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home : opinion : opinion May 24, 2016

4/2/2014 10:23:00 PM
Results Not Reasons
William Slusher

Is education failing in America?
NPR, in December: ""In mathematics, 29 nations ... outperformed America ... up from 23,' reports Education Week. 'In science, 22 education systems scored above America, up from 18. In reading, 19 locales scored higher than US students, a jump from 9. The top overall scores came from Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Macao and Japan, followed by Lichtenstein, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Estonia. American Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls it 'a picture of educational stagnation'."
Even Duncan is wrong. The data above show our education system is not 'stagnant' meaning motionless ... no ... it's dropping like a greased anvil.
What to do? Take lessons from the US Army, I say.
That odd sound you hear is sneers from the American education establishment at my suggestion. But consider:
In one year, our Army can train 18-year-old youngsters to become excellent military helicopter pilots in a highly technical and very demanding field that would take American colleges four years to even approach. I know. I was both college student and Army instructor pilot.
Army flight students are taught table manners, traditions, courtesy, pride, respect, and history along with electronics, weaponry, navigation, meteorology, aviation law, tactics, flight systems, aerodynamics and much more.
The Army trains its own teachers, and to only one standard ... results. Flight instructors in both classroom and cockpit are specifically selected for their capacity not just to fly but to teach students to fly. If you don't turn out qualified students, on time, you're quickly replaced by a teacher who will. The Army is not interested in your excuses for why you can't produce in the classroom and cockpit. Get it done or get out. Army teachers are not unionized. There's no archaic tenure to protect them from having to compete on merit.
The Army picks its students of course, a very critical luxury not permitted public school teachers who must work with any student thrust at them. The Army doesn't give a hoot about your race, gender, country of origin, neighborhood, religion nor even your sexual preference. If you can cut the demanding personal standards and pass rigidly standardized testing, you'll get your wings right along with the hetero white boys who qualify. You must be a US citizen and speak workable English (the official language of international aviation), but if you're a naturalized citizen for whom English is a second language, you're still in if you can perform on the testing.
You will show up for every class or flight on time, pay attention and apply yourself. Misbehavior or cancer of the attitude will promptly get you yanked out of class and disciplined in unconfusing ways. The Army tries to help genuinely troubled students but ultimately personal problems are not an excuse. They want to see your results on the tests.
You're right. Army education differs drastically from public school teaching in many ways, so let's not ship our 5-year-olds off to boot camp. Still, there are valuable lessons that our public education system cries out to have immediately instituted for our children's sake and that of our country.
Sorry, teachers, you have a damned tough job I wouldn't even try, but a quality education system is unsustainable with public service unions, in America at least. (I'm a retired cop who could not unionize or strike, by law.) Underperforming teachers need to hit the door pronto, and no union should be allowed to hold American students and the public good hostage to strike extortion.
A universal language is essential. Trying to teach in multiple languages is costly, inefficient and grossly ineffective for all. Good, bad, fair or unfair, correctly spoken English is the international language of business, prosperity and promotion. Ask the Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, etc.
Let us pick and train students according to their demonstrated aptitudes, not just their momentary interests or some 'common core' political correctness curriculum engineered in part by unionized teachers to protect union interests.
Let us train all students foremost to be so exceptional at what they do that they can compete on the international job market for a good living. They can be taught other fields of education later as they can afford and desire.
Last, let us get much tougher on behavioral issues at school. We must adopt a far more 'no excuses' approach. We cannot continue to allow the problems of misbehaving or otherwise low performing students (of any race) to hold the system down to a shameful national high-school graduation rate in the sixties percentile range.
I never said you'd love it, Americans, but it doesn't matter what we like anymore where the education of our youth is concerned. It's time to get real, fast. In the end, after all the excuses are in, it's only results that will save us.
William Slusher is an author, columnist and sociopolitical writer with a small horse ranch on the Okanogan River. Enjoy his newly reprinted down-and-dirty Southern murder mystery SHEPHERD OF THE WOLVES. (Amazon,, or your local bookstore). Mr. Slusher may be contacted at

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