Letters•Letters•Letters

Jonathon Rowland
senior from Illinois

(This is a response to a commentary in the Aug. 19 edition of The Murray State News.)

I’m writing this column in response to Mr. Casey’s article on “public education lacks patriotism.” To be quite honest, upon reading this article I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry.

The depiction he presents of an un-patriotic and federally fraught U.S. education system is completely unfounded, misleading and completely ideologically driven. Our public education is centered on using facts and sound common sense right? Well, Mr. Casey, let’s look at your argument using these tools, shall we?

First let’s tackle the part of this conceived notion that “American taxpayers are paying for public education where patriotism is considered politically incorrect.” Your argument is that the absence of patriotic songs that are “basics to American patriotism” has now led public schools to become somehow distanced from patriotism.

This might be my “opinion,” but I don’t believe teaching students to memorize lyrics to a song warrants being called the basics to American patriotism. Basic American patriotism is not found in memorization but in actions. A teacher who is teaching the mechanics of U.S. government to his/her students so they may later become well-informed voters is basic patriotism.

The science teacher who is teaching his/her students how to think critically so they may become productive members of society is basic patriotism. In fact I believe it’s safe to say that this so-called un-patriotic public education system in reality is the vanguard for basic patriotism.

Next you go on to make a completely misleading correlation between the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education and the “downward spiral” of the national average in ACT and SAT scores. The U.S. Department of Education was established in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter.

In 1980, the average national ACT score was 18.5. In 1985, it was 18.6. In 1990, it was 20.6. Jump ahead 10 years and it’s at 21.0 with the 2011 score coming in at 21.1. I’m no mathematician but I believe those numbers are going up. Not “spiraling down.” SAT scores are a similar story. Yes, there was a downward spiral in these scores. However this occurred 13 years before the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education. Between 1967 and 1980 the national SAT score dropped from a high of 543 verbal and 516 math to 502 verbal and 494 math. Not until after the establishment of the U.S. Department of Education in 1980 did these scores start to show an increase.

All of this information can be found (as I did) at the National Center for Education Statistics online database and the Humanities Resource Center online database.

Last, you argue that the Department of Education has taken away control from local and state governments. And, because of this, history books have totally eliminated un-edited copies of the Declaration of Independence. I’m a senior history major and I have never seen edited copies of the Declaration of Independence in any history book. But let’s say for the sake of argument that there are.

It must be the conniving work of the Department of Education, right?

No! Public schools are issued books by the education board of the individual state or in some cases the local school board but not by the U.S. Department of Education. If anything it’s the state and local institutions that you are defending who are most likely the culprits.

Mr. Casey, you state in your article that “until we take back the educational system, we will not be able to take back the nation.” Well, I recommend that you “go back” to the educational system and learn to back up arguments with the basic goals of our education system.

If you wish to tackle this education problem discuss the real problems of public education.

Severely underfunded schools, under-paid teachers and social economic status of students to name a few.

But please, spare us your muddled banter that holds no premise whatsoever.