Why do we blame government for the failures of the US educational system?

Whenever I hear the yearly announcement that the US is yet again trailing in math and science, I also notice that the op-ed columns immediately start the blame game. So, who is to blame for our kid’s poor school performance? Consider these facts:

So if only 8% of the funds for elementary (k or 1-5) and secondary level (6-12) education comes from the Federal government, why then does the Federal government get blamed so much for our low math and science rankings? I understand that the Department’s mission is “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access”, but surely they should only get a portion of the blame relative to the amount they fund the failing educational system. Shouldn’t we be looking at the other 92% of the $1 trillion spend on education — individual State, local, and private sources?

Considering Private School

Our 56 million students attend 99,000 public schools and 34,000 private schools. That’s a lot of private schools to consider! And here’s the kicker — some research is indicating that private schools aren’t necessarily doing better than their public school counterparts. Sure private schools can excel — like in 8th grade English — but the belief that private schools consistently excel in all subjects at all grade levels is not supported by all the research.

My Public/Private Educational Experience

So, who else can we blame? I’ll consider my own education. I went to public school for my entire education except for two and a half years at a private Baptist school in Savannah, Georgia. I think my intellectual growth was stunted during those years of private school education. Perhaps that is an unfair statement when I compare that growth to my later education. Nearly 5% of the students from my high school graduating class ended up going to an Ivy League school — and most of them could do so without receiving a scholarship.

Blaming Parents

Regardless of my private or public school attendance, during all my years of education I had a very supportive parent that was interested in my education. At a basic level, I never had to worry about being hungry, cold, or clothed. In addition, they inquired about my studies, did homework with me, fed my curiosity with educational summer programs and camps, and funded my extra-curricular activities.

In other words, I mostly blame my parents for my education. Thankfully, I had a good one.

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4 thoughts on “Why do we blame government for the failures of the US educational system?

  1. The analysis around the money ignores the fact that many types of Federal intervention in local education are UNFUNDED mandates, and this has been a major gripe of the states. The other big recent criticism over No Child Left behind is a criticism of the testing, teaching for the tests etc. Like you though, I agree, there are a log of other problems – culture, anti-achievement mentality, lack of parent engagement, lack of a strong family unit.

    Your Heritage.org link is making the opposite point of the one you cite it for….

    http://www.examiner.com/x-12824-Dade-County-Education-Policy-Examiner~y2009m6d9-How-No-Child-Left-Behind-makes-sure-no-child-gets-ahead

    http://www.examiner.com/x-12824-Dade-County-Education-Policy-Examiner~y2009m6d9-How-No-Child-Left-Behind-makes-sure-no-child-gets-ahead

  2. People blame the Fed for failures of the US educational system because their US education failed to teach them the difference in role and responsibilities between state and federal governments, such as which one is primarily responsible for their educational system.

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