Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Over the past 25 years or so a great many changes have taken place in America's Public Schools and many of those changes are not for the better.  U.S. students are falling further and further behind their counterparts around the world in almost every subject. 
The sad thing in looking at this mess (beside the fact that it is happening) is how much time Americans spend in talking about why the problem is happening and in scratching their heads in trying to explain it.   It's as if people expect there to be some sort of deep and profound reasons for the failures of the American Education System, when in reality, the reasons are rather simple and in fact obvious.  Sometimes I think part of the denial process includes this desire to find some complicated and complex reasons for what is going on, instead of just opening one's eyes wide enough to see the truth before us.  I have a few thoughts on what these obvious and commonsense reasons are and will discuss them below in no particular order.
     First, the eroding of discipline in schools and in society in general.  We have created a system where people are not responsible for their actions.  Many times student misbehavior, instead of being punished, is treated by coddling the student or by trying to constantly rewarding them or in a worst case scenario like "time out."  In many cases a constantly misbehaving student is given the designation of "special needs'" student.  Once given this designation is nearly impossible to rescind and immediately covers the student with a blanket of protection, known as "The American with Disabilities Act," which makes them nearly impossible to discipline effectively.  For example a Special Education student can only be suspended a total of ten days in any given school year, regardless of how many incidents the student may have.  In some cases no behavior short of murder can be punished effectively, if it can be shown that the misbehavior is related to the students disability.  They are in essence, "bullet proof." 
     Secondly, the general laziness and lack of caring by many students goes a long way in explaining why so many are failing and are content with being average, doing the minimum or just plain happy to be stupid.  When you train kids that somebody will always bail them out of a jam or that the learning they are supposed to be doing is not important, or that the government will provide for them, you are sowing the seeds of failure.  Somehow over the past 25 years it has become less important to study and learn.  This is ingrained in students today in many ways in what they see and hear at home and on TV and out in society.  Don't worry about failing the math class, or that science class, you'll never need that stuff anyway.  All you have to do is have a couple of kids, and the government will send you the check then, maybe have a few more and get even more money.    We have slowly and methodically ingrained this mentality into many of our youth and the results are devastating to our nation.  We have a generation that only cares about having a good time and not worrying about being responsible.  
     Thirdly, the destruction of the family.  This is really a big one as so many kids are living in single parent homes with no father figure or positive role models.  Without the pressure to succeed that a strong family usually provides, so many students are just floating aimlessly about without any focus or direction.  Many kids have lost that mentality that made us want to be better than our parents.  The goal was to get a better education so you could achieve success beyond what your parents had.  Now that is slowly going away    
     Fourth, drugs and all the problems they cause in terms of addiction, crime and the rise of gangs are having a most dramatic effect of the poor outcomes in many U.S. schools.  The thug culture of life on the streets and the buying and selling of drugs is very destructive and makes our situation dire.
     Another factor is the schools over reliance on test scores at the expense of actual education.  Districts are forcing kids to learn how to take and pass specific state tests with less focus on getting an all encompassing education.  Basic subjects are sacrificed in order to focus attention on subjects that are on the tests.   
     We need to face these and numerous other sad truths if we are to understand why America's schools are failing so miserably.  This appears to be an un-fixable problem.  Our society is sliding ever more rapidly down the rabbit hole with no end in sight. 

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