Well, I know that quite a few people out there are educators of some sorts. I, myself have worked as a paraeducator at a Kansas middle school for about 6 months. I was excited and had plans to study to become a teacher myself, but just a few months later, this dream had turned sour.
As a little background: I grew up in Germany; our school system has been called cut-throat, because children are forced at quite an early point in life to chose their path for their career. Our elementary school is 4 years, and afterward, the kids have to decide on which secondary school to attend: there is the lowest tier, which means another 5 years of school, and traditionally an apprenticeship (e.g. carpenter, car mechanic, hair dresser, etc.) afterward. The second tier is another 6 years of school, usually followed by either a job training (e.g. office clerk, nurse, IT-specialist, etc.). The third tier means another 8 year of school and provides all the requisites for going to university.
Back to the actual rant: U.S. educational system sucks. "No Child Left Behind"? Seriously? Tens of thousands of dollars for a college education? Really?? How long will the U.S. be able to compare with other school systems? If it continues as is, not much longer!
No Child Left Behind is probably the worst idea ever. Instead of giving as many kids as possible the best education to their abilities, it simply dumbs down the requirements so that even mentally disabled children are able to graduate high school. I do not want to suggest that there should not be an education for mentally disabled children, but it should be an education catered to their needs. And a couple of "special needs" classes or a para-ed won't do it! At the same time, gifted kids aren't challenged enough. I am aware that there are "gifted" classes, but again, not enough. What is the sense of having kids with an IQ of 60 and those with an IQ of 130 study the same things in the same class room? Is anyone actually profiting from a learning environment like that?
What I really appreciate is the integration of disabled and non-disabled kids, but why not have joined recess, gym classes, or home economics and separated academics classes? Because some parent might be offended? Are we selling the future and potential of our kids for the benefit of everyone "feeling good"?
Ok, we've all graduated high school. Congratulations! On to college! You want to be a nurse? Fine, get your Bachelor's, take on about $20k to $30k in student loans, maybe get a Master's for another $40k, and welcome to the oversaturated job market, where you might be earning $40k a year, if you are lucky. Or you want to become a chef? Welcome to one of the wonderful culinary school. It will only cost you about $15k, and you will get a nice minimum-wage job at a warm-up kitchen after you graduate; you're welcome! Ahh, you don't know what you want to do? Come and earn your Bachelor's in Business Administration; cost see above (nurse). IT-specialist? Go ahead, only about $25k, but you'll get loans! And maybe even a job later to start pay them off. Do you get what I mean? We are forced to go into debt in order to be able to get a job that barely covers the cost of living. And the CEOs of the universities laugh their butts off while building new stadiums to rake in more cash from advertisement deals while the lecture halls are crumbling, there is a lack of teachers, and those who are there are oftentimes underpaid. When our daughter was born, we received several ads to open a college savings account for her, since she'll need it to have a chance later in life. This is so dismal! When I started college back in 2003, tuition at public universities in Germany was 0. Yes, you read it correctly, it cost no tuition to go to university. I believe in 2006, a tuition of a maximum of €500 per semester was introduced to cover the additional cost of an increasing number of university students. If you are low-income or a parent, you still don't pay any tuition. And you get government loans of which only 50% has to be paid back, at minimal interest.
Do you see why we returned to Germany? I feel that our daughters have a real future here. I feel that their lives are not sold for profit; that they can achieve anything if they only work hard enough.
Thank you for the stage!