We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Educational reforms filtered through the machinery of politics are generally defective, for two reasons. The first is that two different things are meant by “education.” We have education in the true, Arnoldian sense of the word, the improvement of one’s mind (and possibly even one’s soul) through the study of “the best which has been thought and said in the world,” which is the goal of a classical liberal education; we also have the Bismarckian sense of education, the conception that commands the attentions of politicians, which understands the schools as factories producing the human widgets that the state requires for its own purposes, economic competitiveness and military preparedness at the top of the list. (A deep problem with state-run systems of education is that they almost always mistake their customers for their products.)
This leads to interest-group jockeying within the ranks of educators, with those whose personal interests are attached to the humanities feeling forever shortchanged. (That is one of the reasons for opposition to the current STEM push.)
Well, the first thing they should do is quit using the wrong word. What is provided by schools is not education but rather instruction. It is possible through the discipline imposed by the instruction for the student to achieve some level of education, but this can not be given or provided to them, it comes from inside.
Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart. Instruction is that part of education which furnishes the mind with knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks. Training is a department of education in which the chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose of imparting facility in any physical or mental operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners and outward conduct.
One significant problem of our "education" system is that it focuses on the attainment of random facts and vague exposure to this work or that. The testing is not of understanding of whether the student could do well on a game show quizzing those facts. And most lamentable is that the school requirements are presented as the final and necessary attainment. Bad enough when the knowledge was fragmented but of high quality. Devastating when weak instruction is presented for attainment of credit or credential.
If when a man graduates from college he has learned the work he is fitted for, if he has gained some ideal of beauty, if he has delved deeply enough into himself to have even a vague knowledge of his own soul, if he has learned enough of the past to understand to some small degree the present, and if he has gathered unto himself enough ideas of life to have a workable philosophy of living, he has begun at least to learn to live. He can count his years in college well spent. He has the rudiments of an education. If he continues to work, to think, and to learn, he may, by the grace of God, become a man.
As a graduate of MIT I'm greatly in favor of the increase in emphasis in STEM education in America. It is said of American children that they know how to USE technology - cell phones, game machines, tweeting, posting every detail of their lives in color and sound on social media, etc. - but they don't know a damn thing about how it works and how to create it. I judged a middle school science fair last week and let's just say that children who either themselves or their parents had immigrated from Asia or the Indian sub-continent were disproportionately represented in the participants and winners.
But - remember that mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are part of what is defined as the liberal arts. There are many reasons to be conversant with at least an introduction to those disciplines that have no direct bearing on one's career but does have a direct bearing on participating in civic life. For example, consider the debates on GMO's and food labelling. How does one form an opinion worth listening to and meaningfully petition one's representatives without at least some kind of understanding of basic biology? Otherwise we are all as the Democrats think we are, slaves to whoever has the most money and shouts the loudest.
We need the humanities - history, geography, music, English grammar, rhetoric and literature. A poor job is being done on those, and that's a necessary debate. But we need to catch up on fundamental introductions to STEM for everyone as well.