13 May 2011

Oh, Education!

In this post, I will attempt to tackle the juggernaut that is American education...

And we begin...


The task is insurmountable.  It is futile.  First of all, there are so many issues to battle, where would I even begin?  Second, everything I say here is probably being recorded somewhere for posterity and probably will be held against me in a court of law.

Thus, I will comment on a small, little issue and I will use generalities and vague phrasing so that I avoid as much trouble as possible.

I know of a student here in this place I work.  S/he it receiving zero percent in a class, because a.) s/he has a serious attendance problem and b.) does nothing for makeup work.  S/he has made it clear that s/he will not be making up the missed work; also, s/he will not be completing any future assignments.  I suspect her/his behavior is consistent across the board, in all classes.

I would like to believe that school and education could be of some value to her, because generally, I feel, in academia, there is something for everyone...if the student is open-minded enough to believe it.   However, in this particular case, this student is extremely closed to learning and working towards any academic goals.

But...s/he is a "mandatory attender"...meaning that s/he is compelled to attend.  S/he is supposed to be here and law enforcement can make her be here.  Now, that definitely begs the question: is that really a good thing?

We've all heard the expression "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink", yes?  As Roger Sipher notes in his article "So That Nobody Has To Go To School If They Don't Want To", we utilize that phrase in all areas of life, but fail to apply it to education.  Teachers can show all the movies and play all the games they want, but they cannot make children want to learn.  I don't care what new initiative the Department of Education throws out there, I cannot change children's desires and wishes if they are dead set against something.  The most I can really do is calm them down (or excite them) long enough to get receptive to my teaching.

I feel, at present, public educational institutions have become less about educating young people, and more about cranking out psuedo-caring and intelligent citizens.  Suppose we get rid of "making children come to school" and provide a true service to those who show up and want to learn?  Discuss this amongst yourselves.

Back to the student I was discussing earlier.  It's very obvious s/he is not interesting in learning, and is only attending school because of coercion.  It's a lose-lose situation.  The kid loses because s/he gains nothing of academic value and a general sense of apathy (or worse, animosity) towards schools - which s/he will likely pass down to her/his children.  The cycle continues.  Also, the teachers lose because this student is a drain on their morale and optimism.  Now, a teacher's energy is spent dealing with the lethargic student - instead of instructing the kids who did what they're supposed to, and came with the enthusiasm in the first place.

For the most part, teachers don't lose sleep over students like this on a daily basis...but yeah, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit our hearts and psyches didn't suffer some kind of minor laceration because of it.  Furthermore, the institution in general loses its integrity and meaning.  School is one of the only places I can think of that has no requirements or criteria for getting in - and yet, a school's responsibility is so important and revered...shouldn't potential students possess certain qualities before entering through the doors?  Such as a willingness to learn and do what is asked of them?  Since when did that become a radical thing to ask?

So, this student I've been talking about obviously wants to be somewhere other than school.  I say let them.  Give her/him the responsibility that s/he so desperately seeks for her/his own education...or lack of.  If s/he comes back to school, then it is of his/her own volition.  Maybe s/he will find schooling more useful.  If s/he never comes back to school, they still receive an education of some kind.  True, they won't receive a diploma or make six figures, but they'll still get some learning:

That they are entitled to nothing.  Nobody owes them any favors.


  1. HD:

    Interesting post from an educator. Just yesterday, I read an article in our local newspaper calling for school to start at 6 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., with a 6-day schedule each week and three two-week vacations each year.

    Just what we need! More time in the classroom for the the student you described. Yikes!

  2. I think I'd agree with this. There are always people who say "Oh, we MUST keep all children in school, otherwise they'll never amount to something". So those who don't want to be there are in school, holding back the people that want to learn.

    I would love to see school funding follow the student. With more competition you should see alternate schools open up and more chances for students to find something they liked. Right now there are too many entrenched interests (teacher unions, administration and school board deadweight, meddling politicians, rules and regulations and tests that are overkill, etc)

  3. I think I don't have an answer for this. Thanks for the story, It's something to think about.