Comments on a Journal Entry

by Dr. Rexton Lynn

Educational Foundations

Journal Entry: Controversies in American Education

For decades there have been major controversies concerning certain aspects of American education. Most of these controversies can be lumped into three categories: funding, curriculum control, and the separation of church and state. There have been innumerable amounts of legislation passed [1] regarding these topics but an agreement has yet to be reached. The passing of the "No Child Left Behind"[2] legislation which is imposing new federal standards on districts and teachers has sparked another educational debate and is now on the front lines of American education. [3]

Funding of public and private schools will always cause differences of opinion among the members of a community. Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003) [4] state that the majority of local funding for public education is drawn from local property taxes. People who reside in a community but do not have children in the public school system often feel that their tax dollars should not be given to a service they do not benefit from. [5] However, local property taxes are put back into the community when used for education. Educating our youth is an investment in our future. Producing intelligent people to enter the work force each year will impact every person that resides in a particular community. If public education continues to decline there will not be any people qualified enough to take over specialized positions. [6] Filling the specialized positions is a necessity for the companies that will sustain our economy for generations to come. [7]

However, not all of the funding can come from local taxes. In order for poorer districts to raise the same amount of money as a wealthy district, they would have to raise taxes. This would force the disadvantaged people in that district even further into poverty. One way to help with funding deficiencies is by collecting a participation fee [8] directly from the student. According to Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003), the participation fee is being implemented in more and more schools across the nation. This is simply a small fee that students involved in athletics or other extracurricular activities pay to cover some of their expenses. [9] Many times the school can save money by having athletes purchase their own uniforms along with any equipment they need. We paid a small activity fee at my high school that covered things like towels for the locker rooms and dry-cleaning for band uniforms and choir robes. We also earned money through fundraisers for specific departments. There were numerous different fundraisers for the music department and we even had a volleyball fundraiser every few years. [10] This is a great way for the students to take charge of their own activities and take the pressure off the administration to provide complete funding for extracurricular activities. [11]

While public education should be funded adequately by the local, state, and federal governments, private schools should not be receiving money from public funds. If there is any public support of private school, private school teachers should be certified and the school should be held to the same standards as public schools. Teachers in private schools do not have to be certified by the state in which they are teaching [12] and they do not have to meet the new national standards that are being imposed on the public school system. "No Child Left Behind" should not leave out the students enrolled in private education.

This is also one of the reasons I am against the voucher [13] program. Giving parents the option of sending their child to the best school is great, but sending public funds to a private school is simply leading to a created decline in public schools. Instead of encouraging students to go to private schools because they can afford it with the voucher, we should invest that money in the public school system. If parents choose to send their child to a private school they should pay the expenses of that decision. That may seem unjust to some because not all parents can afford to send their children to a private school, but there is no decision that is totally fair for all parties. There are other ways to attain funds should a parent feel it absolutely necessary to send their child to private school. If a voucher system was implemented, the public would be paying to send students to a private school, and while unfair to the taxpayers, it would be a clear breach of the separation of church and state. [14]

The first Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." People have challenged practices that support religion in public schools for decades. According to Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003), [15] the decision in Lemon v. Kurtzman helped to created a three-prong test to decide whether an action was unconstitutional. This test was fairly simple. If an activity had a religious purpose, advanced or inhibited religion, or fostered an excessive entanglement between church and state, it was ruled unconstitutional. [16] We must maintain the separation of church and state because of the diversity of religions present in the United States today. America was founded on the basis of religious freedom. If religion was introduced in the schools it would more than likely be that of the majority population. Basically, our public school teachers would be telling students which religion and which beliefs were the "right" ones. This would undermine other religions and discriminate against the beliefs of a portion of the students. In Wallace v. Jaffree, as indicated by Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003), the Supreme Court decided that a moment of silence is acceptable as long as the purpose of the time is not specified. Students can take the time to reflect on anything and they can take the time to pray if the feel so inclined, but they must never be coerced into religious activity. [17]

Possibly the most political issue concerning education is curriculum control and national standards. For the most part, education should be placed under local control. While each state should set a minimum standard, those at the local level are best aware of what students in their district need to focus on. [18] Local school districts in Iowa have had control over their own curriculum for a number or years. This system allows teachers to take students beyond the confines of national tests that are administered to rate achievement. Iowa has always served as an educational model for the nation. However, the standards that are being imposed on the nation through the "No Child Left Behind" legislation are forcing states like Iowa to become more like Texas. [19]

The educational system in Texas involves a huge dependence on standardized tests. [20] Texas students even have to pass a minimum competency test in order to receive their diploma. While this test is usually fairly basic, it is unfair and unrealistic to base a child's entire education on one test. [21] Often times students do not perform well on standardized tests and those students who have received passing grades throughout their career as a student could be denied a high school diploma because they were unable to pass one test. The new legislation passed by the Bush administration [22] uses similar tests every year to measure growth within a grade. However, they test the grade, not the students, so the results are essentially worthless. [23] For example, they compare the test results of fourth grade students in 2000 with the test results of fourth grade students in 2001. [24] There will always be some classes that are brighter than others. Comparing the scores of two different groups of students does not give an accurate portrayal of the ability of the teacher or of the learning that has occurred over the course of a year.

According to Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003), [25] the goals of the program include expanded flexibility for teachers, an increase in local control, and stronger accountability. While this seems to be a great concept, there is no feasible way to achieve all of these goals. If teachers are to be held accountable by the federal government, they are not under local control. They are answering to the federal government which has the power to take over a school or a teaching position if standards are not met. [26] The pressure of making sure students meet the goals that have been set leads teachers to give up their flexibility and teach to the test. They do not have time to teach units that are relevant to the students in their part of the country because they cannot afford to skim over information that may be included in the standardized achievement test. [27]

I believe that the constructivism curriculum design would be the most beneficial to American schools. According to Webb, Metha, and Jordan (2003), the goal of this method is for students to construct new ideas and concepts utilizing their past and current knowledge and experiences. Through this system the purpose of the teacher would be to help students understand new concepts and engage them in learning. The new information that students receive from the teacher, combined with their prior knowledge of the world, allows students to create their own personal view of the world and society. The constructivism design will create the most well-rounded students and will produce young adults with an interest in improving the society in which they live. [28]

These issues will continue to be debated as long as public education is a part of American society simply because they are so central to our society. It may seem strange, but I would prefer that a unanimous decision never be reached about any of these issues. The debate surrounding them is what leads to the development of new and better ideas. [29] If everyone agreed about the way our children were to be taught there would be no new developments in educational theory. If American society as a whole gives up on the fight to incorporate religion into public education, we will be abandoning the desire for religion to be an important part of our lives. I have definite opinions about each of these issues and while I would like to see things be implemented according to my preference, I encourage the debate to continue and as a result, new theories be brought to the surface. [30]

Works Cited: [31]
Webb, L., Metha, A., & Jordan, K. (2003). Foundations of American Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice. [32]

 

 

1. Suggested revision: There have been numerous legislative acts passed… (they are actually able to be physically counted)

2. Good idea to introduce No Child Left Behind, but check facts. Not new legislation, it is old legislation that has been revised.

3. Great introduction, lays out everything that will be discussed in the paper in a logical manner.

 

4. Good textual support for argument

 

5. Suggested revision: to a service from which they do not benefit. (easier to read)

 

6. A little unclear about whether the writer believes a decrease in taxes would lead to more decline in public education. Be more specific about what you are trying to convey.

7. Good transition from necessity for funding to source of funding.

 

 

8. Use of specific terms (participation fee) and then defining. Good way to inform even an intelligent reader as well as those more unaware.

 

9. What about the poor students that participate but can't afford the participation fee? Address this issue.

 

 

 

10. Nice use of examples to explain and clarify your point. Answers questions about how the process works.

11. Good transition.

 

 

 

12. Careful about blanket statements. Teachers in private schools are not always required to be certified by the state in which they are teaching…

 

13. Once again, good use of vocabulary. Voucher may not be a term people are familiar with, but in order to inform your reader you should always use and explain these terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

14. Remember that while many private schools have a religious affiliation, not all do. Some are based on class, race, etc. (blanket statement)

 

 

15. Good textual support. Shows understanding of the material and the ability to cite the source.

 

 

16. Seems to suggest that the voucher system creates excessive entanglement. Don't be afraid to simply state, I believe the voucher system creates excessive entanglement.

 

 

 

 

 

17. Transition is lacking. Jumps from religion in the schools to curriculum control and national standards.

 

 

 

18. Suggested revision: …students in their district need to be productive in their community. (don't be so general, give details)

 

19. Good use of transition tying No Child Left Behind to the educational situation in Texas.

20. Suggested revision: The educational system in Texas depends largely on standardized tests. (more direct statement for the beginning of the new paragraph)

21. Details- usually students are given more than one opportunity to pass the test.

 

22. Details- The new version of old legislation passed by…

23. This sentence is a bit unclear and difficult to follow. Suggested revision: However, they look at the test scores of all students in a particular grade, not at the individual students, so…

24. Good example, make connections for the reader.

 

 

25. Good textual support and citation in this paragraph to set up the point you will make in the next sentence.

 

26. This paragraph is excellent. Each of the four controls is explained at the beginning and then you do a wonderful job of debunking each and every one of the controls individually. By singling out each of the controls you illustrate your point perfectly, showing that while the desired goal may seem good, it is impossible to achieve all four at the same time.

27. Lacking transition

 

 

 

 

 

 

28. This paragraph doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the paper. Curriculum design hasn't been mentioned yet. Consider removing it, or simply explain with one or two sentences why it has included.

 

 

29. Good conclusion. Brings in all the important, main aspects of the paper and ties in the theory of controversy introduced in the introduction.

 

 

30. Excellent reflections on a variety of issues. I appreciate the clarity of thought present in your writing.

31. Important not to forget to give credit where due and include your works cited. Well done.

32. This is an excellently written paper. Most of the time students score in the B column on the rubric for both the understanding of texts and discussion, and the idea development categories. The reason that this paper was scored in the A column is because of the clarity of the writing and the overall organization. Everything that the paper will discuss is laid out in the first few paragraphs and goes from there. The overall flow of the paper is wonderful, although there were a few transitions that needed work. Otherwise, the paper was nearly error free grammatically which makes it much easier to read. The textual support was embedded very well and showed that the student knew exactly what information they were getting from the book and how to relate it to the argument they were making. Very rarely will a student turn in work of this caliber. Most of the time students have a good general idea and a good basis, but some aspect is usually lacking. Many students forget to make the connecting of the applicability to teaching. They make a good point and support it, but forget to give the reasoning it applies to teaching. Overall, an excellent paper with wonderful organization.

   

 


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