Humankind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences, and though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream, and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are.” Rumi
In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik. To help ensure that highly trained individuals would be available to help America compete with the Soviet Union in scientific and technical fields, the NDEA included support for loans to college students, the improvement of science, mathematics, and foreign language instruction in elementary and secondary schools, graduate fellowships, foreign language and area studies, and vocational-technical training.
By 1965, the nation was in a state of flux. And the focus of federally funded education dramatically shifted from math and science to social programs. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act launched a comprehensive set of programs, including the Title I program of Federal aid to disadvantaged children to address the problems of poor urban and rural areas. And in that same year, the Higher Education Act authorized assistance for postsecondary education, including financial aid programs for needy college students.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Department of Education Organization Act. By 1980, Congress established the Department of Education as a Cabinet level agency. However, the ED only held an 8% vested interest in the education of America’s children. Today, the 4,045 ED employees (by far the smallest Cabinet-level department) serve nearly 14,000 school districts and some 56 million students attending roughly 99,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools.
Since the creation of ED, the setting of academic standards for what students should know and be able to do has largely driven Education reform in the United States. The standards-based reform movement calls for clear, measurable standards for all students. The major problem is that many students are failing to master the standards of competency for their particular grade level. So by middle school these same students particularly minorities are several standards behind grade level. Subsequently, hundreds of thousands of American school children drop out of high school every year because they are unable to pass an exit exam whose standard requirement is pre-Algebra and 8th grade reading proficiency. Why have educational expectations sunk so low? What happened to American pride and scholastic excellence? Why are our children’s future being disposed of like recycled plastic bottles? Why has this nation failed its children so miserably?
As parents, what will it take for us to seize the mantle of responsibility for raising our children once again? How many more shootings, beatings and rapes will it take to get our attention? What good is an education if it fails to educate and make us better human beings?
Our children are learning to be mediocre. They are learning to question nothing and accept everything. They are learning to defy authority and despise what is good. They are learning to cheat, lie and take short cuts in life in order to get what they want. They are learning to kill without conscience and to be students of violence and war. They are learning that the only heroes are those who wear a badge or carry a gun in battle. They are learning that 15-minutes of fame is greater than a lifetime of service or sacrifice. They are learning that God is whatever you believe God is; that is, if they believe in god at all. They are learning that only those with money, power and prestige are suitable role models. They are learning that dysfunction and noise is normative and that peace and silence is boring. They are learning that being smart or intelligent will only get you bullied. They are learning to distrust the voice of their parents and denounce all great traditions. However in spite of what the world is teaching them. In spite of this world’s efforts to mis-educate them, it is our awesome responsibility as parents to do the job of shaping the future of their souls, not only for this time, but also for all eternity. Our children are worth it! Within each of them is precious heavenly treasure stored up in clay pots.