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As I listened to the program I was struck by the thought that the educational system in this country is fundamentally broken from the bottom to the top. I have, over the course of my 50-odd years on earth, spent nearly half of those years in some sort of formalized training. In fact, I am currently engaged in getting a masters degree online. I have also raised a child who has spent over two thirds of her 30 years in educational programs. I started school in the 50s, and being a good little middle-class WASP girl I obeyed all the rules and feared and respected the teachers, principals and authority-figures, to the point that as a child I accepted and never even mentioned to my parents that my first grade teacher tied students in our chairs and taped our mouths shut. Questioning a teacher was not a possibility. I expected to go to college and become a nurse or teacher, at least until I got married and had my own children. That was the path pre-ordained for girls like me in those days. However, I found a teacher in high school who taught me to question the assumptions, and the authorities that had given me those assumptions.

Since then, I’ve watched and learned. I’ve come to realize that most school principals are petty bureaucrats, that teachers are not all sinners or saints (I’ve known some of each), and that the educational systems in this country fail most of the children they touch. A few years ago I read that 80% of the children who graduate high school have lower self-esteem than they did when they entered kindergarten. When my daughter started college incoming students were required to take a self-esteem evaluation and kids who did poorly on it (the majority) were scheduled for counseling to help them survive their freshman year. How sad is that? Schools have become an assembly line that steals our children’s souls as it tries to mold them into acceptable tools for the industrial complex. I know that sounds like sixties style rhetoric, but it is all too uncomfortably true.
And if/when students survive high school, they are expected to mortgage their future to go to college, because without a college degree they are deemed worthless. Case in point, my husband has 25 years of experience as an engineer, but can’t find a new job because he doesn’t have a degree. He has to take whatever he can find because he doesn’t have that piece of paper. And because we can’t afford to take on sixty to eighty thousand dollars in debt to send him to school, and also support the family while he is there, he will not be getting the piece of paper. The thing is, intelligence doesn’t matter. If you can’t afford to go to college you are automatically tossed to the side. But if you can afford to go to college, then you can be a blithering idiot and still become President of the United States.
Unfortunately, we’ve built a system in which degrees and certifications make the difference between acceptance and failure. We’ve priced those degrees so high that our children must go into lifelong debt to get them. And we’ve accepted that those who have them are somehow superior to those who don’t. Yet, look at those academics in their universities and think tanks. They are not particularly intelligent. They are not particularly useful. They spend most of their time trying to convince everyone else (and themselves) of their inherent superiority. Meanwhile, their opinions and pronouncements have led this country into war, recession, confusion, ill-health, mean-spiritedness, division, elitism, and cruelty.

We need to rethink our system from the basic ABCs to the highest halls of academia.