The success of our democracy depends on an educated citizenry — that just isn’t happening

The least restrictive environment policy of the early 1990s, as interpreted and implemented by the principals and boards of education in our public schools, has effectively prevented teaching and learning in most of the classrooms of our country for nearly 20 years now. This policy put students who could not and/or would not behave/learn into classes with students who could and would behave/learn. The result has been a disaster in our public schools. Students who cannot/will not behave/learn need appropriate learning situations separate from students who can and will behave/learn. Socialization, which seems to be the big objection to reversing this policy, can be achieved by placing them with the general student population in non-academic classes, extracurricular activities and their own communities. No longer should their socialization be allowed to hold hostage our entire public school system.

What can be done to eliminate this failed policy? It is preventing the education of most of our young people. Only students in advanced and honors classes seem to be minimally affected. The rest of our student population is in classrooms where disruption and loss of teacher control is the norm. A student/teacher ratio of 8-to-1 or less is needed in order to assure academic success in classes containing extremely needy (cannot/will not behave/learn) students. Placing such students in learning environments in which they can succeed is expensive, but not as expensive as having an 8-to-1 overall student teacher ratio in our public schools. And how do you put a price on the lack of learning of the majority of our students because of the disruptions of the extremely needy students? An effective teacher can teach classes of 25 or more if the students are ready and willing to learn. The success of our democracy depends on an educated citizenry. That just isn't happening.

My unwillingness and inability to dumb down my science classes in the late 1990s resulted in a disastrous last five years of teaching for me. I simply could not lower my behavioral and academic standards to the ability level of the students who were assigned to my classes. Most teachers did. My failure rate soared, and I was labeled a “bad” teacher after 25 years of being an effective teacher.

I see clearly that this failed educational policy must be changed to put public education back on a more successful track. Other attempts to improve student success cannot work until it is addressed. They are equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The ship is going down.

— Fran L. Burton

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14 thoughts on “The success of our democracy depends on an educated citizenry — that just isn’t happening

  1. “The success of our democracy depends on an educated citizenry.”

    When did this country adopt the immoral political philosophy of democracy?

  2. dhalgren

    (OK timmy, I’ll take the bait and give you a chance to astound me with your book learnin’) Haven’t we always had a democracy timmy? Wait for it timmy…now bring out the ayan rand books and tell me all about how this here country is a republic and yadda yadda yadda.
    But anyway, getting back to the subject of our letter writer, wouldn’t re segregating the schools be a less costly option?

  3. UnaffiliatedVoter

    No dahlgren we HAVE NOT! America is a REPRENTATIVE REPUBLIC, and the word, Democracy, does NOT appear in the US Constitution FOR A REASON!!! Government screwls have successfully dumbed down about 4 generations of citizens by now…STRIVE to be SMARTER than government indoctrination centers WANT you to BE!

  4. dhalgren

    “No dahlgren we HAVE NOT! America is a REPRENTATIVE REPUBLIC, and the word, Democracy, does NOT appear in the US Constitution FOR A REASON!!! Government screwls have successfully dumbed down about 4 generations of citizens by now…STRIVE to be SMARTER than government indoctrination centers WANT you to BE!”

    Timmy, are you messin’ with me. Is this post for real? Or are the “reprentative screwls” after me?!

  5. Megan McLaughlin

    It terrifies me to think I might have been educated by this teacher.
    The “least restrictive environment” policy is now called the Individuals With Disabilities Act, and it actually guarantees a “free and appropriate public education”; part of the implementation is providing a “least restrictive environment”–obviously not this lady’s classroom!
    And the goal of inclusive education is not’s education! So that our children can grow into functioning members of their communities, however large or small they may be.
    You didn’t like being labelled a “bad” teacher. It’s hypocritical for you to turn around and place the same label on our children
    If our schools are the sinking Titanic, it’s most definitely folks like this former teacher that are the iceberg.
    If you’re not sure what you’re talking about, please don’t bother–you do nothing but make a generation of teachers look entirely obsolete.

  6. Dionysis

    Hey ‘Blew By You’, a/k/a Hunter or Troll or whatever (your use of the phrase “STRIVE TO BE SMARTER” is a dead giveaway), consider this:

    “Main Entry: representative democracy
    Part of Speech: n
    Definition: a type of democracy in which the citizens delegate authority to elected representatives”

    Now this:

    re·pub·lic? ?/r??p?bl?k/ Show Spelled[ri-puhb-lik] Show IPA
    1. a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.

    Now pay attention: our republic is a representative democracy, whether the word ‘democracy’ appears in the Constitution or not.

  7. Megan McLaughlin

    oops! It’s called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

  8. Piffy!

    The notion that America is ‘not a Democracy, but a Republic’ is so amazingly hilarious as to satisfy my need for absurdity. The Trailer Park Right (TPR) always provides such jewels.

    The fact that this argument did not surface until a young black guy won a presidential election seems noteworthy.

    Or maybe they mean the Supreme Court should select all our Presidents?


    oh, and dahl, dont expect a response from Tim.

  9. cwaster

    Well of course, you have to keep the people stupid except for the oligarchic elite. That way you can control them with fear-based tactics and disinformation much more easily. Machiavelli would be proud.

  10. Having tutored/mentored for the past few years I would note that I am appalled at the level of disruption in elementary school classes these days.

    Perhaps there is some way to sort out the meaningfully disabled but interested in learning (who surely deserve every opportunity) from those who are entirely disinterested in anything other than disruption. Doubtless that suggests complex hairsplitting, but my observation is that one or a few disrupters can derail an entire classroom for much of the school day. It is eminently unfair to the students who are eager to learn. If everyone deserves an equal opportunity for education, that applies to the better students as well as the worse.

    In a workplace we adults would readily make room for a disabled co-worker, but couldn’t reasonably expected to tolerate someone who snatched our papers from our desks, banged on the walls, shouted out obscenities during conferences, farted loudly and frequently accompanied by guffaws, pinched and poked others, slammed doors, threw down books and other materials and otherwise injected chaos. There must be reasonable limits.

  11. Betty Cloer Wallace

    The antiquated structure of our “graded” public schools (gathering same-age children together and comparing them to an aged-based “norm”) is our most stultifying governmental structure, and the most costly in human and economic terms, a failed experiment in social engineering that has virtually destroyed American public education.

    Our age-based K-12 school structure (e.g. every ten-year-old is placed in fifth grade and compared with all other ten-year-olds) is unnatural and unfair for everyone. Every child is left behind.

    Following WWII, we fell into a quagmire of pseudo-scientific bell-curve sorting and labeling of children through age-based grade placement and the holy grail of standardized testing; and with No Child Left Behind the bell-curve syndrome (age-based standardization, aka norming) is now more firmly entrenched than ever. The sacred cows are the billion-dollar “normed” testing and textbook industries.

    As a result, public schooling has gradually become less of an educational institution and more of a dysfunctional social service agency for those who cannot afford to find alternative ways to educate their children—hence the “dumbing down” of public schools and the spiraling growth of non-public education in recent decades.

    Thousands of non-traditional educational alternatives have sprouted in NC and nationwide, including home schooling, charter schools, high school/college combos, online schooling, church schools, specialized learning centers, and a more natural way of learning called non-schooling or un-schooling.

    Quite simply, public dissatisfaction has resulted in a mass exodus from public schools. Parents are seeking greener pastures for their children—options that value individualism and individual growth, not conformity to a false “norm”—while traditional public schools increasingly resemble the old HEW (Health, Education, and Welfare), a catch-all structure that spawned many of today’s problems.

    The age-based K-12 structure is the fundamental flaw, and until it is dismantled, public schooling will continue its demise while non-public learning alternatives will grow. After health care, a massive overhaul of public education is our nation’s next big domestic challenge, that is, if public schooling has not collapsed under its own dysfunctionality by then.

  12. JWTJr

    I think we need more cell phones in the class room. More classes on Chicken raising too. Those are definitely the things that will make us more competitive.

  13. Henry Kennesaw

    It all depends on your definition of “educated”. Truly educated people think for themselves. The far leftwing group-think in many of today’s institutions of higher learning is not “education”. It’s brain-washing.

    I do wish more of us would pay attention to the issues, educate ourselves on both points of view, then vote as an informed citizenry. All one has to do is look at most of the current crop of politicians from both parties to see too many people are not educating themselves.

    This fall, vote the incumbents OUT. Then demand accountability and transparency from those we do elect.

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