As teenagers make headlines for snorting condoms and eating Tide Pods in a quest for fame and recognition online, a troubling set of statistics has been released from the United States Department of Education, which shows that the majority of eighth graders in public schools are not proficient in reading or basic math.
In 2017, only 34 percent of eighth-grade students in American public schools were proficient in mathematics, according to a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). That number varied by state, with proficiency rates as high as 50 percent in Massachusetts and as low as 17 percent in Louisiana.
The percentage of eighth graders who were proficient in math in 2017 was even lower at public schools in urban districts where rates were shockingly low with 11 percent proficiency in Cleveland, Baltimore, and Fresno, and just 5 percent proficiency in Detroit.
The reading report from NAEP revealed that last year, only 36 percent of eighth-grade students in American public schools were proficient in reading. That number also varied by state with proficiency rates as high as 49 percent in Massachusetts and as low as 24 percent in New Mexico.
The same urban districts with a painfully low percentage of students who were proficient in mathematics were also the urban districts with the lowest percentages of eighth graders who were proficient in reading. Rates were astonishingly low in Fresno with 14 percent proficiency, Baltimore with 13 percent, Cleveland with 10 percent, and Detroit with just 7 percent.
If a business was only proficient 15 percent of the time, it would eventually cease to exist. Yet public schools have had shockingly low proficiency rates in subjects such as reading and math for years, and they are still mandated as the automatic form of education a child should pursue.
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Many parents who are seeking alternative forms of schooling for their children do not have access to or are not able to afford tuition to private schools. In some states, parents who choose to homeschool their children are treated as criminals and they could soon be forced to be subjected to involuntary home visits from state employees, starting with new proposed legislation in California and Maryland.
In addition to failing to learn the most basic subjects, students in public schools are also at risk of being assaulted by the school resource officers who are stationed at many schools to “serve and protect” them, but who end up doing the opposite. As The Free Thought Project has reported, there are a number of incidents in which officers were caught on video assaulting mentally ill and disabled students, assaulting students for wearing the wrong uniform to school, and assaulting students who posed no threat to them or anyone else.
A 2015 report from the Rutherford Institute further illustrated the point that American public schools are becoming increasingly similar to prisons, noting that more than 3 million students are suspended or expelled from public schools each year, often for minor and ridiculous offenses:
Many state laws require that schools notify law enforcement whenever a student is found with an “imitation controlled substance,” basically anything that looks like a drug but isn’t actually illegal. As a result, students have been suspended for bringing to school household spices such as oregano, breath mints, birth control pills and powdered sugar.
It’s not just look-alike drugs that can get a student in trouble under school zero tolerance policies. Look-alike weapons (toy guns—even Lego-sized ones, hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, even fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in detention.
Acts of kindness, concern or basic manners can also result in suspensions. One 13-year-old was given detention for exposing the school to “liability” by sharing his lunch with a hungry friend. A third grader was suspended for shaving her head in sympathy for a friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. And then there was the high school senior who was suspended for saying “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed.
When they are not at school, many teenagers use their free time to browse the internet, where they find other teens amassing thousands of views on YouTube when they film themselves snorting condoms or eating Tide pods; they find Logan Paul making millions each month for instigating outrageous stunts; and they find Danielle Bregoli obtaining endorsements and record deals for threatening others and promoting aggressive behavior.
When students are forced to spend 8 hours a day in a building where they are clearly not learning the subjects they are supposed to be studying, and the smallest action could land them in the principal’s office or a misunderstanding could lead to them being placed in handcuffs and assaulted by school resource officer, it is no wonder that they are turning to the internet and emulating the outrageous “role models” who appear to be loving life, as an escape from the prison they are forced to live in for the first 18 years of their lives.