on Knowledge

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” ~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish literary critic, playwright, essayist and recipient of the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature

In the last few weeks I have shared some difficult truths. About how our state lowered the standard of proficiency in order to hide the reality about how far down we have let our kids’ education slip. About how the untested, untried standards of Common Core are being thrust upon our schools by the Iowa Department of Education so our kids can be the guinea pigs for a private, federally funded corporate interest experiment. And also about how our school district wants to spend millions in taxpayer money (again) that it probably shouldn’t right now.

The problem here is that the educational establishment has forgotten to make the main thing, the main thing. What is the main thing? Knowledge, and the acquisition of it. The purpose of the public funding of our schools, the reason why it was so important to our Founders, was to equip our children with the knowledge and skills necessary to become independent, prosperous, and wise citizen-leaders of a free republic, not the cogs in the wheel of some work or college machine. Learning the basics well is the springboard to personal and national success, regardless of the path a child freely chooses for himself. Yet we have drifted far away from the original intent of education. Instead, education has become something political and commercial, merely another place to erect physical or financial monuments to ourselves, instead of enriching the minds of those children entrusted to our care. Is anyone still asking if our kids are learning what is necessary to prosper? Well I am. And this is what I have found out.

Since the state and local district published proficiency scores really don’t tell us anything because the bar is set so low (the 41% percentile is equivalent to an ACT score of 15), you have to ask for more detailed data independently. The following information was provided to a fellow taxpayer by our school superintendent. It shows how many of our kids actually tested below grade level (below the 65th percentile) and also how many tested almost two grade levels below where they should be (below the 50th percentile). 452 out of approximately 492 of our district students in grades 3 thru 11 took the Iowa Assessment this past spring of 2013. Out of that group:

  • Approximately 250 students, or 55%, tested below the 65th percentile in Reading
  • Approximately 244 students, or 54%, tested below the 65th percentile in Math
  • Approximately 208 students, or 46%, tested below the 65th percentile in Science
  • Approximately 164 students, or 36%, tested below the 50th percentile in Reading
  • Approximately 151 students, or 33%, tested below the 50th percentile in Math
  • Approximately 125 students, or 28%, tested below the 50th percentile in Science

So there you have it folks. Over half of all our kids in grades 3 thru 11 are testing below their grade level. And over half of even those kids are almost two full grade levels below where they should be. When the state lowered the bar, it gave the false knowledge of achievement, when in truth there was none. So, when our district tells us in the school newsletter that we are on the watch list for math, you now know that means we are not even meeting the state’s pathetic standard of “proficiency”. Just look at the numbers above, folks. We’re failing our kids. Big time.

So do you think that we should continue to focus on building bigger, better facilities we don’t need because the taxpayer has not quite yet been bled dry, or should we perhaps start using taxpayer resources to meet the primary objective of a school, which is to ensure that we bequeath a legacy of knowledge to our children? We must decide if we want a Board of Education or a Board of Sports and Facility Enhancement. I want the former, as I believe that within each child exists a fountain of unlimited promise, which will not only bring blessing and prosperity to themselves but to this nation too. We adults are turning off the spigot, squandering their potential by thinking small, accepting the mediocre instead of excellent, and taking the easy path rather than the road less traveled. Recognizing and admitting failure, then doing what is necessary to recover from it can be long, hard and even embarrassing work. It requires a determined commitment to see it through, regardless of public kudos. But aren’t our kids worth it?

Perhaps that is why a moral compass and a belief in a higher power was seen as so intrinsic and necessary to education by our Founders. They knew that it would require a lot more than all the discipline, sweat, tears, and sacrifice we dedicate to our children in order to impart knowledge and a hopeful future. It would also require an act of faith, a divine strength even, so as to stand up for them when others will not.

Failure is not an option. But redemption from it is. You now have the knowledge. It is time to redeem our children.

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