Two subjects currently occupy much space under the microscopic eye of the news media, politics and education. While both blink in the spotlight trained upon them mainly because of reasons related to money, their performance is questioned at the same times as their cost. I try to keep my politics out of this column so lets talk about education this week.
First off, I want to talk about more than teacher salaries or pupil to student ratio. This spring, high school seniors will be asked to make a life-changing decision with almost no life experience; what they plan to do with their lives. It’s amazing that anyone ever gets it right, perhaps no one does and we just live with our choices. I believed when I was young that a job was worthy only if you could tally up it’s value on a work order in the form of cost of labor and parts. I believe in the capitalist system, however I ‘m not sure it’s a good way to pick a path to employment. In my case, I eventually rebelled and bounced from career path to career path until I ended up in the service sector. I wanted to be an English teacher but felt it a poor choice as no tangible product was produced. This was a mistake in both my perception and in my method of career selection. I would have to say that you should choose a career based on your interests and then live with whatever may be your life. Perhaps that is what French Literature and Philosophy majors do in between up selling their customers to a larger size portion of french fries.
I find it ludicrous that we need peace officers in schools. Our high school principal held a boat oar with the cliched name â€œboard of educationâ€ over his shoulder in the school hallway and maintained order. Today, school employees are so scared of being sued that they have ponderous, bureaucratic policies that spread the responsibility of discipline to many people. Some would say this is to achieve fairness, however these policies seem so ineffectual as to be created in a effort to achieve the phrase, â€œjustice delayed is justice denied.â€ I have always learned more in a classroom where the teacher established themselves as the ultimate authority. This authority enabled them to keep disruptive students quiet so they could communicate the information we needed to learn. Discipline in the classroom helps students learn discipline in themselves. The most creative person needs some discipline, even the greatest painter typically first builds a frame in which to create. I also knew that my parents would not question a teacher’s decision so I followed my educator’s rules, unlike today when parents can dispute test results and â€œadvocateâ€ their children right into mediocrity. I would like to see a school where all employees (bus drivers, janitors, teachers) have the same authority to discipline that was the responsibility of any adult thirty years ago.
The current wave in education is to fire poor teachers and make the good ones work even harder. Of the dozens of instructors I experienced in grades K-12, I could name the poor teachers I’ve known on one hand and still have enough fingers to point you in the right direction. Teachers have such a short time with students that their efforts need follow up from parents. I don’t believe parents need to be expert in what is taught at school they just need to enforce study time. They also need to read to their children so each child can learn to reason and gain the ability focus for long periods of time. A teacher cannot take a student who has had no breakfast, no bath and no love and make it all better in 45 minutes of classroom.
Finally, I have heard others say that the world has changed so much that we must change methods of teaching. The smartest people I know grew up in times of great adversity (depression, world war) yet became very well-educated on a variety of topics. I think a high school education was all they could expect so they were well-drilled on the basics and it was expected they’d learn the rest at home or through work. I think the failure of students is a failure at home. We need to to use new technology to enhance learning and maybe leverage a teacher’s abilities with large classes, but we need to teach the basics (3r’s) in school and pass some responsibility (health, sexuality, social learning) back to the parents. Simplification of course study will make schools perform better and cost less. Involvement at home will make students perform better and make for better families.