Even God’s poll numbers are down, barely crossing the 50 percent approval rate, according to a poll done by Public Policy Polling. While relatively low, they easily exceed the numbers of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress. They each had a 33 percent approval rating. Rupert Murdoch, the scandal-plagued media baron, was seen favorably by only 12 percent of the voters.
Across the spectrum, Americans are worried and cranky, much of this a result of the tiresome political posturing on matters of substance. The public wants discernable change, common sense and immediate action from leaders who appreciate the history of politics and the meaning of reasonable compromise. A mere 6 percent of likely voters rate Congress as doing a good or excellent job, a reflection of the disdain for the stalemates and never-ending bickering between political parties.
In the next presidential and congressional elections, politicians can expect an angry ring to the questions they hear. Glib generalities and graceful sidesteps will not be well received, either on the central issue of the economy and jobs or on other issues. And other issues do exist. More than half of likely voters want a thorough airing of health care, taxes, government ethics and corruption, social security, immigration, and education.
Education is certain to remain a major topic because everyone knows it holds a key to success in the workplace. More than three quarters of executives and students see postsecondary education as a career necessity. More than 80 percent of teachers, parents, and executives believe high school graduation and readiness for some form of college is the highest priority of the day.
Polls also inform us about uneasiness concerning today’s high schools. Almost three-quarters of the adults surveyed gave a low grade to secondary schools and almost half thought the students were less well prepared for work or college than when they graduated.
The College Board, America’s largest educational association, has added to the literature by commissioning work with business leaders, teachers, students, and school administrators.
Those interviews, conducted by Hart Research Associates, point out that “education reform in the U.S. today often tends toward procedural questions: Should the number of charter schools be expanded, how should teachers be evaluated, how should student test scores be used in holding students and teachers accountable. While these are important issues, they are not central to the conversations that are occurring among those who deal with the reality of America’s high school, or who are thinking about what high schools need to be in the future.”
But those interviewed put forth a positive and plausible vision of education. It includes:
l effective teaching of history, current events, cultural literacy, math, writing, and oral skills, all made relevant to their students’ world;
l individual flexible learning in small classes;
l students with a vision of their futures, supported by practical work experience and hands on learning;
l college readiness that incorporates the skills to live independently, problem solve, understand the world, learn throughout life, and be active citizens;
l school buildings designed to encourage learning; and
l universal understanding and use of technology.
It was repeatedly pointed out that college readiness is not a reality for many students and that the current debate about education was unlikely to lead to meaningful changes.
You may be certain that there will be heated debate about changes in education, underscoring its fundamental importance to the future of America. Constructive criticism can result in needed change when it comes to our schools and colleges. We can only hope that those in power have the sense to respond appropriately.