Education: a vicious cycle

July 5, 2009

When I went to college, “Education” was the easy major. It was like crayons and coloring. We’d see those majors in the dorm, drawing maps, cutting and pasting.

It was their homework.

Teaching has always drawn women more interested in a job that allowed them to be home with their kids after school than in teaching. It’s paid better in recent decades, but it’s never paid all that well. Not well enough to draw top-tier candidates.

And yet, there isn’t a more important job in our society.

It’s true that parents today have abdicated their responsibilities for things like sex education and discipline, and teachers are forced to fill the gap, ill- equipped as they are. But it’s also true that far too many teachers are unprepared for and really bad at teaching in today’s classroom environment.

Outside of the lily-white suburbs, it’s a tough scene. Kids coming to school armed. Spouting obscenities. Violent. Drugged. Learning disabled. Unprepared due to social progression.

My college students are largely rich white kids. Nonetheless, when I have to give a bad grade to a student who’s a little peculiar, the thought of his coming armed to class does cross my mind.

Education is dangerous.

But those in public schools are most at risk. Students & teachers. In every sense of the word. This is a terrible situation and one we have not gotten a grasp on.

Teachers unions are uniformly against competency testing. And yet, never has a profession so needed it.

Opposition to functional literacy tests for students also bothers me. Today, high school degrees are largely meaningless. I see that every semester, with college students who can not write a coherent sentence, punctuate or spell.

Reading Educating Esme last week was inspirational. The teacher was inspirational. But she gave up that kind of teaching the very next year for a safer job. Since now she had a baby.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Teachers are not prepared to teach. Many are not even all that literate. The best teachers don’t want to teach in high-risk environments where kids not being prepared for the grade they’re in is the least of their problems. Kids who can’t learn become more difficult. Many get in college anyway.

Education’s a mess and we need to get hold of it. I just don’t know how. Do you?

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