There is the unshakable assumption, especially among the left, that all that ails American education is a lack of money. All we need to do is throw more and more money at the problem and eventually it will get better. The belief is so deeply rooted that it is rarely ever challenged, but the reality is that significantly higher education spending has not shown to improve the outcomes of students. Maybe we need to rethink the question.
First of all we need to recognize that much of America´s failure is concentrated in poor black and Hispanic areas. These students bring with them all kinds of problems which any institution would find very difficult to magically solve. They have low IQs, behavioral problems, broken homes, bad role models, poor nutrition, etc. There is no way that the typical teacher is going to make much headway with a class of 25-30 rowdy, disrespectful, disinterested, and academically disinclined kids. Every once in a while there is story of a teacher who, thru sheer force of will and charisma, is able to turn a class around, but teachers are normal people not miracle workers and the exception merely confirms the rule.
So since our model is not working we need to reexamine our system. One problem currently is this leftist tendency to orient the whole system to accommodating the worst students. For far too many educators, differences among class and race in school performance is so unacceptable and so hard to change that the only solution is to drive everyone down to the level of the lowest students. If the worst cannot do well, then no one will do well, goes the thinking. So we have a dumbing down of the curriculum, grade inhalation, group work, elimination of AP courses, busing, the bad students lumped in with the good.
Instead of an equality of poverty, why not try to make every student do as well as he can? This will create an inequality of outcomes, but much higher outcomes over all. We are already losing the poor students, so why not try to at least save the better students if we cannot save the worse ones?
It also seems that we should focus on class discipline, and if some students refuse to learn, and insist on disrupting the class so everyone else cannot learn, then maybe those students belong somewhere else, like a special institution or a special class for the problematic. I am all for separating students according to ability which, would provide healthy dose of competition to students and let those who want to learn actually learn. Also it is much easier to teach a class when the students are of a similar level.
Finally we need to explore voucher programs so schools and students have choices. This one size fits all monopoly in education is not working. Why not experiment and give schools and students choices and provide a bit of healthy competition for everyone involved? American higher education is well regarded mainly because it is competitive and full of choices.
Clearly we need to rethink our education system and stop living in idealized fantasies and look for practical realistic solutions.