Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why is public education failing

          I taught for nearly thirty years, all but one in public schools. When I first began teaching, parents wanted their children to learn. Not just get good grades, but learn. They expected their children to be attentive in class, and if a child disrupted a class, parents did not complain to the administration or teacher about their child being disciplined at school. In fact the child was probably disciplined at home, too. The idea of a child walking out of class because he didn't like something assigned or expected did not happen, or the child was suspended.

         That doesn't mean parents weren't concern if their children didn't do well, but they visited with the teacher and asked what they could do to help with the problem.

          Yes, some teachers abused their position, but not many. As in any occupation, bad apples existed. However, most wanted what was best for the child, just as most parents wanted what was best for the child.

          As the years passed, attitudes on the part of parents changed. No longer did they expect good behavior and learning on the part of their children. Oh, they still wanted their children to have good grades, but they didn't want any complaints from the children. They didn't want to hear that their child disrupted the class or didn't do assignments. In fact one parent told me that his daughter complained that my tone of voice became harsher when she asked me to go over the assignment. When I explained that IF my voice changed it was because his daughter talked all the time I was explaining and giving examples before having them work on the assignment. Then when other students began working, she expected me to repeat all I had already explained. I showed him her grades, showed him how they had improved once she began listening rather than talking, which not only kept her from learning but also interfered with other students. He informed me that didn't matter. His daughter should be allowed to visit and not be disciplined or any tone of voice be used but a calm, soft one.

          More and more that became the attitude of parents. Students complained because they didn't like the assignments, didn't like having to do any homework, didn't like having to be quiet at least so others could learn, didn't like being told not to polish their fingernails during class. Parents then harassed teachers and administrators because their children were expected to take responsibility for their actions. Parents supported children leaving class without permission. Parents supported actions that would not be acceptable anywhere.

          No, not all parents abdicated their positions as parents and not friends to their children, but more and more did.

          Once upon a time, team members would never dream of walking out on their team and coaches because they no longer could punch holes in walls, urinate on the floors and benches in the locker rooms of other schools, actually throw temper tantrums, or because they were expected to follow directions and learn plays. And, if they did, they knew there would be consequences. Their parents nor the administration would tolerate such behavior. Now coaches can't be coaches many places because parents support their children in such behavior.

          According to test results, the United States is falling further and further behind other countries in academic achievement. Yet, all those in power want to do is try new fads, find an easy fix, one that keeps students and parents happy. What many people don't realize is discipline and external control are necessary until students learn self-control and self-discipline. By supporting their children's inappropriate behavior, parents are not doing what is best for their children but are going for the "easy way" out of their own responsibilities as parents. Parents in other countries know they must encourage their children to learn. Most parents in the United States used to do that. Thankfully, some still do, but not nearly enough.

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