I've thought about this question a lot. After reading the CNN article about the possibility of longer school years, it got me thinking about it again.
The only solution I can come up with is (drum roll please) MONEY! Yup, money. The root of all evil. (if you believe some)
Even if the solution is longer school years, that initiative will still need money to keep the schools open. Where will this money come from? Well, it just so happens that my love for education and our children's future goes hand-in-hand with my distaste for warring with other countries. A report shows that we've spent close to 700 billion dollars on the war in Iraq.
If you want to see how that number affects you, go to this site Cost of War and enter in the information about your community. Here are my results:
At a time when Florida is cutting school funding, teachers and extracurricular activities, the numbers above make me angry.
Let's imagine with this new administration, the war gets wrapped up or the world community finally steps up and pitches in their share of help so that the US does not support the entire financial burden of helping Iraq get back on its feet. For now, we will not talk about the ginormous deficit.
What do I expect to happen if we poured money into our education system? First off, teachers need better pay. If teaching were a high paying job, it would attract more people, which in turn means teaching positions will become competitive. Schools will have choices and can choose the best teacher suited for their needs. When jobs are competitive and higher paying, people better themselves to get the job. We'll see teachers working harder and becoming more creative in their teaching methods. And let's all admit, when you're getting paid a decent salary, working, in any field, is more enjoyable. We're putting our children's minds and futures in their hands, they deserve the respect and compensation.
With more funding, schools can keep and even expand critical subjects like physical education, art and music. The more diverse the education, the better chance a student will find something that lights a passion in them.
After school activities have always won praise for keeping kids off the streets. But it's also offering more options to students and parents. Clubs can be a wonderful place to discover more about a topic of interest and make friends. Students who participate in band and sports have shown to do better in academics.
Obviously, better lab equipment and technology cost more money. Teaching supply funds are often not enough and teachers end up buying supplies out-of-pocket.
Even longer school years looks like a good idea to me. Then teachers have the time they need to ensure students understand the subject. Field trips and days of exploration can be planned with out sacrificing lesson plans.
I dream of a school for my son where the teachers are happy and motivated to be there. Where the class sizes are small and the teachers know my son personally, know what sports he plays and maybe even what music he listens to. I dream of a school where he can play an instrument and compete in sports. Where learning about the animal kingdom is never taught with out a visit to the zoo. Or teaching about the government means a trip to the capitol and some Q&A with a senator.
It's easy to say throw money at the problem. We've been throwing money at problems for as long as there's been taxpayer money to throw. I believe we are investing in the wrong areas. Funding our schools will have some short term rewards such as happier, healthier kids, and perhaps less stressed out parents. But our biggest reward will be 10 years from now. If we're patient and persistent, there will be less drop outs. There will be more teens aspiring to do things they believe are within their reach. The American workforce will be well-rounded and better educated. The adults of the future will have the knowledge they need to make better choices than we have in the past. They will no longer take our planet earth for granted. They will understand that helping the human community is just as important as advancing themselves. And most importantly, they will know that the children are our future and we must invest in them.
I'm not suggesting we stop funding our military and divert all of that money to schools. But there is something wrong with our mentality if the funding for national defence is 10 times the amount we spend on education. Both are important to our future, but I would rather prepare my son to make the decisions that do not lead to war.