The Everchanging American Culture

.. dren greatly. In 1987, 9.4 million women had children with no father involved in their children’s life. Of those families, 53.3% of those fathers did not pay any kind of child support (Lieberman 25). Also, more than one million children under the age of 18 are directly involved in a divorce each year.

In 1996, 14% of the American population lived in poverty, 20.5% of which were children under 18 (Quiram 12). Families are not the only ones to blame for the lack of quality education in the United States. Eighty-five percent of the costs of public schools are spent on salaries and benefits of school district personnel, not the students (Lieberman 51). Teacher unions also only seek benefits for themselves, not for the students. Teachers are also paid based on their schooling and years of experience, not on the quality of their teaching (Lieberman 57). In 1990, the George Bush administration set up the National Educational Goals that were to have been met by the year 2000. It stated that the high school graduation rate will increase to 90%; all students leaving grade four, eight, and twelve will have competency in English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, government and geography; the nation’s teachers will have access to programs to improve their teaching skills; United States students will be first in the world in mathematics and science achievement; every adult will be literate and have necessary skills to function in today’s economy; every school in the United States will be free of drugs, violence, firearms, and alcohol; and every school will promote parental involvement (Quiram 68).

Yet it is true in fact that none of these goals have been completely achieved or even tackled by our school systems. The dropout rate for 1999 was 11.2%, which is still less than 90% of the students graduating (NCES). Students on the high school level on the average only complete 3.8 years of English, 2.5 years of math, .2 years of computer science, 2.9 years of social studies, 2.1 years of physical and biological science and .3 years of foreign language (Quiram 24). This is not nearly enough education to compete with today’s foreign market. Many of the nation’s public schools are still in horrible condition.

In 1999, one quarter of school reported that at least one type of onsite building was in less than adequate condition. Half of schools reported that at least one building feature was in less than adequate condition. About four out of ten reported at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. Close to ten percent of schools have enrollments twenty-five percent greater than the capacity of their buildings. The average dollar amount needed to fix each individual school is about $2.2 million and the grand total of funds needed to repair these schools is $127 billion (NCES). School safety has become a large concern since the many high school shootings.

Yet statistics have not been changing for the better. During the 1996-1997 school year, 57% of public schools reported that one or more incidents of crime or violence had happened in their school. Ten percent of all public schools experienced one or more serious violent crime. Violent crimes are defined as murder, rape, sexual battery, suicide, physical attack, fight with a weapon, or robbery. Forty-five percent of elementary schools reported one or more violent incidents, compared with 74% of middle schools and 77% of high schools. School crime is proven to happen in larger schools, 38% of small schools reported incidents, while 89% of large schools reported criminal incidents.

Schools in cities were twice as likely to report violent crime and gang activity than rural or suburban schools. During the 1998-1999 school year, 3,523 students were expelled for bringing a gun to school (NCES). Yet 78% of all schools claimed they had some type of violence prevention program, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Neither does our former president’s plan to reform education. Lieberman lists many ways to help improve education. He recommends that high school age children should be able to graduate in a shorter period of time if they desire and receive rewards for doing so (274).

He believes the PTA should just consist of parents and students making goals for education to discuss with teachers and the school board (275). He believes there should be a national curriculum plan so that all children are taught the same basic important ideas. Teachers should be required to take state examinations to evaluate their competency. He also believes parents should be given a better interpretation of their children’s grades by report cards that include: checklists, anecdotal comments, how attendance affects grades, how the grade point average was computed, what curriculum path the child is on, and increase the frequency of reporting (Lieberman 87). The United States government should also give better funding to schools that need repairs and new materials because our children are our most important asset of all.

The nation’s illegal drug industry is not only thriving among school age children, but across the entire population of the United States. The United States is the single largest market place for illegal drugs (Zill). About 13 million Americans claim to occasional drug use of cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, and other drugs, but about five million people have serious drug habits, spending over $500 a week to support their habits. These two groups of users spend $60 billion a year on illegal drugs (Zill). In 1999, Americans spent $63.2 billion on illegal drugs, $37 billion on cocaine, $12 billion on heroin, $10.2 on marijuana, and $4 billion on other illegal drugs (Who are America’s Drug Users?). This extremely large sum of money is collected in stash houses down south from Mexico to Columbia. All this money pays the salaries of shippers, processors, and bribes of government officials.

Countries like Columbia and Mexico are almost dependent on the demand for drugs from the United States. The illegal drug industry stays intact because of its huge profit margins. Zill states that, Processed cocaine is available on the streets of Columbia for $1,500 per kilo and sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 per kilo. Heroin costs $2,600 per kilo in Pakistan, but can be sold on the streets of America for $130,000 per kilo. Methamphetamine are often even cheaper to manufacture costing approximately $300 to $500 per kilo to produce in clandestrine labs in the United States and abroad and sold on United States streets for up to $60,000 per kilo. The so-called War on Drugs seizures of illegal drugs have little effect on the industry.

Current drug interceptions only stop 13% of heroin shipments and 28% to 40% of cocaine shipments (Zill). Between 1984 and 1999, the number of defendants charged with a drug offense in Federal courts increased from 11,854 to 29,306; 65% of those charged had been previously arrested, 16% reported being an importer, grower, or manufacturer, and 25% reported they were street-level dealers (Federal Drug Offenders). In the past decade, federal and state law enforcement agencies have seized over $48 billion in drugs, cash, and assets. The government has not been tackling the major sources of illegal drugs in the United States and only seems to arrest growers, users, and sellers, not those in charge. The government should learn to target the source of drugs and also provide better education to young people.

The highest rates of illicit drug users are found among older teens. In 1999, 22% of tenth graders and 26% of twelve graders had used an illicit drug in the past month (America’s Drug Users). Twenty to Twenty-one percent of young adults age 18 to 20 reported using an illicit drug within the past month. The highest drug using ethnic population is Native Americans and those reporting mixed races. In 1999, 8.7% of men and 4.9% of woman were illicit drug users (America’s Drug Users).

The most commonly used drug is marijuana, with 11.1 million users in 1999. The use of marijuana has remained almost constant throughout the 1990s. There was also about 1.5 million cocaine users in 1999, representing 7% of the population. The federal government’s planned expenditures on illegal drugs for the year 2002 is an estimated $19.2 billion, compared to 2001’s budget of $18.1 billion. The government plans to spend $2,296 million on plans to reduce youth drug use, $8,052 million on reducing drug-related crime, $3,101 million on rehabilitation programs, $2,555 million on border control, and $2,047 on reducing the source of supply.

This money is further broken down into specific programs. Parents for a Drug-Free Future Program will spend $5 million dollars on educating communities on drug abuse prevention of young people, and providing scientific information to provide factual information to children. Eleven million dollars will also be spent on the Drug-Free Communities Program, which assists community-based groups to foster local anti-drug activities. The federal government will spend over $126 million dollars on research to improve drug abuse treatment for addicted offenders in the criminal justice system. Twenty-nine million dollars will be spent on the National Data Collection, which will decide which drug-related services are still effective. The most outrageous statistic of all, the federal government will spend $731 million on the Andean Regional Initiative that will give counter-drug money to Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, and Panama (ONDCP). The description by the ONDCP states, The counter-drug strategy in the region must include funding to bring greater economic and political stability to the region and a peaceful solution to Colombia’s internal conflict.

I find that most of these program descriptions are vague and are generally a waste of taxpayer’s moneys on programs that haven’t been working. Something drastic needs to be done to change federal government policy to either decriminalize certain drugs or to actually attack the sources of these drugs instead of funding money to the source. Drugs, the terrorist war, and education have affected each and every single American. All of our nation’s problems tie into together like a spider web. There are many problems faced by this nation, that all must be handled one issue at a time.

More money should be spent on ending poverty in the United States. We need to discover alternative forms of energy incase of an oil shortage. We need to make drastic changes in our environmental policies to stop doing so much damage to our environment. We need to have a great love and compassion of those different than us and respect the variety of people in the United States. As a nation, we need to all become more involved politically so we have better options for senators, governors, presidents, and representatives.

We must remember that freedom isn’t something everyone around the world gets to experience, and we are most lucky for having it. Most of all, we must continue the patriotism that was born on September 11 and never forget how proud we are of our freedoms, right, and beliefs. Social Issues.