Taking back the school system

Student learning and achievement must be the primary focus in any school district. Student learning and achievement currently stands at unacceptably low levels in our local schools and it is time for people to take action, and if we do nothing, student learning will continue its long decline and the future of our children and our country will be in great jeopardy. As President Abraham Lincoln put it, in his endearingly simplistic manner, “America’s future sits in the school rooms today.”

Abe’s judgment on the importance of the “school room” must be our judgment as well, for the classroom is where learning takes place, where dreams are born, where futures are written, and where a nation’s greatness is measured.

Lincoln lived in a time that combined the booming industrial revolution with an era of national reform that included the need for a skilled and educated class of leaders and workers. Toward that end, schools began to pop up across the land, built by towns, cities, and farming communities without interference from state or federal governments. Later, states began to provide funding but control of schools remained on the local level, in the hands of parents. This approach to educating the nation’s youth, freedom-driven with local autonomy, persisted through the Great Depression and two world wars until we arrived at another era of reform, the 1960s.

In the course of these years of growth and prosperity, America became the world’s leading industrial power, a great nation and world leader and finally, after World War II, the world’s only superpower. Then, the trouble began. In 1965, Congress passed, and President Johnson signed, a piece of legislation titled, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act. An aspect of Johnson’s Great Society vision, this legislation brought the first massive intrusion, in violation of the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, of federal bureaucratic management into the nation’s public schools. State departments of education collaborated, boards of education and parents were pushed aside and simultaneously student achievement began its decline.

Today, that decline continues while federal and state bureaucracies rule our public schools with a heavy hand. Programs, regulations, tests, and low standards are the norm. It is time for parents and concerned citizens to join with the board of education, teachers, students, and county and school administration in a determined campaign to correct the problems that have brought us to this unacceptable condition.

Robert “Woody” Wilson

Parkersburg