Where is Superman when you need him?
Fact: Most fourth graders cannot tell you who Abraham Lincoln was. Fact: Few high school students cannot tell you that China was North Korea’s ally and fought against U.S. troops during the Korean War. Most cannot tell you when or why the conflict happened.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject. Less than 20 percent of those student passed a basic American history exam.
And they aren’t the only ones failing the test.
Michelle Bachman doesn’t know where the first shots of the revolution were fired and her sister-in-arms, Sarah Palin, is still trying to figure out why Paul Revere got on his horse. If you’re going to wrap yourself in the Constitution like Herman Cain, you may as well read it first. Maybe then you wouldn’t confuse it with the Bill of Rights and maybe then you wouldn’t tell 3 million people in a live debate that you intended to rip out the part about Freedom of Religion.
Let it be said that we don’t have a choice between fixing the economy and fixing public education. Bachman would have you believe that we can cut our way out of this mess. She says we’ve got enough job training programs and can get by with fewer Pell Grants.
But then again, she doesn’t know that the Founding Fathers didn’t outlaw slavery.
While the nation was waiting for Superman, my 21-year-old daughter was teaching her first class of eighth grade students. When she earned early admission to an Ivy League college some years ago, I wondered: Why not law? Why not medicine?
She answered me yesterday.
“Mom, it isn’t about the money,” she said. She explained that for her it was about changing lives and she wanted to be ready to give her students what they needed every day. She wanted them to get an exceptional education and the only way to do that was to become an exceptional teacher.
If we’re going to solve our problems and set this country on a path to prosperity and real growth, that means investing in a new generation of young people. Young people who—despite the demonization of teachers, despite the pay cuts, big classrooms, bickering school boards and absent parents—still want the job.
I think I just found Superman.
My daughter, you see, is a history teacher. She belongs to a new class of super heroes who want to teach. If we really want to move our country forward, we will give them every opportunity to do it.