It's about that time. Back to school and besides the excitement and stress a new school year brings be it student, parent or teacher, there is this lingering question many have. What is really going on in education? Is it poor performing teachers? An outdated education system? Lack of funds? Irresponsible parents? Or some combination?
As an educator in the system for several years, I can safely suggest this to my readers with almost absolute certainty; the cause is none of the things I just listed but rather these are symptoms of a cause(s). It has taken me a long time to come to this answer because I've been going back and forth with that list of questions like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. Yet, it is pretty simple when you have the facts and have been in the field for a period of time. The actual reason may shock you only because it is simple verses the cloud of smoke and mirrors being pro-ported today. I can tell the truth because I have no political affiliation or sense of protectionism to a certain point of view.
First, let's get to the first reality. America was a leader in education but not entirely for the pure reasons or using pure methods. This is because our country's educational system largely suppressed minorities from getting a good education and did not factor them in to their curriculum, but rather tucked them away in "special schools" and "segregated" schools. So when we say, "Education isn't what it used to be", that is right and some of it needed to die. Yet, we have gone off the rails in other ways I will get to a moment.
See, the country geared its education to the privileged white, middle class students on up, and it worked (for those white kids) for many years while others quietly suffered, were judged as "uneducated" and marginalized, never given a chance to succeed. So much so, these minorities learned to adopt a defeatist attitude because that is the message our education system gave them--you're not smart like us, you're inferior, so just try to survive and don't burden the rest of us. Our education system was born teaching in what I call "the great white way". A Moby Dick of sorts that refused to be killed. For example, unless you go through a teacher education program, you might not know what most educators are made aware of; a curriculum largely based on what is called a "direct teaching" style (teacher talks, students quietly listen and take notes) with small amounts of group activity (called "cooperative" teaching) is the best way white, middle class to upper class students learn. You are also made aware that sticking to this one style, however, has never suited anyone from any other country or culture and no longer even works well with this generation as a whole because of its fast-paced, antsy nature.
Our education system grew to adopt better and varying ways to engage students. For example, if you are a student teacher today, your evaluations will be poor if you have very many "direct" teaching methods in your lessons at all--more than one or two is a big concern. Yet, our country stood by, proud and strong, with this one method of "direct" teaching for years while others suffered. Schools also got to go unchecked back then with states making up their own curriculum based on what they wanted their students to know. Kids could get equally educated or abused in the system and no one payed much attention. We became a leading Super Power because the majority of our white students (at that time) came out well educated in the "book smart" sense.
However, as civil rights came along and we as a country grew out of this sadistic, unrealistic notion that minorities didn't deserve and couldn't learn within education, the education system began to change. Also, as our country became more multi-cultural to the point that we now know in a matter of years whites will no longer be the majority in the US, curriculum has changed over time. This was a good thing, a great thing. A big adjustment that schools are still working on, to be honest, but a necessary adjustment because everyone deserves a great education.
We were headed in the right direction...but then as we entered in the 2000's something happened. The educational train started going off the rails. In short, what happened next were three things: greed, the economic crisis, and increased stress on the system. I will get into these three in the next postings, but in the meantime read the following article published on the Washington Post by a local teacher whom I know. This teacher has worked in largely white, middle to upper class schools. See what you think by clicking the link and post your comments below.