Education has really been a big focus in the news since the late 1950′s, when we decided we were falling behind, after the Soviet Union launched the first Sputnik. It has not been constant, but it has been there. In the early 1970′s it was in the news once again. People drafted by the Army couldn’t pass the fifth grade literacy test. Star high school football players were incapable of passing classes. Today education is once again in the news, and it doesn’t look good. Somewhere around 50% of graduating 8th graders do not graduate high school. About 60% of kids in jr. college have to take non credit remedial math and reading classes in order to learn what they did not learn in high school.
The question is then, what is wrong with the system, and what we can do about it.
The answer is somewhat difficult, and will not be popular. Back in the 196-’s when Lyndon B. Johnson was President, they did a study on education. As is often true with such studies, the answer to the question was obvious without the study. The most important factor in education is parents. Surprise, surprise. In reality then, there is no real big problem in education (although there are some lesser problems which need to be addressed later on in another paper.)
There has been a tremendous effort in the last several years of repairing the schools, repairing the teacher, repairing the curriculum, no child left behind, etc. But while these things sometimes help, they do not address the real problem.
Many kids today, as in the past do not see much need for school. This is a reflection for the most part on the attitude of parents, and of what the kids feed on intellectually. While there are exceptions, most kids who have two parents who went to college, and a mostly stay at home Mom, do well in school. I know, I saw it in years of teaching. To emphasise the point, the worse school I taught at (and I’ll omit the name), the parents of my ninth grade students averaged from about 28-30 years old. Look at that number again. That means they were about 14 to 16 years old when they had their children. What kind of parent do you think a 14 year old girl is going to be. Why would her parents let her keep the kid. (Do we see a pattern here?).
For the most part, if you are reading this article, you do not need the rest, but this will enforce your thoughts. Two parents who have a positive attitude toward education have half the battle won. After that discipline is essential. Limit the TV, really limit the computer games (studies show that computer games really chip away at short term memory). Does your kid really need a cell phone, especially at school? Kids do not know how to turn them off. My youngest son has no cell phone because he could not discipline himself on texting. Make sure your kids do their homework. Biggie, talk with your kid’s teacher. Even bigger, show respect. By the time kids are seniors in high school, they should be treated as young adults, and acting like young adults and treating their teachers as adults. That respect is no longer there.
Sadly because of working mothers, most kids don’t learn how to be an adult from an adult (their mother), but from each other, and from TV shows which for the most part show adults acting like 14 year old kids. This is why it is important that you teach your kids respect and that you find other like minded adults to hang around with.
Sadly, this leaves us with a problem with no resolution. What do we do about the kids who just do not care. Before the 80′s, we just let them go. In Texas, at any rate, if you were 16, you could drop out of school. This meant the teacher (or at least high school teachers) for the most part only had students who wanted to be there, which makes a huge difference in the class room culture. Today of course, teachers are becoming surrogate parents, teaching manners, etc. and not having time to teach skills. I do not think this is the solution.
What solutions are there to this problem? I would propose that churches and synagogues start teaching people parenting skills, especially that biggy, saying “No” and meaning it. We need to encourage moms to stay at home or to teach. We need to adjust our expectations, so that we don’t have to have both parents working to buy all those things we do not need. (I’ll note in passing, that doubling the work force caused many couples to earn less, not more.) Of course that leaves us who try hard having to fight the influence of those who do not care.
Next time around: Is Technology the Solution