wat u doen dis sumer

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.


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About Just Torch

Author of the SCIAMAGE column a space devoted to American political and social commentary and analysis. It is unabashedly liberal, but makes every effort to present clear, verifiable facts and sound reasoning. It also makes a commitment to clearly distinguish between facts and opinions. View all posts by Just Torch

2 responses to “wat u doen dis sumer

  • Andrea

    I was a latch-key kid of a single parent who went to a public school in a heavily agrarian area, so I identify with many aspects here. I was blessed to have incredible, passionate, involved teachers all the way through school – and I realize how rare that is. We had a great balance and understanding in my district, as well; you got a pass to be out (as long as you made up the work) if you had to miss class for harvest, the first week of hunting season, calving time, etc. I have multiple friends who home-school their kids because it is the best option for them (results of which remain to be seen, but I am positive about those doing it) and they have sacrificed much to make that work. Even in the small town I grew up in, getting the high-paid administration to bend or agree to change or to even see ‘reason’ and ‘right’ when it came to the students was next to impossible. It’s an enormous mountain to climb from every aspect to address changing the educational system we have, but it does desperately need to be done. One of my biggest apprehensions about the future is putting my kid in school – what will he end up with? Great teachers like I had or the sub-par dregs that my teacher friends deal with at their schools, or their kids’ schools? I had both great school education and real-world learning. I can only hope that my awareness of wanting for my kid(s) what I got will help us navigate through the maze once it comes time for school!

  • Andrea

    I must also note that I had a supreme parent, who despite having to work her ass off to support us, was also very involved in every aspect of my life. This too, I know, is sadly, very rare. I will want the best because I had the best. I was lucky. I will be vigilant so that I can afford my kids the same treasure.

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