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We must reshape education

I attended the town hall meeting regarding Lafayette County’s comprehensive plan last week at the Yocana Community Center.

During the meeting a resident raised the question of how the comprehensive plan would relate to the county’s educational system. The answer was that of course the plan would address the issue of educational facilities. However, the man’s question did not concern educational infrastructure the question presented concerned the quality and kind of education being provided to our children.

Specifically the man pointed out that his daughter possessed a skill set which would allow her to obtain gainful employment not because of what she had been taught in the public education system, but because her parents had taken the steps to ensure that she possessed the necessary skill set to do so. Another friend who works in banking has pointed out to me that in Oxford, which is home to our state’s flagship university banks, it’s difficult to hire qualified tellers simply because many of our high school graduates cannot make correct change.

These examples, combined with others, are evidence that the quality of public education is an issue of legitimate concern.

The debate last year over Initiative 42 is also ample evidence that many people in Mississippi recognize that there are problems with our public education system. However, while the debate over Imitative 42 centered around funding, the issue of funding is not the basic problem with the public education system in America. Rather, the problems with our education system arises from the focus of the system.

A former college classmate who has now spent his career in public education has removed his children from the public education system, because in his words, “It is not public education, it is publicly funded indoctrination.” The fact is our school system has moved from a system focused on providing all citizens with a functional education to one that is more concerned with ensuring that American children are politically correct.

The failings of our state as well as our national public education system are obvious to anyone paying attention. We live in a nation where a large portion of the younger generation understand so little about economics and history that they actually support a self-described democratic socialist for president.

The fact that the history of the world is filled with examples of the failure of socialist systems shows a lack of knowledge and understanding of history on the part of these products of the public education system. At the same time we are producing graduates who understand so little about our Constitution that they actually believe it was improper for the state of Mississippi to enact legislation to protect citizens from religious persecution.

The people of Mississippi and our country should consider the failings and current goals of our public education system and demand that the focus of public education be changed from political correctness to providing students with the skill sets necessary to succeed in life. The resources of public education must be refocused to provide that our students leave school with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in the modern world rather than being unprepared to be productive citizens and doomed to join the public assistance roles.

This means that our children must be provided with not only basic computer skills, but also basic math skills. That they must be taught history from the prospective that the American system is the most successful system in the history of the world because it is the best system. That capitalist ideas are not something to be attacked because of their success, but rather are responsible for much of the good in the world.

If we really accept the idea that it all starts with education, the solution to the problems with public education cannot be to simply continue to throw money at our educational system.  Instead we must reshape our educational system so as to provide a useful education to our children.

Preston Ray Garrett is an Oxford attorney and can be reached at ray@garrettfridayandgarner.com.