Discussion Guides

Education Questions: Be Informed, Speak Up, Act Lesson Plan (Grades 6–8)

  • Grades: 6–8
This article is part of the "Be Informed, Speak Up, Act" lesson plan.

Many people would agree that government should play a role in providing the highest quality education to all children. However, people do not always agree about the most effective ways to provide this kind of education in an affordable manner. Policymakers at all levels of government wrestle with this issue.

1. There is the view that one way government can help to improve education is to enable parents, regardless of their income levels, to choose the school that their children attend. This view holds that private, and oftentimes charter public schools, offer students a better education than many public schools. Many who hold this view feel that allowing parents to choose, or "school choice," promotes overall educational quality. These people believe that schools that have to compete for students will do a better job educating them. Some state governments use "educational vouchers" to allow parents to choose the school that their children will attend. "What's a voucher?" you ask. Imagine that government gave parents a coupon that they could submit to the school that their children attend. The school could then submit the coupon to the government in order to receive money for the student. The coupon represents a voucher. Other governments allow parents to subtract the cost of private school from their taxes. This is called a tax credit. Some people believe that public, or government, money should be focused on funding traditional public schools. These people are concerned about the effects of using public money for vouchers or tax credits for private and charter schools.

How should government (federal, state, or local) address the school choice issue? Is school choice a good way to improve education? Why or why not?

  • Should government use tax money for educational vouchers or provide tax credits to families that want their children to attend private or charter schools? Perhaps government should not provide any financial support for students who do not attend traditional public schools? Explain your position.

  • Does having government support school choice affect traditional public education? If yes, how so? What rights should parents/families have with regard to the education of their children?

  • Compare the responsibility that government has for the education of children to the responsibility that parents have for the education of their children. What responsibilities does government have for educating children? What responsibilities do parents have for educating their own children?

2. Some people say that American students need to have better preparation to work and compete in the global, or international, community. There is concern about the fact that students from other nations are outperforming American students on international exams, especially in the areas of math and science. People with this concern believe that if these trends continue, the United States will not maintain its role as a leader of the world. In order for the United States to remain a leader we must remain globally competitive. This means that our citizens must be as capable of producing the highest quality products and services and continue to make scientific, medical, engineering, and technology advancements as the citizens of other nations. In short, Americans must be as smart, as creative, and as hard working as citizens of other nations.

  • What are some steps that government could take in improving the overall quality of American education?

  • What kind of programs could be developed in an effort to make American students more globally competitive?

  • Should schools require students to learn more math and science?

  • Who should determine the subject areas that students study: Students themselves? Parents? The local board of education? State policymakers? Federal policymakers?

3. College tuition costs rise steeply each year. Many people need assistance to pay for college costs — assistance that they get either through loans (which need to be repaid) and/or grants (which do not need to be repaid).

  • Should government have any responsibility for assisting with college costs? Why or why not?

  • Should government make money available to college students based on financial need, academic talent, or both? Explain your position.

  • Should government assistance be in the form of loans or grants? Explain your position.

  • What would benefits and drawbacks be for offering scholarships in fields in which there are workforce shortages, such as in engineering or nursing?


Charter Schools: public schools that are chartered by organizations instead of run by local communities; charter schools must compete for students 

Tax Credit: a sum of money not paid to the government that the government counts as a tax payment (This payment reduces the amount of money that one must pay in taxes.)

Traditional Public Schools: public schools run by local communities; these schools do not need to compete for students since students are assigned to attend the school in their local community

Tuition: amount of money that students, or their parents, must pay to attend college or private school

  • Subjects:
    Social Studies, Politics