I point our these examples of the decay of literacy in our society, but the problems of education fester within every discipline and within education generally. The crisis of our education arises from a whole host of problems, many more than I could get into here. Bad philosophy about the human person is not the least of the culprits (I'm looking in your direction, John Dewey). The removal of religious education from public schools has its share of blame. Man is a religious animal, and leaving him ignorant of religious ideas leaves him ignorant of his own history and identity. Untested theories of education being imposed by the State on a national level has had some disastrous results.
The problems of education are many, and the proposed solutions are many more. Given the urgent need to fix these problems, it is tempting to use the power of the State to execute the right solutions upon the whole of the nation (including upon private schools and homeschools). Problem is, there's much debate about what the right solutions are; some of those offered are good, some are bad, and some are just plain silly. It is also the popular theory of the day that usually gets imposed upon the education system. G.K. Chesterton wrote:
The trouble with too many of our modern schools is that the State, being controlled so specially by the few, allows cranks and experiments to go straight to the schoolroom when they have never past through the Parliament, the public house, the private house, the church, or the marketplace...The baby has to submit to a system that is younger than himself. The flopping infant of four actually has more experience, and has weathered the world longer, than the dogma to which he is made to submit.That's one danger of State solutions to the problems of education. Christopher Dawson asserts another:
Once the State has accepted full responsibility for the education of the whole youth of a nation, it is obliged to extend its control further and further into new fields...Thus universal education involves the creation of an immense machinery of organization and control which must go on growing in power and influence until it covers the whole field of culture and embraces every form of educational institution from the nursery school to the university.Unlike some, I do not wish to see the State separated from the schools. I believe every person has a unalienable right to an education, and I believe it is the duty of parents, the Church, and yes, also the State to help secure this right. The State, after all, has an interest in having a well-educated public.
The question is how much of a role should the State have in education? I have to admit that I don't know. I see the logic of society as a whole (through the State) setting the minimum standards that are to be met. But who sets the minimum standards? What do they include? Basic competency in reading, math, and science? The prevailing philosophical ideas, say about the nature of the family? The ability to divide all statements into the categories of fact (empirically verifiable) or opinion (all value judgments)? In a pluralistic society such as ours, I wouldn't want to give anyone the power to decide what those minimum standards are, and yet without such standards, how do we ensure quality education in our society?
I think there are a lot of good if differing ideas about creating excellent schools, but rather than impose a system or a philosophy, even if proven effective, upon the whole of the country (or even on a state level), I would prefer to see schools founded, developed and administered (though not necessarily funded) at the local level. Schools that do education well will likely be successful, and if so, then their ideas, policies, and practices can be adopted by others to meet the needs of their particular students and community. Oversight should be there, but how and how much I do not know.