What School Funding Can Teach Us About American Values

What is the one thing that every politician makes sure to say on their campaign runs? “It’s all about the children, they come first.” We’ve all heard it and we all agree with it which is why they all say it. However, when whoever gets elected, does, you can guarantee almost nothing is done for the children. Most people will contribute this to empty campaign promises and shady politicians which is definitely part of it but there is a deeper problem going on related to the values of our society. Even the politicians who try to fight for better schools have little success. In America, money rules all. It’s all about increasing GDP, bringing more business, creating more jobs. In school itself, we’re taught skills to help us get any abstract job so we can bring in money for ourselves and the society at large. It’s all about the money. Given this outlook, you would think, “The place that is supposed to bring up people into the workforce and bring the money into this society should get massive amounts of funding right?” Unfortunately, our system is more short-sighted than that. No, because schools don’t make money right up front they don’t get funding. Not only is it illogical in the system itself but revenue and funding should not be related at all when it comes to essential things, especially school. Now I understand that the money has to be made somewhere but when it comes to schools we shouldn’t be worrying about that. After all, “children are our future”, right? We’ve all heard that one too.

Of course, there is also the reality that, in fact, some schools are adequately funded. These are the schools in the neighborhoods where the parents have six or seven-figure incomes, the property taxes are high, and therefore the funding is high but that also points to just how much Americans care about money. If a child’s parents aren’t “doing well for society”, their kids don’t get an adequate education. There are so many things wrong with that one sentence it would take multiple posts to go over it but I want to talk about just one: school funding should be tied only to national revenue, not neighborhood revenue. All children deserve an equal education. Many people think the twisted idea of “separate but equal” has been extinguished but it is still alive and well. We all know that in fact, the separate schools were not equal and that is still the truth today only instead of being tied to race (even though still disproportionately true) it is tied to income. This is just wrong.

We need to teach ethics and morality, critical thinking and logic, and open-mindedness and the creative process from the beginning.

There are, of course, easy fixes to this problem. As I just alluded to we could fund schools based on an equal amount spent per student across the country in public schools. Private schools are still an option for those parents who want to spend an amount the country can’t afford on a better education for their children but every child going through the public school system should get an equal education. Perhaps you could also take into account the allocated state and county funding for schools but still make it equal per student in those areas, this would still be massively fairer than the current system as there is a large amount of diversity of income in most counties across the country. It’s not just about funding though but attention at large. Throwing money at the schools won’t fix the deep structural problems that exist in our education system. Because our society is so focused on money, and children nor schools make money, they don’t even get the attention they deserve to fix the education system in other ways. We need things like personalized education based on intelligence types that aren’t captured by the tunnel vision view that verbal or written intelligence are the only ones worth valuing. We need to teach ethics and morality, critical thinking and logic, and open-mindedness and the creative process from the beginning. The only way to get these much-needed changes into the system is to start thinking bigger and shift our values which can only be done in one of two ways.

The only way we can get this done: by changing the conversation.

The first way is through young-minds. If we raise children with new values they will manifest a world that emphasizes those values as they get older and become the ones running things. However, this takes a fundamental change in the education of children and of parents. One of those changes leads to circular logic in this process, namely the education of children. The education of parents only happens through the second, and by default, now the only way we can get this done: by changing the conversation. A change in the conversation, or in politics: The Overton Window, can be done by someone either taking the big stage or a grassroots movement of emphasizing values until the politicians have to take note. Andrew Yang attempted to do this by talking about the new American Scorecard and Human-Centered Capitalism where other values are emphasized more than money. He was successful at shifting the conversation on Universal Basic Income but these core principles of the essential changes we need haven’t gotten quite as noticed yet. One of these things is education. While not all of us have the ability to or will ever take the big stage to make this argument to the population at large, we can talk about and exercise our rights and responsibilities as citizens. By creating a grassroots demand for a shift in values in this country. Education is not the only shift we need but it has the potential to help shift other values over the course of a generation or two provided we make the necessary changes to the education system of children.

Schools are not the only place that has influence on a child though. As any teacher will tell you, a child’s home life is much more important for their development socially, emotionally, mentally, and value-wise than school is. The view of an education system needs to be expanded to helping make better parents as well. One way we can do this is by giving parents less stress and more time with their kids by providing a guaranteed income. However, we also need to educate people on being parents as it does not come naturally to all and for those who had a difficult upbringing themselves and therefore never had a great model for parenting. One idea is to create a parent education class that is incentivized by a tax-credit or, my preferred method, an increase to their UBI for the time they have the child for each age group as their children get older. You could give an extra $300-$500 per child for completing the class for the age-group their child is in.

While politicians right now are puppets of the current values we can shift the conversation and bring new values to light.

While there are many tell-tale signs the education system shows that money is the ultimate value in this society and that anyone or anything that isn’t making money right now doesn’t get the attention it might deserve it doesn’t have to be this way. We can make these greatly important changes to our society and all it starts with is talking about the need for it. By exercising our rights to speech, to protest, to petition, and to vote. We are lucky to have a structure in place to make important change and it is time to make this one. While politicians right now are puppets of the current values we can shift the conversation and bring new values to light.

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Nathaniel Allen

Political commentator, life coach, and moral philosophy fanatic. Here I talk about the perspectives, actions, and habits we can take to simply make life better.