Please forgive me for taking immense pleasure in the closure of a local school that was taking in adjudicated youngsters from the Reading area. It isn’t that I objected to the children being “trouble”. Instead I objected to the plan in general.
Why? Well, it was one of those plans that looked too easy. Education is such a tough business. It isn’t that easy to make sure that children get all the information that they need. A lot of folks probably think that the problem is with the teachers, or the parents of children, but I’m afraid the problem is bigger than that.
Kids are getting warehoused. They are handed materials and they are required to meet certain grade level skills but I think even kids know that a traditional high school education isn’t enough to prepare them for life and if children are struggling with some of the most simple skills what in the world makes us think that they’ll buckle down to embrace more complicated learning.
We are teaching them to read and to solve math problems but for what purpose? If we taught them to read so that they could read what they liked to read then we’d have more luck! If we taught them to do math so that they could figure out problems that really helped them in the real world then I bet kids would respond.
Instead we are using a model that is as old as the hills. Kids learn to wake up and get through a day. Then they learn to come home and put off doing homework. Where is the incentive for learning coming from?
If someone told you that in twelve years someone would come and test you to see if you were prepared for the next stage of your life how would you respond? Would you work hard not knowing what possibilities your future held? I think you’d ignore it unless your end goal was clear.
I’m sure the problems are even more complicated than that but suddenly we are looking at traditional education and we are blaming the institution for failing. When the truth is we’ve all wanted someone to just handle it all along. We are punishing teachers and administrators for not handling what we insist is a simple job.
It isn’t. It’s hard to reach a child who isn’t listening. It’s hard to draw them back in to learning when they are upset or angry, or hurt, or hungry. When they find “better things” to do it’s probably near impossible to wrest them away from those things and push learning on them. Our kids don’t understand why we are teaching them anything anymore! Why do they need to know about classic literature? Why do they need to take chemistry? Why do they need to learn about geometry? Why do they care about geologic forms? What is the point of learning about ancient cultures?
We give them vague answers to those very important questions. But the truth is we don’t have any idea about what is necessary to train up strong and moral citizens! So we quiz them on things like dimensional analysis and we expect them to learn how to ask for a bus schedule in a foreign language! FOR WHAT?
Then along comes a cheaper plan for teaching kids- whether that cheaper plan is a charter school, or a home school, or a private school that is subsidized by taxpayers if it seems cheaper we are willing to grab it. These cheaper schools are doing what they are expected to do according to the state’s schooling requirements. They can streamline their programs and hire teachers that are cheaper and rent buildings instead of owning them. But their cost savings are relative! Besides, we still aren’t sure about what is required for a quality education!
How can we fix things if we don’t acknowledge that there is an inherent problem and without blaming the people in charge who are doing what we have been paying them to do.
Right now education is a political football. Republicans want to find more affordable methods of educating students and they want the government to get out of the way when it comes to social ‘entitlements’. Like, let’s say a child has autism. It can cost an enormous amount of money to educate that child. Now If autism was classified as a medical condition in a perfect republican world the onus would be on the child’s health insurance and not the local schools. Local schools would offer traditional education and it would be simply the basics. Parents or caregivers would add the extras.
Now I’m not saying that is a bad plan. I can’t know whether a plan that relied on only teaching the basics in school would be affordable because it doesn’t exist right now. I’m willing to consider changes to the dynamics we have in place but I’m not willing to blame teachers and administrators for getting it all wrong! They are doing what they have been asked to do! Try remembering that.
It’s hard to make change in midstream. It’s doable but it is going to be hard. Constantly searching for cheaper methods to do the same thing isn’t necessarily cost effective. Hiring companies that promise they’ll do the same thing cheaper sounds great on paper but how does it really play out?
Answers aren’t easy, not for parents, or teachers, and especially not for students. But avoiding the questions because they make us uncomfortable isn’t healthy either.