Our education system has so many problems, but none more fundamental than that it is set up for an agrarian society when the vast majority of our society is no longer living in this arrangement. This is a much more significant and complicated statement than it might appear at first glance. On the one hand it is contributing to whole generations of woefully prepared students. As a group, they are not prepared academically. They are not prepared emotionally. They are not prepared with the problem solving tools necessary to face the world they will be entering, and so on. On the other though, it is indicative of the way in which our institutions, cultural and civic, have failed to keep up with the changes in our world – economically, socially, politically, etc.
It must be noted that this issue is perhaps the most fundamental issue our society faces because it affects literally every other issue we have. We are producing a society of people who are incapable of handling themselves in the situations they must face. Many parents are incapable or unwilling to be actual parents. Many teachers are incapable of teaching students. We know this not only from the documented evidence, but from I see it in my own experiences with my children’s’ teachers. While a single individual’s experiences do not make solid evidence, they do serve as excellent examples. I encountered a few fantastic teachers, a handful of adequate teachers and huge number of truly awful teachers.
When I have had to explain to a 7th grade reading teacher why the signs in her classroom were grammatically wrong and point out that they contained spelling errors, that’s a problem. When I have to meet with a 2nd grade teacher to explain the difference between a homonym and a homophone, that is a problem. When I have to meet with a 9th grade teacher to discuss religious tolerance, that is an issue. When I have to discuss with an 8th grade teacher, the proper application of the Supreme Court ruling against compulsory participation in the Pledge of Allegiance, that’s an issue. In fact, with 3 sons going through two different school systems, only once did I have to meet with teachers or administrators because one of my children was misbehaving, however, I had to meet with them every single year because of failures on the part of staff at the school. That is what an involved parent does, and I was thanked for it, by teachers who cared. The teachers and administrators who wanted to be able to skate by or who were subpar, of course, were not so grateful.
Here is the first secret to a successful education system reform. It isn’t new. We have all heard it before, but so few really want to acknowledge it, because in large part it gets back, again, to personal responsibility. As a parent, you cannot simply ship your child off to school, and then receive them back at the end as an educated individual. You, the parent, have to be involved every step of the way! You have to talk to the teachers to ensure they are not only actually teaching, but that they are teaching well and teaching accurately. You have to work with your child to ensure that they are learning the material that is being taught. You have to work with your child to expose them to more than they are exposed to in school. Education is not a contained experience that takes place at the school. The fundamentals and the specialized features are provided there. The richness and breadth are provided outside of the walls of the school. The first “secret” is parental involvement. The first stumbling block is that we have done this so long that so many parents don’t know enough or how to be involved. That is a larger societal issue which has to also be addressed. There are political issues related to the school systems which we must address as well. Why political? Because we have made it so that all issues are political.