An advertisement in the June edition of “Western Recorder” magazine tells the story of a boy named Tristan who was a successful member of the 2019 class at Oneida Baptist Institute — a Christian school located near Oneida, Ky. Tristan had been placed at OBI as a 7th grader when his mother realized he had reading problems. According to the article, his tutors at OBI assesed his reading ability at 2nd grade level although he had been given passing grades in public school to that point. Tristan admitted to being accomplished at avoiding his work. He took a full load of academic courses while a day student at OBI but credits his tutors with teaching him how to read and write.

Why did OBI succeed with Tristan while the public school failed him? I think it was because the responsible public school teachers and administrators knowingly elected to pass him on through the grades rather than take the time, effort, and expense required to deal with this problem. Tristan was lucky to have a mother who not only recognized the problem early but had the ability to put him where he could get help. Unfortunately, there is nothing unique about Tristan’s experience in public school. Testing reveals that about 30 percent of public high school graduates don’t actually have the skills certified by their high school diploma.

The public education establishment seems to value the academic lower third or so more for their attendance, which equates to dollars, then for the opportunity to educate them. Programs designed for them are not highly regarded and seldom lead seamlessy into real apprenticeships. There is little or no effort to guide them to jobs while much help is directed to the college bound. If a kid like Tristan, with work avoidance issues, is a member of this lower academic group it’s easy to understand, but not approve, the temptation to pass him on. Some educators and school board members may believe giving the poor kid a diploma so he can at least be considered for a job is the charitable thing to do. In reality, they may be setting their student up to fail on the job and in life. Tristan succeeded because of early intervention.

 

Most kids in the academic middle third or so are strongly encouraged to take college prep courses and schools boast if a high percentage of their seniors elect to continue their education in either 2-year or 4-year institutions. However, many of these students require remedial courses before they can advance to actual college level courses on campus. This probably indicates that grade inflation applies to this group as well as the lower academic group. Further, about a third of those who attend Kentucky’s four-year universities fail to graduate, which probably indicates (though they may have enjoyed the college experience) most of them have wasted their time and the taxpayer’s money.

The top third or so of most classes consists of some very talented kids who, if they continue to work hard throughout their lives, will become our leaders and major contributors. These kids have good attendance records, pay attention, do their work, participate in after-school activities, develop leadership skills, and earn very good grades. All the colleges want them and the top ones get excellent academic scholarships. Many of them go on to graduate school to prepare for the most lucrative and prestigious professions.

However, many of them have become entrapped in the student loan scam. The universities lobby the politicians for liberal loan terms for students; the students take out excessive loans; the universities in tandem raise tuition and fees to capture the loan money. Political pressure is now on to forgive the loans at the taxpayer’s expenses. Some even propose free college as if nobody would have to pay.

In my view the education establishment (k-college and their political allies) is responsible for these problems. They created them over decades and have it within their power to address them. However, they continue to focus primariy on their own agenda — pay, pensions, facilities, materials, administration — and the students and the teaching only secondarily.

There is a strong demand by the public for change. You see this demonstrated by the Home School and Charter School movements and the rise of protestant Christian Schools in addition to the traditional Catholic version. Many public school techers and administrators, truth be known, recognize the real education problems and favor reform. However, I think many are reluctant to speak out publicly because the political issues (pensions) have obscured the educational issues. Unless some leadership begins to develop in that direction from within their ranks, the taxpayers, parents, and voters will continue to lose faith and confidence in public education. Such a development would hurt the kids most whose parents don’t have the resources for private schools like Oneida Baptist Institute.

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