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Are America’s schools failing its children?

Jun 29, 2023


Education has become one of America’s most polarizing issues. Battle lines have been drawn over what kids are learning at schools, leading some states to ban controversial topics such as critical race theory from classrooms and even remove books from school libraries that some deem inappropriate.

Another worry is whether children are being taught the skills they need to succeed in life. In the latest 35-minute episode of America Speaks, hosted by political analyst and pollster Dr. Frank Luntz, parents from across America weigh in on their kids’ education and their concerns about the state of education.

If you want to know exactly what is happening in American schools, and with American education, the next 30 minutes will send chills down your spine. And if you have children or grandchildren, if you’re an auntie or an uncle, or if you just have friends raising children today, the next few minutes may change your life. Last week, America speaks gave 15 parents just like you the chance to speak about the challenges of raising children and the difficult world we live in. This week. Our focus is education. Nothing matters more to our communities, our country or our future. So my question is, are our children learning what they need to know to succeed in college career and life itself? are they receiving the necessary skills, problem solving, team building, and critical thinking, to separate fact from fiction, our teachers teaching, and most importantly, our students learning. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz, and you’re listening to the latest installment of America speaks right here and straight arrow news. So let’s get started.
Are you serious? You all,
raise your children are your are the schools helping you keep your children safe and healthy? Anybody? Carla? Yes, I’m
in charge. My nine year old experienced bullying. And I didn’t know for months really about this until one day the teacher finally called me and let me know. And just as the others have said, I mean, when you say safety, you know, there’s emotional and physical safety, my son is nine year old. So the safety concerns are not so much physical, but emotional, and just the cruelty of kids. And the limited actions taken by the school is really concerning. And we as parents cannot be in the school grounds because especially after COVID, the doors are close to you very little volunteer opportunities or opportunities to spend time in the school, even when you want to be very proactive. For me, I wanted to talk to the parents of the other child, a child that my son was having some conflict with, was being bullied by they don’t even give you the name and the phone number of the other parents because of privacy concerns. So you really are limited. I mean, and you really wonder, like, do I teach my child martial arts so they defend themselves, you know, and it’s kinda like to buy tooth or, I mean, you give them ammo, again, this emotional and more intellectual tools, so they can encounter challenge and people that are not have the same values, and respect that you exercise at home. But it is very, you find yourself really alone as a parent, when you have these type of situations, and the level of aggression and cruelty of kids. It’s like she said, you know, the cotton, cotton people in picking, I mean, the things that kids say. I mean, I was, I was really surprised to see nine year olds, you seen certain level of language and the derogatory terms against each other is really concerning. The lack of kindness and just basic respect for humanity that children have these days. Jason, you want to speak?
Yes, one of the things that prompted us to homeschool is when our oldest child was an elementary and kindergarten, she tried to sneak on a friend’s bus. They were bus and the bus drivers like, Oh, you don’t belong in this bus. And they just kicked them off. But they didn’t notify anybody. So then our kid just started walking to a mall near the school. And when she didn’t get off the bus, we didn’t know what happened because no one said anything. And so then my wife went driving out towards the school and just saw her walking down the street. You know, she was five years old. And so we had a discussion.
Yeah, discussion about the best way to educate them if the basic security things aren’t going to be taken care of. And that’s kind of the incident we had that prompted our change in education. I think the teachers union is too powerful. And the focus is on protecting the teacher and giving the teacher more benefits and there’s a lot of concern on actually educating anymore.
That’s what I’ve seen. And when I’ve gone to school board meetings, I just think that we have to get back to the basics and we have to have higher standards for teachers. We have to have higher standards for kids than we we have to let the teachers teach. And I’m sure all of us have seen stories of students attacking teachers in various parts of the country, fighting them over to cell phones punching amazing them and teachers are quitting because yeah, they need to be held accountable. But also some
Do students have what they do as well?
As part of them have left public education.
I am a teacher. I am hearing everything that I’m you’re over here, Laura and Becky and Jason and Steven. I am hearing and Patrick, I’m sorry, I didn’t even believe you out there, Patrick. I am hearing them. Hi. Why? I mean, I’m here and I’m Hi Wide and Handsome, as we say, here in Alabama? Absolutely, they are absolutely right. I felt like I wasn’t even able to talk to some of my students about what true history I’m a history teacher. And I have a PhD in education, I can’t even teach anymore.
Because I’m scared to death of it am I going to say something wrong. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve left and is my daughter is at a private school. And we’re not having to deal with a lot of issues, we know the parents, I get two or three emails a day from the teacher. And that’s one of the things that I that’s specifically why I did this, why I’m paying this why I’m working three jobs right now. So that she can go to that school, and I’m able to have that connection with her fellow teacher with with her teacher. Me. So I’m a I’m a teacher as well. And so I, I have,
you know, that split perspective, as a parent and, and, and as an educator, I think one of the things that
is really wrong, our kids is that they’ve grown up so fast, you know, when I was growing up, and
in everything, we had to make our own fine, we had to do things like we didn’t have the, you know, we had a TV, but, you know, if you didn’t have cable, you had a little bit of channels that you got over the rabbit ears, you know, we didn’t have to, and all these different social medias and everything, we had to make our own fun. And these kids now growing up so fast, I see, I see it. Personally with my own three kids, you know, they were
working phones at a year, two years old. And I’m like, Whoa, wait a minute, you just got here, I’ve been here, you know.
And I think, you know, and that’s filtering into this filter into the classroom as well, we want kids to
build their
intellectual intellectual stamina. But a lot of the times it’s can’t pick up this device going this,
this edtech website, and, you know, do this blended learning lesson where and they’re not really getting the opportunity to think to work together. A lot of it’s just, you know, it’s independent, you know, it’s independent.
And these kids don’t know how to talk don’t know how to talk to each other one, because everything is typed. And everything’s in shorthand, because because of text messages, they don’t have to talk to each other. And that’s where all the conflict, a lot of conflict, and everything is coming from because they don’t know how to interact with each other face to face.
You know, in a group setting in a one on one setting, because everything is so is so tech, technological that good it is. It’s the way the world now that’s where the world is headed. But kids need to learn how to talk to each other. They need to learn how to play with each other. And just sticking them in front of the screen of, you know, for the majority of the day is not helping is is is really a detriment and a crutch to them. We all know how it felt at the moment, we opened up our report cards, particularly when we didn’t do as well as we expected. But grading students is essential in holding kids and their teachers accountable. So right here in America speaks we asked parents to grade the schools across the country, wanting to listeners is not going to feel great at all. In fact, the results are abysmal. Let’s listen.
I want you by show of hands to grade
at the education system right now. In the country. Not necessarily your kids, but education overall. What kind of job? Are those responsible for teaching your children for your children learning? Who would give the education system an A in this country? Raise your hands.
One of you Okay, Patrick, I will go to you in a moment because you’re alone. Who would give this education system the schools or be
not of you, Patrick, you are really alone.
Who would give it a C average? Only one oh my god. We got two of you, three of you. Who gives them a
date here. And who gives education in this country and F?
Okay, I am going to start with a positive and then I’ll go to the negatives, Patrick, you see, you’re the only parent who thinks it’s an A, why are your kids having the best possible education when everybody else is doing badly?
Good luck, I suppose good fortune. I think a large part of it is we’re blessed with a school and a local school district where the parents are very actively involved in the school. And I think that happens more often than not, I think that happens more often that gets reported throughout the country. And so you know, your question, Frank was, how are schools overall in the country doing and I think you can look at schools in every state in this country, and you’re gonna find a lot of success stories. And obviously, you’re gonna have, you know, some, some negative stories too. But I think media being media, they’re getting the lion’s share of attention. Three of you gave the education system in America NF failure. Becky, why is it so bad in this country?
So I want to separate my comments and say that I’m saying the education system, not all educators, because I think that is a big difference. But I think the system in general is an app because if you look across the country,
we are losing ground amongst in industrialized nations, the kinds of information kids were learning, when I was growing up, they aren’t reading at the same grade level, they aren’t doing the math, some kids are there are opportunities. And I think that there are kids who are driven, and who are committed and have parents that are very engaged, can do well, in school systems. But by and large, I think we are seeing a national decrease in really quality education, we are definitely seeing a decrease in discipline and control and accountability in the classroom across the nation. We are also seeing a definite decrease in mental health in students starting as little as five years old, all the way through high school. So in those three areas, they’ve all taken a downturn, kids are not using critical thinking skills. They’re they’re putting feelings over fact. And that’s because that’s what the school system is encouraging. Kids. I’ve had kids come to our school board meeting the last eight months to talk about their feelings, and to threaten school board members because they want a certain policy put in place because it makes them feel better. Most of the arguments are not rational. They’re all emotional based, because that’s what they’re getting rewarded with in the school system. Wesley, why do you think the schools are failing in America? No. Well, in my case, it’s three letters. Si P. S, Chicago public schools.
There, I wish I had the numbers in front of me, but they did a there was a survey, not a survey, it was a report that the majority, especially on the south side, reading, writing and arithmetic, we’re in the single digit percentages of kids being able to work at grade level. Okay, so single digits, that’s, I’m sure somewhere in the country, there are decent school systems, and kids are learning. But Chicago is pulling everyone down. And I’m sure other major cities are doing the same thing. EJ Y and F.
Because as someone who’s been in the classroom for 10 years right now, I’m I have watched a precipitous decline in the critical thinking skills of my students. It’s since 2008. That we have a we have a system of education that is teaching kids what to think, not have to think we have handed them a dumbed down curriculum in this country, which is not challenging them. We now have colleges and universities University Wisconsin, I believe it was Stevens, which is now which debated two years ago, even before COVID whether or not they were going to teach history. We have kids who are now coming into my classroom, sophomore, junior seniors in high school, community college community college freshmen sophomores that do not fundamentally understand what this country is. I actually had a class of 42 students one time and I point blank asked point blank said every single word of the preamble of the Constitution but left the word constitution out, and the only person now the where I was teaching. These are kids coming out of phones that are 567 $100,000 homes. And so these are not these are not economically disadvantaged kids. Have all of those kids in that classroom. One of them got it right. And she was an immigrant.
She was the only one to know the preamble of the Constitution of the United States because
I think a lot of it has to go with the with two things. Teachers are not getting support from parents, because a lot of parents are seeing a lot of parents are saying, well, my kid always made A’s. Well, that may be wonderful. But that doesn’t mean that they’re there at that level right now quite near a teacher, as well as a parent.
What do you see? And you’re from DC, sharing your from the nation’s capital? What do you see about education?
And I don’t care which way you perceive it, either as a parent or a teacher, but what’s your comments are, what your reaction is to what you’re hearing?
I agree with each 100% dairy.
We’re not teaching our kids how to think we’re teaching them how to bubble in the answer. We’re teaching them how to check this box on a test I was teaching him how to just did not think critically not teaching them how to think critically, how to deduce what the answer will be in a way and be able to explain how you got to that answer.
In a lot of ways we’re dumbing we’ve dummy our students down.
Because if our student because this generation is dumber, we can pay him cheaper. Is anyone else here an educator? So no, EJ is and Quinn is an educator, Carla.
Explain it now, either from a mom’s perspective, or teachers perspective, do you agree with what EJ and Quinton had to say? Or do you have a different experience? Well, just to kind of give context, I am a part time professor at a university. So I don’t teach I teach young adults, right and university. I agree with certain things in terms of the quality of the education I speak as an immigrant coming from a developing country, I mean, the writing, the critical thinking in papers all about is missing, for sure. The ability to have responsibility would work ethic in the classroom, keeping up with the work responsibilities, being organized, all of those things are really concerning when I have my, you know, freshman to senior year in college, university. So I agree with some of that, you know, the big question I have many times these were the parents, this systems are failing us, where are we as parents, right. And that’s kind of where I, me, I talked to my students, not just as a professor, and I tell them, I have a full time job where most of my life lives not so much in my teaching assignment. And I tell them, My job here is not just to educate you is to prepare you to be a professional, to be able to function in a work setting. So my classroom is not treated just as a place of indoctrination is like a boot camp to get you ready to work one day and be successful. So I do see some of the things that you say, but my big question is, if the system is failing my children, I’m not letting them sit down with the system. I’m gonna, I’m gonna just try my hardest till my last bread, so my kids are successful.
That leads to the next question. A lot of teachers watch these focus groups, a lot of teachers are interested in what parents have to say, what advice would you give your own children’s teachers
that will make your own children better adults, Laura, I’m gonna start with you. Just to prepare them for actual, you know, problem solving. You know, like, some of the other parents said, you know, they’re they’re preparing them to pass a test sort of fill in a bubble, but they actually don’t really even understand what the problem is that they’re trying to solve. You know, I’ve even struggled I’m a college educated person doing my son’s third grade, Common Core. You know, there’s, there’s certain ways that you have to do it, but we need to teach them there are maybe multiple ways of doing it and it can be right no matter how you do it as long as you get the correct answer.
Eric from Florida what would you tell your teachers
I just just just a lesson to keep challenging that my my eldest who’s eight years old, she very smart, but I, I kind of think she’s a little bit lazy. I’m saying this and hope she doesn’t see doesn’t get get mad at me. It’s sometime but I know I always tell her, and I used to my five year old as well. It’s just important to be smart. I mean, just important to be work hard and prepare is to be smart. A lot of ICT can be very smart at something. But if you don’t engage and challenge yourself and really work at something, you could be, you could be a smart person but work in a terrible job or be in a terrible situation. So I want to make sure that our teachers know that challenge and make sure that they work hard what they’re doing.
Jason, your children’s teachers are listening to you right now.
What is your message to them?
Spend more time and energy encouraging the students who are trying to learn and who are doing good. What my wife and I have found was that the problem children, the 8020 rule, they consumed most of the time and energy of the teachers. And Carla was right, the third rail in education, our parents, they vote for the school board and for everything else. So it’s really hard for school to say, you’re not doing your job, your child’s not prepared. The schools aren’t designed to raise or discipline their kids. They’re designed to teach them. And so I would just tell the teachers to just keep encouraging, and try to focus more energy on the students who are learning want to learn and who are doing well than the ones who are behavioral issues that seem to drain a lot of energy out of the classroom, and they aren’t getting support, because school boards don’t want to go against the parents. Okay, Patrick, go ahead. And then I’ve got another question. I was gonna say, to teach those kids how to fish and don’t teach to the test, teach them how to engage in the thought process, teach them how to problem solve, and don’t teach to a test don’t teach to what they have to know on the iOS and the t cap or whatever state test you’ll have. Teach them how to figure out how to problem solve
a number of our parents either homeschooled a child or put them in a private school. The big question, why? Why would parents give up a free education for the hassles of homeschooling with a massive expense a private school? Some of their answers will make you cringe. Let’s listen in. Who here by show of hands homeschools at least one child?
Okay, gotta ask the two of you. You took your kid out of public education?
Why was public education failing that child so much that you decided to homeschool them Tammy, and then Jason, my main reason is when COVID happened. The teachers excuse for not addressing like the the bullying that was occurring to my child was that she’s really busy, they have students that they’re just passing through the system, and just kind of wasn’t even willing to entertain a solution to the problem. So that was a big issue for me. And that was a decent.
The first issue I ran into was kind of like, the nature of it is one size fits all. My first daughter was reading well beyond kindergarten or criminal life, a little bit of a tiger mom. And we were struggling to get her and reading with the age group appropriate, which was just the thing, second, or third graders, which was two doors down from her. And it’s like, it was a struggle and fight just to get them to send them to that group to be at level, you know, and adult, I feel like the school system is not necessary that teachers are more rigid than ever. And it’s much harder for them to be flexible and accommodating. except in a few circumstances, like say the high school I went to, and the disabled people Science and Tech High School with a more geared toward group flexible, you know, and we also hate teaching to the test. And I felt that if your child is well behaved sometimes they can be ignored. When children with poor behavior consume you too attention. And we have like, maybe 30 Students with discipline problems and my daughter’s elementary school, and I live next to a high school and it gets worse as they get older. So we’re just bit the bullet for you live an extra high school and you’re still gonna homeschool your child. Definitely. You get to see the worse stolen cars, kids smoking weed skipping. There’s no truant officers like when I was in school, and there’s no fear parents because parents are working from home. Kids can’t go home when they skip school. So now they mill around the neighborhoods in the malls, because some parents are working from home so they can’t break out there. So we’re having more of the high schools where I live in general don’t do well, especially the one that I live next to so we’re going to homeschool and probably start college courses around 16.
Any of you take your kids to private school, and then I homeschool but they’re in a private school. So I want to understand why. So Becky and EJ, Why are kids in private school and not public school?
We’ve had them in private school two different times. And when they were younger, we did because we were not on board with some of the focus of the public school. We really wanted something that was more school system that was aligned with our values. When we moved across the country we had Tommy specifically.
So schools Yeah, we wanted to conserve we wanted a conservative Christian, biblically based education. So that’s why we had moved them the first time. When we moved across the country. They got older, we had them in public school. I moved my two younger kids
It’s out of public school when COVID happened because of the shutdowns.
Because the public school had no intention of putting kids back in school, they were not learning from virtual learning. They were not getting social interaction. So we pulled them in, put them in private school to have them complete through private school. COVID may be over. But the dramatic transformational impact of it, and its impact on children is still being felt today, of all the topics we addressed, none bothered parents more than what happened to education and didn’t happen for their own children. Let’s hear from the parents are any of us surprised? When you start to hear what your kids are learning? Did any view when have you upset about the content, as you’re there, and your child is learning? My kids are older, so there wasn’t a content issue. But there was definitely a lack of engagement, no one had their screens on kids were logging in from their bed, some of them were falling asleep during class, or almost every class every day was led out early. They were you know, teaching for maybe 10 minutes and then assigning a worksheet. So there was a very low level of engagement. I did have a one of my kids was a senior in an AP Statistics class, the teacher didn’t know how to use the technology. And so half the time spent half the time trying to figure out how to turn their screen on what to do like so a lot of the class time was wasted. As a result, none of the kids in that class took the AP exam at the end of the year, because no one felt prepared.
More to read it. And then Laura, I definitely agree that there was lack of engagement. I mean, I work at home as well. So I was able to monitor my daughter very well. But there were times when I go past the room she’s in the bed covers on I’m like, What are you doing? You’re supposed to be in class, there are times I come back, she’s in the kitchen cooking, I’m like, What are you doing, you’re supposed to be in class. And so I was luckily able to monitor her. But I think there was a lot of lack of engagement, she was a little depressed, because she couldn’t see her friends not spending time, little anxiety.
But we made it through and she’s still at level. So um, it was it was hard, because she was very not engaged. More. My biggest issue with the whole homeschooling thing during COVID was my son had an IEP, so he was a little bit different. He required more assistance, he requires speech therapy, he required, you know, assistance by special education teachers that he also wasn’t receiving. So think about how it affected kids who were mainstream at that time, and then talking about my son who struggled Dino to get words out and how it you know, hindered his his education, you know, you probably fell even farther behind than he was originally. So now that we know the problems, it’s time to hear from parents about what they want, and what their students need and deserve from their schools and their teachers. Let’s listen in.
I want you to explain what you want your child to learn that they’re not learning right now. And doesn’t matter whether your child is seven or 17.
What is the specific area or the specific skill or talent that you so desperately want your child to get? That they don’t have yet? I’m gonna start with the teacher. I’m gonna start with Quinton right now.
I want my children to have the ability to think critically understood matches understand matches to you know, get to the ad to get the answer that get it correct. But to be able to explain their read the reasoning behind the answers that they that they chose the how to get to that answer. So like just being able to think critically being able to reason and explain how they got to that point.
The same as when I want to make sure that the kids know how to engage their critical reasoning skills, because that’s what’s going to serve them as they go through life.
I would like my daughter to be able to take all of the knowledge and things that she learned and be able to apply it to real world,
you know, real world situations and be able to because she’s 16 and shortly she’s going to be a team 21 and be out there in the world. So I want her to be able to think about, you know, her life and her opinions and what she feel
hills, but be able to deal with all of the things that are out there.
And basically, I mean, it’s basically critical thinking be able to deal with it, and know how to deal with things that come her way, in a healthy way. On your specific skill, or subject,
grit, to know that it’s okay to fail to get yourself back up and keep trying. I think our society today doesn’t allow people to fail. Even in the schools, like there’s no real accountability on kid. I think it’s okay to fail. It’s sometimes when you fail, you learn more.
But it’s more how you behave afterwards. I don’t think we’re teaching kids to grant.
conflict management skills, what happens when you have a situation? How do you deal with the conflict and be able to solve a problem without getting in violence, or lead to escalate to something more than what it is?
Civics and emotional intelligence.
And why for each one?
Why for each one? Well, civics just because I think that the basics of respect, honoring their law, the rules, and things like that, I think that just helps people be functional in society, regardless of how smart you are, whatever job you have, even social settings with your family and whatnot, and emotional intelligence, because you can be extremely intelligent, you can be extremely educated. I mean, I see this in my job every day 50 to 60% of my success has been able to get along with others and navigate social situations. By the way, I want to point out to you as you’re listening to this, that the answers are not a subject. They’re an attribute. They’re a life skill, not a topic, which is fascinating to me, because most people assume that education is about reading and writing or, or a history or something science. And you’re all giving me a skill rather than a subject, Laura self-reliance. Why?
Because that’s the biggest thing is everyone’s being coddled right now or, you know, being told that their feelings are more important other things? No, I want him to be self reliant, and to know where to find the facts and in order to be successful in life, because that’s something he’s going to need to do from now until the day he dies.
What would you say to elected officials who have the responsibility for schools who have the responsibility for teachers who have the responsibility for education?
They will watch this. What do you want them to know? Laura, I’m going to start with you. We need to take away some power from the teachers union, including Randi Weingarten. Because we’ve seen enough occur lately, and how they, you know, they function and it’s completely inappropriate. And just, we don’t even need the department education. Let’s take it back to the States. Now, I’ve not argued with anyone I know, Randy, she’s a friend of mine, she comes to talk to my students. So I want to say something just nice about her as a person. Patrick, you want to participate? What would you tell the people responsible for education, the elected officials,
do whatever it takes to keep guns and other weapons out of the schools so kids can have a safe environment to learn in?
Jason, what advice do you give to the elected officials?
I will say, get rid of like school boards looks like a disaster, the disaster of etiology, and they become more and more focus on themselves rather than the educational process and parents.
Becky, Europe,
local control is better get the money out of the Federal Department of Education, take it away from the State Department of Education, return it to the local local level is always better.
EJ, what advice would you have for our elected officials? Are you paying attention?
What do you mean? Are you paying attention to the budget? Are you paying attention to what the education what the curriculum is? And are you understanding what our children are being prepared for in the long term, not just not just five weeks from now, but 510 15 and 25 years from now?
And Steven, I would tell that officials to focus on protecting the children making sure they’re learning the skills and subject matter they need and focus less on this ideological stuff that while it’s nice, it does not prepare them for the real world, long term.
And Karla
just to really to really oversee the quality metrics of school
All teachers and every individual just like a business does you oversee the quality, the performance of every individual that works in the system, and nobody has a safe job forever. If you’re not performing if a school is not performing, that’s something that really has to be overseen.
I love Carla, from your lips to God’s ears. Let us help. That was a sobering conversation. The only question I still have. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? And Will anyone do something about it? Only time will tell. I’m Dr. Frank Luntz. And this has been America speaks here on straight arrow news. Thank you for listening.

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