Educational reform, decriminalization of marijuana, high fructose corn syrup , soda size and cooking oil, what do they all have in common? They have all gained fame in the media as the desastre du jour. The crisis of the day now shifts so quickly to sate our info-jaded population that it is hard to keep track of the current one. It seems in effect that we now solve problems by simply replacing one unsolved problem with a new one. Of the current looming catastrophes, as defined by the media, only educational reform, the federal budget and legalization of Marijuana seem to have any true staying power. Placing them well above such old time favorites as Alar, Acid Rain, Fracking, and Red # 4 dye. You do remember Acid rain and Alar don’t you? My all-time favorite, Red # 4 that made headlines because it caused cancer and because of this was banned from rat poison. I guess it was banned because it stank of slow painful death rather than yet another desastre du jour, legalized euthanasia.
Let’s start with the simple one.
The problems with Education Reform are made out to be incredibly complex but in reality very simple. First the phrase “educational reform” sounds like and has been about as effective as something pulled directly from a Russian economic plan in the 1950’s or even more frightening from the current federal government.
It seems to this observer that now the key to political and popular success seems to be in either putting it off until tomorrow what you should have done yesterday, making a 10 year plan that pushes the results of our decision into the future when we can’t be blamed for it and/or barring that at least until well after the next election. Political philosophy now often seems to consist of. “if we push it far enough ahead into the future, that someone else will have to deal with it” (can you spell sequestration) we win by default. Or as in the case of education reform simply change it when it doesn’t work and keep changing the plan every 2 years to keep ‘em guessing and/ or to cover your tracks.
If you wish to reform education reform the root cause of its malaise which is our kids. Kids raised on a steady diet of video games, cable TV and constant movement, who because of this often have the attention span of a fly. Take these inattentive kids and put them in a society that rewards mediocrity while mostly ignoring the needs of our most creative and effective students and finally give them parents who are so busy working, feeding their own needs, and taking their kids to lessons and activities that they abrogate what should be their own social teaching responsibilities to others. Often seeing their own children for less time during each year than their activity or teaching surrogates do. It is sad when your child’s teacher who now has little authority over your child, suffers along with the other students in their class from a ubiquitous lack of parenting skills and then in a true stroke of social genius, ends up taking the blame for the inadequacies of the children they did not create or choose. Lastly to reform education we must ask ourselves when was the last time that meaningful information for business decisions, fact gathering to plan your own future or making informed decisions concerning your personal life came in the form of a multiple choice test.
If you truly want to reform education parents and schools need to take these three steps.
Take those students who through their inability or refusal to control their behavior steal the educational rights of others and put them in a “reform”ed classroom. Stop destroying the educational opportunities for those who want them to try and learn and save your reforms for those who don’t. Take these time absorbing and disruptive students out of the general classroom population and current test pool and see if the scores on “god-like” tests don’t improve for those who remain.
Teachers should not have to teach personal responsibility. Stop depending on teachers to teach your children discipline and teach your own children to take responsibility for their own actions. We currently produce lots of lip service in today’s psycho-babble about the need for “personal ownership,” but in truth, ownership now tends to only be applied to our children’s successes and virtually never their failures. When was the last time you looked at your child after a failed effort and thought honestly “ you didn’t try hard enough , work hard enough or want it enough to deserve it,” and then at the very least remain silent about the situation rather than offering excuses or hollow praise for their mediocre, less than acceptable product.
Teachers should not have to teach children what “no” means or that the word does not require explanation or repetition To reform education all we need to do is for all parents to say “no” to their children at least once a week and mean it. As part of this, parents should not repeat the word “no” more than once and immediately act on any transgressions with significant and meaningful consequences.
These three simple rules will re-form education in the U.S. And if you would, please remember that failure only has value if it hurts at least a little bit, failure without pain and reward without merit teach no lesson other than the fact that failure and medocrity are always okay. When we withhold the pain of failure from our children we lessen the value of their success. Every child must and should experience both success and failure if they are to not only survive but thrive in our ever changing world.