Saturday, December 11, 2010

What's The Biggest Problem With American Education?

The results of one poll suggest it's parents:
Blaming teachers for low test scores, poor graduation rates and the other ills of American schools has been popular lately, but a new survey wags a finger closer to home.

An Associated Press-Stanford University Poll on education found that 68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for what's wrong with the U.S. education system — more than teachers, school administrators, the government or teachers unions.

While this is not a free pass allowing schools to give up trying to improve, it certainly is a result with which I concur. I'm certain that there are significantly more requirements on my than there were on my teachers--and checking with people who taught at that time, I'm told this is so. That's not necessarily a bad thing, that teachers today do more than teachers in the past did, but it's important to recognize. Yes, we choose some stupid curricula or fads sometimes (whole language, fuzzy math), but even those stupid curricula don't matter when your kid doesn't do his work or come to school or gets in trouble all the time.

Years ago I read a comment on a blog that went something like this: "I think every child should be homeschooled. At home they should learn to be polite, not to interrupt others when speaking, and to keep their hands to themselves. They should learn appropriate language and appropriate manners. They should learn to sit still for a short time and to follow simple directions. When they've learned these things at home, then send them to me at school."

Schools are a microcosm of the families and communities from which their students are drawn. Some schools are able to overcome genuine deficits created by dysfunctional families and communities, but most are not. We in the education field should keep trying to improve our craft and educate all children--that's what we get paid to do--but it would be wonderful if it weren't such an uphill climb sometimes.


MiaZagora said...

Two words - Big Government.

MikeAT said...


I concur with this and my experience comes from dealing with parents and children from another angle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called by these 20 something parents who are having their 10 year old kids refusing to do homework…or 30 something parents with high school teenagers fighting and the mom is saying “I can’t control her….” No s$%^ lady, if you had been a parent you would have been raising that child when she was younger…not trying to be the kid’s friend. Now the child you wouldn’t discipline when she was 4-5-6 is now the 14-15-16 year old who is staying out all night and causing problems. Gee, thanks Mom.

Then again LBJ promised in the War on Poverty (talk about an unfunded war…..and what’s the exit strategy?) this wouldn’t happened…the bureaucracy would take the place of the real daddy.

Some things never change…like in other issues will reap what others have sown.

mazenko said...

I concur with your sentiment, Darren. Granted there are a lot of mediocre and even crappy, or simply misguided, teachers and schools out there. Then again, I didn't have the greatest teachers in school - going to a podunk Catholic school. But the difference was the expectations at home and in the community.

And, of course, in practically every place that charters work wonders with struggling populations, it is because of parental and student buy-in. It's no wonder that Geoffery Canada works his magic with HCZ when he mandates attendance and parental involvement and provides extensive poverty support through health care, parental counseling, meals, day care, and extended school. It works where parents are committed. Sadly, Canada and Rhee are not very willing to acknowledge this reality.

Yet, I assert as you do, that this "reality" is no excuse for the lackadaisical failures of many school staffs. But it's nice to hear that many Americans support this. Perhaps voters will think about setting student/family expectations and challenging the basic property right to blow off education and responsibility.

maxutils said...

The single biggest problem with education . . .I have long felt that a teacher of minimum competence can educate a child with caring parents. But an exceptional child with parents who aren't attentive? Doubtful.

Ellen K said...

There are huge groups that support homeschooling and I am sure some are successful. BUT....I have experienced the outcome of homeschooled students. What happens is that somewhere around high school, parents suddenly are concerned that their kids aren't learning everything they need to get into college. There are good homeschool curriculums out there, but they take time and money which many of these parents are unwilling to contribute. The result is that kids get a half-baked shallow education and then parents turn them back to us to get them up to speed. These are often the same parents who complain about public schools based on their children's poor test results.

MiaZagora said...

Ellen - Homeschoolers, although a growing community, make up a small number of students overall. Having been a homeschooling parent for eight years, I know a lot of homeschoolers and have never met anyone who didn't care enough to purchase the best curriculum for their children. Studies have shown that homeschoolers test better than their public school peers - although, fill-in-the-bubble tests don't carry much weight with me, but that's another story. If someone stops homeschooling, it has been my experience, anyway, that there is a crisis at home - such as sudden unemployment, death, divorce - or the parents never intended to homeschool through high school anyway, thinking (mistakenly) that they can't do it, or wanting their child to have the (idealized, IMO)"experience" of high school. Some homeschooled children have learning disabilities just like traditionally-schooled children, and most public schools - at least in our area - have classes to accommodate such kids, after school tutoring, and progams to help with homework. There are also those parents who are bad parents - just as traditionally- schooled children may have bad parents. ALL children are different and come from different life experiences and cultures. It seems to me that school teachers are uniquely trained to handle such situations, since they generally teach a whole classroom full of kids all at once.

maxutils said...

Homeschoolers, by their decision, have already demonstrated themselves to be caring parents. What we need to do is make everyone be responsible for their child's education.