Like It Is

In a most interesting response to an article by a former elementary school teacher and principal who insists that the decline in American education is due almost entirely to the decline of financial support from the states, we read the following reaction from someone who obviously didn’t spend much time in school:

Read this all you teacher haters. The day is coming soon when very few people will be teachers due to lack of pay, the public blaming them for everything, cut benefits, and disrespect. Look at Kansas and Wisconsin. Those cuts and Republican governors with the “screw the teacher” “get by on less” attitude has really worked well. Kansas now allows a HS diploma to be a sub teacher. And these same states decry that teachers “do more to get test scores up.” LOL Sure with HS graduates in the teachers chair. Oh yes, the day is upon us when you big mouths will be out of a teacher to teach your little darlings that do no wrong. Then what?

This response reflects the frustration felt by so many teachers “out there” who must face a disinterested and undisciplined class each day and spend the bulk of his or her time simply on discipline, trying to get the attention of young people brought up on television and video games, resulting in an attention span that is a flicker at best. It’s a losing battle until or unless folks realize that it begins at home with parents who spend time with their children and instill  in them a love of learning by reading and telling stories and listening to what their children have to say to them. Busy parents trying to make ends meet and children who are spoiled and/or ignored altogether are sure to lead to the very situation we now face. The issue of inadequate funding simply points out the obvious problem that only goes part way toward an adequate explanation of what is going wrong, as the following comment suggests:

What nonsense – I worked as a central office high level administrator in a major city for 35 years and money wasn’t the problem, parenting (or lack of parenting) was. Most of the teachers in our district really wanted the kids to be successful – many. most of the parents didn’t care. For all you libs out there who think you know what’s what, go to the nearest central city, find out when parent/teacher conferences are, find out if you can observe in a few classrooms, then go and sit in the back of the room – but bring a book to read because only 10 -20% of the parents will show up, and you’ll be bored.
Money is not the problem, the home is the problem.

One suspects that, in fact, the problem cannot be explained by focusing on a single factor: multiple factors are at work here. But it is clear that the results are an educational system that is failing our kids.

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5 thoughts on “Like It Is

  1. Hugh, your close is on the money. It is multiple factors, but lack of support for teachers both monetarily, emotionally and mentally along with the lack of parental support are keys. The latter is exacerbated by the number of one or divorced parent families who cannot make it to school events or coach and help their kids. The 32 million fewer words study comes to mind that kids in poverty hear 32 million fewer words by the time they get to kindergarten. Keith

    • Yes, the article I referred to mentions the difficulties teachers have working with minority students who are largely non-verbal. But that problem is exploding as all kids, minority or not, are wasting their time with electronic toys rather than reading and writing. Teachers complain that the kids cannot read or write complete sentences and those verbal skills are central to thinking. And as Barney suggests, critical thinking is vital to the preservation of this democracy.

  2. Lack of support/interest by the parents is a key issues. Guys like Brownback would never have had a chance if the voter parents had been paying attention.

    But I will also lay part of the blame on teachers. Through the NEA, they have thrown roadblocks in front of numerous plans to help improve education and the classroom experience. They have fought long and hard to reduce classroom hours. here where I live, students are in class from 8 to 2:15, and off by 1 on Wednesdays. They cannot possibly compete with those I saw in Asia, where school is a year round event, 6 days a week, and 10 hours a day.

    They have also fought regular programs requiring upgrading their education and skills. They’ve fought long and hard to reduce the level of classroom expectations to that of the lowest common denominator, leaving many bright student who want to get ahead and achieve, instead bored to death and hating school. Idealism is great in its place, but holding back student achievement hoping that the slowest will catch up is not the answer.

    A dose of reality would be great here. The fact is that not everyone is going to be able to keep up, and that needs to be accepted and provisions made accordingly. I was challenged by the great professors who set the pace, and challenged me to keep up, not those who might slow everyone down so that everyone ended up at the same place, at the same time.

    In terms of public and political awareness, teachers have got to be the most isolated group on the planet. Recently on jury duty, I saw a defense lawyer make a complete fool of a teacher who fell into jumping to a conclusion based upon nonsensical, emotional statements, instead of asking for relevant facts and supporting data. And this kind of mind set is supposed to be teaching our kids how to be critical thinkers? The world at best is shades of gray, but teachers and schools insist everything must be black or white.

    Hugh, as you know I am a fan of critical thinking and trying to look at a situation from all angles. And as I said at the beginning, parents are a key to education. But our teachers share the blame in this situation.

    • I agree, Barney. You do realize that our teachers are drawn form the bottom third of the classes in our colleges and universities? But your point about the NEA is spot on. They are a large part of what some have called “the Blob:” that is suffocating education. I have repeatedly called for the elimination of “the Blob,” the bureaucracy that takes their cut off the top thereby expanding the bureaucratic monster and further reducing teachers’ salaries. It would help if the teachers were paid more because it would help attract brighter teachers. But the Blob is a huge party of the problem: it is self-perpetuating. The problem, as I suggest here, is complex. Thanks for the comment.

      • That Kansas allows Subs with only a high school education is criminal. But like Walker in Wisconsin, the parent/voters put these guys in office, in both cases, twice. Perhaps these two states, along with the recent elections in Canada, will serve as a wake-up notice. But I’m not optimistic.

        I like your comparison to the “Blob.” Great. It is a self perpetuating, growing monster. I am a union supporter, but there has to be limits, and its organizations like the NEA that are the poster child for the republican attackers.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts

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