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It’s Time for the Left to Step Forward, Start Acting and Not Just Reacting — Part I

A serious look at the political left’s lack of action and an obvious plan. This is Part 1 of a series looking at what the left should do.

One of the most obvious outcomes of the recent recall election is the lack of the political left to put forward any type of plan to address the needs of the state. The Democrats didn’t seem to understand that if they wanted to get control of the statehouse, they needed to present something for the voter to support and not just vote the governor out because he had overreached in passing his reforms.

In this piece, I will begin a series on addressing needs, suggesting new objectives, reforms and restructuring of how we accomplish the task of moving the state forward and remaining consistent with progressive principles.

Public education

Nothing is more contentious than the present state of public education. Clearly the political right and left have drawn distinctive lines in the sand. The political left wants to hold onto a system that doesn’t seem to be working universally and the right wants to push much of education into the private service providers.

The system and model of education was developed for a different time and different set of conditions. When public education became mandatory in 1894, it was closely modeled to support the needs of the industrialized north and the transformation of an agrarian society to that of a manufacturing and service society. That model successfully stood the test of time for the next 80 years, but with the end of the Industrial Age and the beginning of the Information Age, our system has become obsolete and is costing the taxpayers more than what they are receiving in return. I know that is a brash statement, but few if any students graduating from our public schools can immediately step into a vocation and begin working without additional post-secondary training. Some companies have identified the problem and have implemented internship programs for high school students to be able to begin full-time work within the company as soon as they have graduated. However, this is the exception rather than the rule. It is the failure on our part that companies must train our graduates before they can be productive and this represents a burden to business and interferes with their ability to be productive and efficient.

It is no secret that our current model turns out a large number of people who are ready, for the most part, to begin pursuing four-year, traditional college and university degree programs. The only problem is that the vast majority of vocations don’t require four-year degrees and we now have an overabundance of bachelor level-degreed people who are unable to find work in their degree areas. Pushing people through post-secondary education programs is creating a huge education debt load that is building to the point where it is becoming a problem of national proportion and may represent the next bubble to burst.

Keeping with progressive principles, it is time to overhaul the public education system and return it to a meaningful place within the current and future needs of society. As the transition takes place and the current control that the political right is exercising in privatizing education; the political left should work to mediate the positives and resist the negatives of such a system. There are several areas that the political left must insist on.

  1. All teachers participating in education that receive state and/or local public funds must be state certified teachers.
  2. All teachers participating in education that receive state and/or local public funds must complete ongoing training to remain current with their licensing requirements.
  3. All private institutions participating in education that receive state and/or local funds must be not-for-profit organizations.
  4. All private institutions participating in education that receive state and/or local funds must be accredited by a third-party agency of the state’s choosing.
  5. All students that are educated by private institutions participating in education that receive state and/or local funds must pass a state exam attesting to their level of competency before receiving a graduation certificate.
  6. Religious institutions participating in education that receive state and/or local public funds must separate religious and secular instruction leaving participation in religious instruction strictly voluntary based on the parent’s wishes.
  7. All private institutions participating in education that receive state and/or local funds must provide services to special needs, learning delayed or physically disabled.

The public education system that I am proposing would use the northern European model of education. All students would receive a standard education from kindergarten through the first eight years. One thing that I would require is that every student should be required to take two years of Spanish instruction during this period of time.

Upon successful completion of eight years of general education; the students would be tested and assigned to one of two tracks for further education. The first track would be the vocational arts track. The second track would be the academic arts track.

The vocational arts track would prepare students to enter the workforce upon completion of their formal secondary education. Instruction would be geared to learning the skills and competency of a number of vocations; from agricultural arts to technical and industrial arts to business and medical arts. These programs would be directed to include not only hands on preparation but also internships with participating member businesses. It would require the establishment of vocational arts facilities and staffing with the appropriate instructional staff. Existing businesses would directly participate in the setting of curriculum and setting of standards.

The academic arts track would prepare students to enter into colleges and universities. There would be an emphasis on liberal arts, mathematics and sciences. In addition to current academic preparation requirements, students would be required to take and pass one year of Latin, one year of Greek and two years of a foreign language. Most existing public secondary institutions would require little if any adaptation to the facilities to accommodate the academics arts track.

Extracurricular programs, such as music and sports could continue with students from both tracts meeting at central locations to train and participate.

Rather than duplicate instructional programs, for students that need to take courses offered by a track that they are not in; there would be transit provided from one campus to another it the two tracks are separated by location.  

In the State of Wisconsin, the program would have to be phased in. The beginning location should be at Milwaukee Public Schools. It is the area of most need. Once the program is up and operating it will have two primary impacts; 1) vocational preparation and 2) make Milwaukee attractive for the establishment and expansion of businesses.

Studies need to be conducted to establish the costs and revenue requirements for such a program. In all, I think this is something that the political left can get behind and solve some long-term nagging problems.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mrs. R June 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
My children all had jobs from the age of 12 on up. They have always worked. It was not the best! Only one, who stopped working finished her 4 yr degree. Two dropped out altogether after 1 yr. They both have gone back, one finished her 2 yr degree and regrets not having a 4 yr degree. The next one has begun another 2 yr program that suits her life and work experiences. The last one watch the others and opted out altogether. Who's to say who, what, when, where, or why? The education system is going down a road of too many different threads. This diversity is clogging the topic with many ideas and we don't have time for finding a 'better' system we need to get back to the great system we had adding the extra courses for technology and creativity.
red June 13, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Bren said::::For me the question is this: what type of person do we want in the most important job in the state? A man with regional political experience and no college degree? Or can we do better, such as a man with national political experience (U.S. Congress), a J.D. ... Poor Bren, she has become completely deranged by Governor Walker's victory. Bren, this thread is about how to reform education. Could you take a very cold shower or the medications that have been prescribed for you and contribute something logical?
235301 June 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Had nothing to do with race. The police and fireman unions supported Walker in 2010 and thus were exempt from Act 10. This is the one big hole in Walker's actions. In all fairness the police and fireman's unions should have been subjected to the same Act 10 as the other public unions. Kind of disappointed here, AWD usually makes valid points, albeit wrapped in racist rhetoric.
Cricket June 14, 2012 at 02:38 AM
I don't always agree with you Lyle, but this article is spot on. I like the idea of Spanish as well as Latin and Greek. Many of the science courses have Greek and Latin as the foundation. Spanish should be required also. I like the idea of two tracks as well. I look forward to reading more of your series.
Greg June 15, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Lyle, Are you going to forward this to any of the Democrats? It is great to have the discussion, but it didn't do much for education, yet.

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