I grew up in the 70's and 80's. I liked learning in elementary school for the most part. My school was experimenting with new ideas. I enjoyed the core subjects and all of the specials. What I remember most is that teachers read us books. I loved when Ms. Lubin read us James and the Giant Peach in 3rd grade. I loved the way her voice changed with each character, with the excitement of the plot twists, with the juicy, drippy drama of a little boy who lost his parents, and had to survive living with his two selfish aunts until he floated away in a giant peach. We would meet as a class and take the journey of entire books (not excerpts) together. We learned to sit still for long periods of time for the reward of the literature, not the punishment of standardized tests. We answered no workbook questions after reading—we had discussions.
In high school, Mrs. Hipple, my American Literature teacher read our class, The Crucible. Again, we were pulled in and mesmerized by her voice, the way she pronounced each character's name, and the way literature had us questioning intolerance, hysteria, and the maligning of reputations. The very idea that there would be an organized witch hunt was mind blowing. Yet here we are today in the world of public education when our own Secretary of Education (who has no education training or experience) calls parents who speak out, “White suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought they were.”
Ah, the lessons of the witch hunts.
I have heard educators I really like allude to this difference in kids "today." It really ruffles my feathers because we should all know better. Since the federal law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the even worse, Race to the Top, the bipartisan bad ideas of our politicians have psychologically impacted children. I see this in my own children and many kids I know. This legislation has used classical conditioning to train children that failing is shameful. I know a principal who shared that his own son referred to himself in the terms of the state. He called himself basic or below basic. A child internalized the terminology that the government mandated teachers use and that schools sent home with annual PSSA reports. It doesn't take a lot of digging to figure out what has changed in kids.
Are we as parents and as a society guilty of not thinking critically ourselves?
Have we unintentionally shamed our kids when standardized tests scores came home with labels we didn't like? Have we asked teachers what they are doing to improve test scores instead of helping make our kids passionate about learning? Has the wool been pulled over our eyes in the name of "Accountability"? When do we hold our elected officials responsible for the untruths they perpetuate as they take donations from those who have decided that they know the kind of education our kids deserve?
Blogger Lloyd Lofthouse, U.S. Marine & Vietnam Vet, who taught English, journalism and reading from 1975 - 2005 reports that public education has a successful history and is under a major threat:
- By 2011, the high school drop our rate has fallen to 7%—an improvement of 5% since 1990.
- In 2012, for the first time in US history, a third of the nation’s 25 to 29 year olds have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, and by age 24, 90% of Americans have earned a high school degree or its equivalent.
- In the fall of 2013, a record 21.8 million students were expected to attend American colleges and universities, an increase of about 6.5 million since fall of 2000.
And don't think for a minute that it is "only" the urban school systems they want to usurp. It is all of our schools. All of them.
Keep learning and speak up on behalf of all of our public schools, before they are a part of American history, themselves.
It isn't kids these days that are the problem...