Beyond the obvious and much discussed problems in America, one is given only cursory attention. That of education. If we take a moment to set aside the rhetoric of our politicians and even that of citizens, the focus is on the economy. I can’t say our focus should not be there. However, to not bring our attention to the needed gaps in education leaves our focus on the economy alone. The decisions, without inclusion of education leaves the discussion forsaken for future plans. Do we talk a very conservative or a more liberal approach? Neither shows much in the way of really repairing the current damage. However, each view talks in terms of our children and grandchildren inheriting the financial burdens of today. This has always been true.
What is very different is the national attitude, strongly reflected by politicians in both a lack of advancement and genuine open curiosity. We need a social discussion about how we fine tune public education to meet the real needs of the students of the 21st century. There is no real measure to compare the education of the “baby boomers” or their children to the society that exists today. Life is irrevocably changed, whether it be commerce or economy the American way of life is now and will be different, we can complain or adapt.
The modern classroom is missing key components. To prepare today’s student to be a skilled and educated part of tomorrows world we must expand what we are doing, enhance and be creative with a new style of curriculum.
We have long discounted the need to present education as real life situations, we mock each new idea before trying it and tend to write-off efforts of teachers who are willing to experiment with creative thinking. In the United States we demand that students learn only “reading, writing and mathematics“. Though of course, those are vital topics, they have long been of equal value to learning current technology. Students should be taught skills of how to properly use the computer as well as learning subjects taught through the computer. Teachers are able to concentrate on the individual skill levels more accurately and appropriately in this way.
Rather make excuses for our educational system by assessing the true and unique value of a well educated populace, we argue about cause. We either complain about poor teachers, or the unions. We as citizens react by cutting educational services, doubling the size of classrooms and overworking, already over worked teachers.
Some students will not be college bound, not because they are not bright, simply because they have an interest outside the arena of a college campus. When or if our society reaches a point that skilled workers are no longer needed, then we can wring our hands about why our children chose to be professional blue collar workers. Currently, our task should be to make it possible for all students to learn to their maximum capacity and desire to achieve a high school diploma. We also need to reevaluate the reason for public education. That reason has changed since the founding of this country and changed more after WWII.
We as a society became center focused on all children going to college, not all children having a foundational education.
Both state and federal funding must first go through the filters of top heavy administrations, before seeping down to the classroom level. Certainly some administration is vital, to the extent we have now is highly questionable.
We need to pay teachers very well, give them the freedom to express their own creativity in a classroom as well as meeting an overall educational growth by students.
Instead we rely heavily on expensive and mostly useless testing. Granted that makes companies like ERS a high profit margin. What does it really tell us about each student and their acquired skill sets - in reality not much.
We begin formal education at 5 to 6 years of age. We are missing some valuable time. We also do not offer comprehensive education to parents. We could be teaching them how to guide and prepare their child to become a student.
We are Americans first, we can not and should not model our systems after those of another culture. It will not prove useful and will have negative affects on those students. We can however, use new technology and individual creativity to advance our classrooms beyond a place to grind away hours. Currently, a place where the primary concern is advancement to the next numerical grade level. Should we expect all students to learn the exact same material at the exact same time? Ridiculous. We can however, have impact on that scope and sequence of learning by using the best of new computer learning techniques. We can also make another change, by bringing parents out the darkness and the world of assumptions about education and demand - yes, demand they be involved in their students academic life beyond attending a school play or the occasional meeting with a teacher.
Children live by the indirect and direct examples set by their parents. Simply making the statement of “get your homework done” we are not involved. In fact, a well run classroom using well the time allotted does not require homework.
Let’s get bold, stop being focused on first where the blame lies for education, it belongs to all of us. Instead let’s begin to show a force of cohesive interest in how to advance education. Teachers know they will carry the weight of the blame for poor achievement, that is just a fact of the job. Why not listen to them on how to advance our system from their experience?
Education is not about a learning curve, it is not about parents being proud of the child’s achievements. Education is a spiral, ever moving outward through life. From the beginning of life to that last day, we are learning. Shouldn’t we be celebrating and encouraging our children to celebrate the wonders that only education will offer.