I are interested in your sources for the graduation statistics. Will you share them? Thanks so much. Karen M.

    1. Karen,
      The graduation statistics for Columbus schools come from a report in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer a few weeks ago when the formula for determining graduation rates was announced. The Atlanta graduation stats were taken from the Atlanta Journal Constitution at about the same time. Thank you for your kind comments.