3 Ways to Improve Your Outlook on a Failed Education System

failed education system

I don’t complain about my sky-high property taxes. I am a happy customer of my school district so I feel I get good value. My kids get a great education. I feel confident enough in my public school that I don’t have to pay the even higher rate to send my kids to private schools.

This puts me in the minority – I am a happy customer of public schools. If you are like most people, you have a different view. According to a 2012 Gallop poll, “only 37% of respondents said public schools provided an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ education.

That is an enormous level of dissatisfaction. And the number seems right to me. Try this out – at the next gathering, survey parents asking them how happy they are with the public school system in America. My experience is that the vast majority will express dissatisfaction.

As the study suggests, parents tend to rate their school as better than the rest of the system. That matches my experience – I like my kids’ school but I believe the Public School system in America has failed.

What is a parent to do about this?

Let’s step back and evaluate what ‘satisfaction’ with the school system means. I believe that my school system provides my kids an excellent education, given the extreme limitations of school. The school has met the expectation it is capable of meeting.

Whose problem is this? Is it a school problem? Maybe, but even if it is, it doesn’t matter. Schools aren’t changing. Your perception needs to change.

It seems to me that the school’s goal is to prepare my kids for college (Do schools actually have goals and missions I wonder…). My goal is different. Yes, I want my kids to learn math and science. But I want them to learn how to learn those things – I care about lifelong learning. And I want them to develop character, improving things like grit and motivation.


  • My school does not meet my goals for teaching lifelong learning.
  • I accept that my school meets its goal of preparing a student for college.
  • This difference leaves most people unsatisfied.
  • I am satisfied only because I accept the limited goal of schooling.

It is pointless to complain. My kids have to go to school. The school provides value in a mass manufacturing way. That means if I can’t depend on the school for my goals, guess whose job it becomes? I could complain, or I can take an active stance and not play victim to the public education system.

And that’s what parents need to do. Focus on the here and now. Accept that our children’s schools won’t change in time to make a difference. So we have to build a different system to provide the education we want them to have.

What are the implications for parents? They include parents needing to:

  • show kids what is relevant about their homework.
  • understand what character education is all about, and inspire learning in the traits that matter most.
  • become an educational coach, helping kids learn how to learn through improved organization, planning, etc.

In the coming weeks we’ll explore each of these topics. I would love to hear your thoughts in the interim to be sure the coming posts are as useful to you as possible.

For now though, I want to focus on one thing – reminding ourselves of the primary participants in a child’s education, and most importantly, defining goals for each role.

  1. Schools: provide kids the basic facts and discipline they need to learn at a higher level
  2. Parents: encourage kids to higher levels of thinking and improved character education
  3. Peers: develop critical social skills and behaviors for success in life

There are lots of things we can do to improve the education of the learners in our lives in the short term. But it all starts by being clear on intent. With intent clear, focus becomes more probable.

Start by being clear with intent. What are your (realistic) goals from your school system? And given those goals, what goals can you meet for fostering the education of the learner in your life? When it comes to teaching your learner about character, are you expert enough to take on this role? How can you improve?

Lots of questions for today. Stay tuned for some answers. And as always we would love to hear from you.