America is in shambles from sea to shining sea. Unemployment is nearly at Great Depression levels. The real estate is still week and near collapse. And, of course, our U.S. Triple A credit rating is gone for the first time in history.
But this is National School Choice Week and all of that terrible economic news is child’s play (excuse the pun) compared to our failing government-run education system.
The accelerating and dramatic decline of our public school system is the shame of this once great country. I call our public school system "Every Child Left Behind."
The failure of our public school system condemns millions of young Americans to a future with no hope, no advancement, no good jobs, perhaps no jobs at all.
The American Dream of automatically doing better than the past generation has been relegated to the dust-bin of history because of our education crisis. This is our national disgrace.
Nationally SAT scores in critical reading reached their lowest levels ever in 2011. “Ever” as in the history of America.
Combined math and reading SAT scores were the lowest since 1995. This despite our country spending the most money ever.
When President Bush took office in 2000 Education Department spending was $30 billion. Today it is over $70 billion annually, plus another $175 billion extra in education spending from Obama’s stimulus program. Add up the numbers. We’ve gone from $30 billion annually to almost $200 billion in just over a decade. That’s about a 7-times increase in total education spending. Does anyone think education is 7 times better? Actually it’s more likely 7 times worse.
It’s no surprise that President Obama and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan are in panic mode. They are now offering waivers to all 50 states to opt out of “No Child Left Behind” because so many children are failing the tests. Amazingly their response to the dumbing-down-of- America is to reduce the standards even further, so that even more children are left behind by the system.
Locally, Las Vegas is in even worse shape than the rest of America. Drop out rates now exceed 60% in Las Vegas public schools, even higher among boys. And the 40% that do manage to graduate often achieve that feat as a result of social promotion and grade inflation. Proof? Freshman at UNLV require “remedial reading and math” to begin their college careers. Do the words fraud and national disgrace come to mind?
Yet through all this gloom and doom, there is a ray of hope. A story of remarkable educational success. A story I call “Homeschool to Harvard.” My daughter Dakota Root was home-schooled by her small businessman dad and devoted Christian homemaker mom right here in Las Vegas. And the results are nothing short of amazing. Dakota scored perfect SAT scores of 800 in reading and writing. She was a National Merit Scholar and Presidential Scholar nominee.
She was accepted by many of this nation’s finest universities including Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Penn, Brown, Chicago, Virginia, and Cal-Berkeley -- the list goes on and on.
She actually 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!
You can watch Dakota on Fox News Channel after finding out she was accepted by Harvard
Today she is a sophomore at Harvard University. She is 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. She is among the best and brightest ever produced by the great state of Nevada. Well, okay, I'm being modest, but after all, I am her dad.
By the way, she is also beautiful (like her mother) and nice. She is actually respectful to her parents and appreciative of all we've sacrificed for her. She represents what all of us hope and pray for our children.
Yet Dakota spent her formative years being educated in the same place- Las Vegas- that produces some of the worst education results in America. So how did it happen? What was in the water at the Root household? Can others learn from Dakota’s story? Can others replicate her remarkable Homeschool to Harvard story? YES they can!
The key is the same as achieving success in all other areas of life: being relentless, taking action, and taking charge. Taking back the power from government.
Dakota Root’s story is a testament to the power of the individual. Understanding that when it comes to educating our children, government is too big to succeed.
My advice as the home-school dad of a Harvard superstar scholar and athlete?
Become the CEO of your child’s future. “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
Only through self-reliance, personal responsibility and rugged individualism, can a parent change their child’s direction and super-charge their future.
What did we teach Dakota that isn’t being taught in the public schools of Nevada? Since almost the day that Dakota was born, her mom and dad taught her the importance of work ethic -- that to succeed she would have to out work, out shine, out smart, and out hustle every other student.
Talk is cheap.
There are no short cuts.
The foundation of all success is to get up early, do the work, make the sacrifices, live with discipline, fight passionately and relentlessly for your dreams.
We taught her that she must relish competition and embrace winning.
That she must build her life around detailed and specific goals.
That she must set the bar high and aim for the stars (in New York where I was born, we call that "chutzpah"). That along the way she must risk courageously to turn her dreams into reality.
Without risk, there is no reward.
We taught her that she will sometimes fail, but she must learn from that failure and get right back into the saddle again.
And we taught her to never settle, or accept anything less than her definition of success.
The bar was set almost from birth for Dakota’s acceptance at either Stanford or Harvard.
For 18 years we talked about it, planned for it, dreamed of it, and worked for it. We took her on campus tours of Stanford and Harvard so she could see her goals clearly.
The result? The first classroom of Dakota Root’s life was inside the hallowed halls of Harvard. And it all happened right here in the Las Vegas Valley -- without government, teachers unions, or education bureaucrats involved. More likely it happened specifically because they were not involved.
What were the sacrifices? What was the level of discipline? While other kids spent their school days being indoctrinated to believe competition and winning are politically incorrect and hurt people's feelings, Dakota was learning to relish competition and value winning.
While other kids were becoming experts at partying, Dakota was learning about sacrifice and discipline. W
hile other kids were busy getting their drivers license at age 16, Dakota was studying for SAT exams, 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 experimenting with alcohol and drugs, Dakota was practicing the sport she loves with dedication, intensity and passion: fencing.
Dakota understood that "overnight success" often takes 18 years of discipline and dedication. But we taught her that the payoff was well worth the sacrifice.
And her parents helped a bit too. While other kids came home to empty homes, Dakota’s mom, dad, or both, were home every day to share meals, a bedtime kiss, and prayer with our four home-schooled kids.
Dakota got to travel with her dad to major business and political events across the country. She watched, studied, and absorbed her dad conducting business like a Zen master.
Then when the moment of opportunity called, she took advantage. I asked her to give my nomination speech for President of the United States on C-Span at the age of 16. Dakota delivered the first speech of her life like a pro in front of about 1000 delegates and media, and a national TV audience. You can watch that speech here.
After all those years of hard work, dedication, discipline and sacrifice, she had achieved her overnight success. Acceptance at Harvard was merely the icing on the cake, two years later.
Is Dakota's story unusual? Actually no. A recent study proved that home-schooled kids score almost twice as high on exams as public school students. Other studies prove that home-school kids score dramatically higher on SAT exams.
There is no one answer for solving the public education crisis. Our choice of home-schooling melded parental education with tutoring by hand-picked retired teachers, combined with a personally-chosen curriculum. 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 members of our family.
Those same retired teachers are now teaching a new generation of my children -- ages 4, 7 and 11. The latest results? My 11-year-old son Hudson took national tests at the end of 6th grade to see how he stacked up against other 6th graders nationwide. He scored POST HIGH SCHOOL in all categories but one (the poor kid was rated only 11th grade in that one subject).
My 7-year-old Remington Reagan took his national tests at the end of 1st grade. He scored 6th grade through 9th grade in every category.
I think it's clear home-schooling works. But public schools-led by teachers unions and education bureaucrats are a far different story.
Education in this country has deteriorated for decades under their leadership. Home-schooling worked for our family because we took the best of education -- dedicated parents and professional educators --and eliminated the worst- no unions, no government bureaucrats, no bullying, no drugs, no violence, no classrooms filled with kids who don't care, and teachers forced to teach to the lowest common denominator.
In the end, the power to decide how to best educate children belongs with the parents, not teachers unions or government.
The way to force public schools to improve includes school choice; reducing the power of unions so that it's possible to fire under-performing teachers and reward superior ones; and offering vouchers on the state level to give parents the power (and money) to choose education alternatives.
Competition works. If it’s good enough for capitalism, why not public schools?
Competition makes Coke and Pepsi, Microsoft and Apple better. The only way to make public schools better is to give parents school choice.
Dakota Root doesn't just prove the success of home-schooling. She proves the success of the individual over a dependence upon government.
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, or a state-licensed teacher, or a teacher’s union, to educate a child. It just takes two caring, motivated parents with a willingness and courage to seize control and take responsibility for their children’s future.
Dakota’s story proves the American Dream is alive, if only we’d stop depending on government to save us.
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." For more, visit is his web site: www.ROOTforAmerica.com.