We Do Not Value Education

Yes, I do believe that.

We as a people in this country do not value education.

If we did, we would fund schools. The teachers would have what they need. The students would have what they need.  And it would work. But instead we as American’s continue to fall in rankings (see here).

The local school district is fighting with its teachers (including my husband) over a contract.  Both sides claim they have the kids in mind, but here’s the truth:

  • Members of the school board are elected thereby making them politicians.  They care about the position not the education.  They may enter it thinking they are in it for the betterment of the schools, but at the end of the day, it’s all politics.  All of it is politics.  If it weren’t, we’d have people with education background sitting on the board 100% of the time.
  • Teachers at some point will always have to cry uncle.  Here’s the deal – in the past, teachers may have worked for room, board and food while they awaited marriage, but that was during the pioneer days – not today.  Teachers today are required to have more education than in the past – education they are paying for out of their own pockets.  They are not going to be able to work for peanuts while trying to have a life – and pay for classroom supplies, to name one thing, out of their own pockets.  You have to pay them what you expect from them.
  • Common Core and No Child Left Behind are programs designed, not by educators, but by companies who have financial skin in the game.  It is NOT going to do anything but make things worse.  Why?  I tried to help my 5th grader with her homework the other night.  I was 2 college classes away from having a mathematics degree – and I had to look up what she was learning.  And when I looked it up, I realized she was learning lingo I learned my SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL.   How is this helping out kids???
  • We have an education system that is based on our 1900s manufacturing model. It does not reflect today’s day and age of technology and learning.  We have a group of kids who are used to multimedia, but our texts do not reflect that.  We need kids who can parse data and getting information quickly – yet we teach from text books.  We have an antiquated system, it is no wonder it is not working. This talks about it best.
  • Education plays a different role in our lives than it did in the past.  It used to be that having a high school diploma was the critical thing to have in order to get a job.  Now it’s a college education.  But both have boundaries on them.  In Oregon, a high school education is interesting, but do they have a certificate of mastery – a certificate that says the kid passed a test? That means more.  What’s funny about this thing? The state says its driven by the businesses within it, yet most cannot tell you what that means.  Which means simply that it means nothing.
  • If teachers drive the kids, these days, then they hate the kids, are too mean, or are not fair.  With the number of helicopter parents in the school system, it makes the teacher’s jobs that much harder.  G has heard things like “he’s not being fair by not informing the parents when the kids don’t get their work done”.  It should be noted there is an online site that tells the parents that, but since he does not call the parents directly, it means he doesn’t want the kids to be successful.  (He teaches 12-14 year olds.)  If he doesn’t cut the kids slack, thereby making it inequitable among the kids who did their work in the timeline they are given, he is inflexible and hates kid.  Teachers cannot win with some of these parents.  In addition, when you teach kids from inner city schools, you cannot expect the kids to have supplies, support or even books.  All of that comes from the teachers because the schools those teachers work for cannot afford to do it.
  • It’s the job of the teacher, only, to educate. If a kid isn’t learning, it is the teacher’s fault.  Yeah, no.  If parents are not held responsible too, or the school districts who are not supplying the schools what they need to be successful,  then the teachers will always lose.  Let me give you an example.  Last night, DJ was frustrated and unfocused.  She was looking for us to give her permission to not do it.  I said no.  I told her to figure it out – get her focus and do her work.  I told her I was doing that out of love – my desire for her to succeed ….she needed to do her work.  In the end she did it, but not all parents do what I did.  And the teachers? They have no control over what happens at home.  Yet they are responsible for the success of the kids based on what the kids are expected to do.

We think that education can be fixed within the current system. But here is the deal.  There is only so long we can go within the current system before it implodes.  And it is starting to implode.  The problem is, we have these great slogans of “success for all” and “race to the top” but that means all kids have the same definition of success. Locally, that means all kids are “college ready” which means that we ignore the kids who would be more successful if we focused on vocational successes like in plumbing and electrician work – both areas where kids can earn a great living, but are not hands on in terms of reading, writing and arithmetic.   We are trying to fit all of the kids into the same hole which means we are not address the needs of the kids at an individual level.  (See that link above schools being like assembly lines – where, in this case, the output is college.)

Yes, there are bad teachers. Yes, there are bad schools.  But to treat the teachers as the enemy is not right as they are only one of the cogs in this big machine.  We need to think outside of the box and fund outside of the box.  We need educators making decisions about educators – not text book companies who want a district to buy their books so they make their revenue numbers.  We need to listen to people who know what they are talking about – not those in elected positions who are listening to those without education backgrounds.

And if we valued education – we wouldn’t talk about it – we would do something about it and fund it.

G is likely going on strike in a month.  And we all hate that.  We hate that it is a strike to incrementally improve a system that is not working at its core.  G and the girls are in a school about international baccalaureate, an educational approach that is around exploring how to learn and how to make connections vs what you have learned.    Yet, the system is all about passing tests – that is the measure of education success – not learning.  The system needs to be about all people – not just some people.  If we need more mechanics or scientists, we need to get kids focused that way.  We cannot normalize all kids into a single thing – a single definition of success.  To do so is to fail. That is our biggest problem right now – we are trying to make all kids the same – but kids are not robots – they are kids with unique needs.

I don’t know what the answer is.  But it is not to point figures, shame teachers into sacrificing more, or parents to take on more.  G’s aspiration in the current system is to get a PhD and make $75K after almost 30 years of teaching.  We cannot expect that without relying on the expertise we expect them to have.

If we were to value education, we would not make it a nice topic for debate, but nothing more.

We would fund it.

We would understand it.

We would change it.

And we would hold EVERYONE accountable for the kids’ success.

Until we do that, we cannot point fingers the way of the teacher.  They are trapped within a system.

And also, be careful of the rhetoric.  If we want success, we should be willing to make it a priority. I should not make 6 figures at a company to ship shit from point A to point B when a teacher is more important.

Because, here is the deal – until we are willing to actually accept change, we will never change.

I don’t care what your political affiliation is.

Updated: this article came out today which I found timeline.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. lovingncfun says:

    There is a lot to digest here. I always hate to hear we need more funding, but after reading all your thoughts, it’s much more than that. I think we spend way too much “education” money on politicians, bureaucrats, and texts. That money should be diverted from those areas and put into the schools where it is needed. We have lottery money here that supposedly goes to education, yet everyday we get a letter saying they need things. When I went to school, I don’t ever recall my parents sending in money and supplies as we do now. Now it’s, send in things for those who can’t. I’m sorry, but in our area, there is no one who can’t find a way to spend $20 a year on their kids supplies.
    We live in such a me generation it is ridiculous. And I don’t mean CEOs and those types. Everyone thinks they are owed something.

    And don’t get me started on math. LOL. Math is the purest subject there is. It doesn’t ask you to be creative or funny. 2+2 is always 4, yet they come up with these roundabout ways to teach it. I am like you, I went to college to be a math teacher and yet I struggle with some of this elementary crap. Not in the way to get the answer, but how to write it so it matches their teaching.

    I definitely don’t know the answer either, but I think this system may need to be completely overhauled to work. No more antiquated textbooks just to appease the huge publishers either.
    Great post though. It really made me think.

  2. Deech78259 says:

    This is an excellent post! The one underlying point you made here that I totally agree with is the fact that we care more about the money, than we do the kids. The only reason I would disagree with more funding, is because most of that money goes to administration and not the kids, or the teachers. You are correct that politics in schools have gotten way out of hand. Bad teachers get rewarded. Good teachers get penalized and not supported financially to help their students. I know what the answers are. I have been screaming them for years.

    Have you ever seen the documentary, “waiting for superman”?

What do you think?