The History of the Education System and Why It’s Failing America

The History of the Education System and Why It’s Failing America


When it comes to cabinet departments, the Department of Education is relatively young compared to its predecessors. In fact, President Jimmy Carter established the Department of Education we know today in 1979 with the intention of fostering academic excellence and guaranteeing that all students have equal access to education. Despite its seemingly well-intentioned origins, the department has faced continued criticism and has struggled to fulfill its mission.


It’s no secret that the creation of the Department of Education was the result of political maneuvering rather than a genuine effort to improve the education system. Instead, it was more of a favor to a powerful special interest group [the National Education Association (NEA)] than a necessary reorganization to improve the government’s ability to meet its educational responsibilities. In fact, the Washington Post reported in 1980 that the executive director at the time said there would be “no department without the NEA.”


The Department of Education has long been plagued by political issues, which have only continued to worsen over time. From its very inception, the department was created as a result of political maneuvering rather than a genuine effort to improve education. This original sin has continued to affect the department, with political interests often taking precedence over the needs of students and educators.


The imposition of rigid personnel rules, bureaucracy, and regulations, as well as the mandate to use education as a tool to engineer social or political outcomes, has greatly hindered the ability of schools to provide students with the necessary skills, knowledge, and perspective they desperately need. When government policies prioritize political agendas over the needs of students, it creates an environment that is detrimental to the learning process. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many students are required to attend school regardless of their interest in or enthusiasm for learning. Under these circumstances, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to fulfill their educational mission and equip students with the tools they need to succeed in life.

Unpacking the Issues Plaguing Our Education System Today

Rigid Rules and Regulations

The success of a school is often tied to the amount of outside influence from supervisors or regulators on the hiring and firing process. Research by John Chubb of the Brookings Institution and Terry Moe of Stanford University highlights that external control over personnel is potentially the most debilitating influence on an effective school. Principals who lack control over teacher selection may have to manage a team with conflicts, leading to an ineffective organization.


Moreover, uniform salary schedules mandated by the government lead to a clash with the school’s situation, as positions and salary levels are decided by the state. Instead, schools should have the flexibility to employ teaching staff as they see fit, differentiate pay based on performance, and set salaries at a level that attracts qualified personnel.

A Civil Service System

The traditional belief that public services should be provided through a bureaucratic civil service model has led to a number of issues within public education. This outdated system hinders innovation and progress and makes it difficult for the teaching profession to meet contemporary demands. In order to improve education outcomes, schools should instead embrace a model of specialized teaching firms that can provide specific services tailored to the unique needs of each school.


These schools would operate more like law firms, with senior partners bringing valuable experience and expertise to the table while mentoring and guiding junior partners and associates.


Unfortunately, this kind of innovative thinking is often met with resistance from entrenched interests in the current system, making it difficult for these necessary changes to take root. But if we can escape the current bureaucratic framework, we might be able to design a system that benefits both teachers and students.


We’re not talking about a game made by Hasbro. We’re talking about teachers who need incentives just like other types of workers. If the public school system is a monopoly, the drive to create successful students is weak. When there is no relationship between student success and school-level reward, some teachers see no reason to go beyond the call of duty to support students, particularly when they get the same rewards for doing little work.


Furthermore, without competition in education, parents are not viewed as valuable customers who may seek alternatives if they are not pleased but rather as troublesome interruptions.

Centralized Decision-Making

The effectiveness of schools is hindered when decisions on curriculum and schedules are dictated from above, limiting the autonomy of school leaders and preventing them from serving their students and teachers. As industries abandon top-down management models, schools must also find better ways to communicate and make decisions.


Making a Difference by Swapping Out Systems

Attempts to improve the public school system by making small changes are not enough to eliminate government interference in education. Whenever there is a call for fundamental change in American education, arguments about race, class, social mixing, and other social concerns are raised, making it challenging to achieve real progress. Teachers are burdened with forms, teaching quasi-academic subjects mandated from above and boosting student self-esteem, which makes learning difficult, if not impossible.


While we know that the government is not well-equipped to teach America’s students because of its various characteristics, private and specialty schools provide an example of what American education could be. Allowing school choice across America would fundamentally change the quality of education.


Nevertheless, when evaluating the current state of education in America, it becomes clear that the monopolistic and over-regulated public school system is not equipped to meet the demands of the modern age. Rather than simply discussing how to reform the existing system, parents, along with community leaders, must start exploring alternative options for replacing it. Only then can we hope to provide our children with the education they need to succeed in the 21st century.



For more insights like this, don’t forget to journey with NESTSocial today.