This is National School Choice Week. Even the never-ending dose of bad economic news is child’s play compared to our failing government-run education system. The accelerating decline of our public school system is the shame of this once-great country. I call our public school system "Every Child Left Behind."
How bad is public education? Despite spending the most money ever on education, critical reading SAT scores reached their lowest levels ever in 2011; combined math and reading SAT scores were the lowest since 1995. Not exactly a good deal — the worst results ever, in return for the highest cost ever!
President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan are in panic mode. Because so many children are failing they are offering waivers to all 50 states to opt out of “No Child Left Behind." Their response to this dumbing down of America is to reduce the standards even further, so even more children are left behind.
Locally, Las Vegas is in worse shape than the rest of America. The high school dropout rate now exceeds 60 percent, even higher among boys. And, those who do make it to college often need remedial math and reading. This is a national disgrace.
Through all this gloom and doom there is a ray of hope — a remarkable school choice success story that I call “Home school to Harvard.” My daughter Dakota Root was home-schooled here in Las Vegas. The results: Dakota scored perfect SAT scores of 800 in reading and writing, was a National Merit Scholar, and Presidential Scholar nominee.
She was accepted by many of this nation’s finest universities: Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Penn, Brown, Chicago, Virginia, and Cal-Berkeley. She had the confidence to turn down an offer from the Yale fencing coach before she had gotten any of her other acceptances. The kid turned down Yale!
Today she is a sophomore at Harvard, a straight-A student, and earned Second Team All Ivy League honors in Fencing for the elite Harvard team. Dakota Root is one of this country’s finest scholar/athletes.
How did this happen when Dakota spent her formative years being educated in the same place — Las Vegas — that produces some of the worst education results in America?
My wife Debra and I long ago realized when it comes to educating our children, government is too big to succeed. My advice is to be proactive and take control of your child’s future. Only through self-reliance, personal responsibility and dogged persistence, can a parent change their child’s direction and super-charge their future. You must treat your child’s education as a business. Call it, “My Child’s Future LLC.”
What did we teach Dakota that isn’t being taught in the public schools? Since birth Dakota was taught a work ethic, that to succeed she would have to outwork, out-desire, and outhustle every other student. She was taught talk is cheap, there are no shortcuts.
The foundation of success is to do the work, make the sacrifices, live with discipline, fight with passion, and be relentless in pursuit of your dreams.
While other kids were being indoctrinated to believe competition and winning are politically incorrect and might hurt people's feelings, Dakota was learning to enthusiastically embrace competition and relish winning.
While other kids were hanging out at the mall with their schoolmate cliques, Dakota was studying, taking piano lessons, Spanish and French lessons, swimming lessons, tennis lessons, fencing lessons, and being tutored for academic excellence.
While other kids shopped, dated, and gossiped, Dakota was debating her dad about politics and current events at the dinner table, while devouring books on science, math, history, literature, politics, and business.
While others were out partying, Dakota was practicing the sport she loves — fencing — with dedication, intensity, and passion.
We taught Dakota that "overnight success" often takes 20 years of discipline, dedication, and practice. But we taught her that the payoff was well worth the sacrifice.
We taught her that faith in yourself and God is the foundation of all success. With that kind of faith and rock-solid belief, anything is possible.
Perhaps most importantly, we didn’t just talk the talk, we set the example. While other kids came home to empty homes, her mom and dad were home to share meals, a bedtime kiss, and prayer with our four home-schooled kids.
Is Dakota's story unusual? Actually, no. A recent study proved that home-schooled kids score dramatically higher on SAT exams.
There is no one answer for solving the public education crisis. Our choice of home-schooling combined mom, dad, and retired teachers as tutors. That's called parental freedom. By the way, I respect and applaud teachers. I think most of them work hard, sacrifice, and care for their students. Dakota owes her home-school success to several retired teachers who are like family members.
Those same retired teachers are now teaching our other children — ages 4, 7, and 11. The latest results? Our son Hudson took national tests to see how he stacked up against other 6th graders nationwide. He scored POST-HIGH SCHOOL in most every category. Our son Remington took his national tests at the end of 1st grade. He scored 6th grade through 9th grade in every category.
The power to decide how to best educate children belongs with parents, not teachers unions or government. The way to force public schools to improve includes school choice; reducing the power of unions so it's possible to fire underperforming teachers and reward superior ones; and offering vouchers on the state level to give parents the power to choose education alternatives.
Competition works for Coke and Pepsi. It will work for public schools too.
Dakota’s story proves the American Dream is alive, if only we’d stop depending on government to save us. She proves the success of alternative education, parental freedom, and school choice. Her tremendous success as a scholar and athlete proves that it doesn't take a village, a state-licensed teacher, or a teacher’s union, to educate a child. It just takes two parents who give a damn.
Wayne Allyn Root is a former Libertarian vice presidential nominee. He now serves as Chairman of the Libertarian National Campaign Committee. He is the best-selling author of "The Conscience of a Libertarian: Empowering the Citizen Revolution with God, Guns, Gold & Tax Cuts." His web site: www.ROOTforAmerica.com.
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