The Problem With Education
These days, the news is filled with stories of teachers being laid off and school shutting down programs.Â Itâ€™s a huge problem and there seems to be no clear-cut solution in sight: people are losing their jobs while our students slip lower and lower on the global standard of education.Â Despite being one of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States suffers from a weak and ineffective public school system that could use a lot of help.
President Obama has made a big show of sectioning off more money for supporting school systems â€“ the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing $77 billion for the reform of elementary and secondary education alone â€“ but is more money going to help?Â Most people would likely answer, â€œWell of course it will!â€ but in dealing with the education of our children, things are never so simple.
Why Money Alone Wonâ€™t Help
Money, while definitely necessary and beneficial to school systems around the country, is simply not going to create the change weâ€™re aching to see.Â Throwing money at a problem has never been enough to fix the problem â€“ we must look at what is being done with the money:Â Who gets to dictate where the money is spent?Â What is the money being spent on?Â Is the money being put toward long-term improvement, or is it being spent on elaborate shows of benefit that are all talk and no walk?Â Many officials are primarily interested in getting re-elected and impressing the people, so a solution that is slow to begin with but beneficial in the long run might not be as attractive as simply starting up a new after-school program and drawing in media attention.
The problem does not have to do with a lack of extracurricular activities or pre-school programs; what we need is more attention and care taken with the core of our childrenâ€™s educations.Â What we are doing when we focus on before- and after-school activities is akin to making a meal primarily out of spices while ignoring the insubstantial meat and potatoes of the matter.Â More than anything, what happens in the classroom and in childrenâ€™s homes are what contribute to student success, and our attitudes about school â€“ both as individuals and as a society â€“ are at the heart of the matter.
What Can Be Done?
- Schedule Alterations
Relaxing, fun, lengthy summer vacation, while the root of many fond memories for most of us, is actually one of the most damaging things we do to our students.Â Children lose so much of what they learn in school while enjoying summer vacation, that the first few months of returning to school are usually comprised of re-learning what they learned in the previous grade.Â This is a tremendous waste of everyoneâ€™s time.Â It also involves getting kids, families, and teachers to re-adjust to the idea of a school schedule.Â The gap is particularly noticeable in lower-income children, and can cause huge rifts in learning between high-income students and low-income students by the time they enter high school.This is not to say that students shouldnâ€™t have a break â€“ they absolutely should â€“ but rather than one exceptionally long break, itâ€™d be best if schools gave students more numerous, smaller chunks of off time, such as a couple weeks here and there, perhaps a month in the summer, would give children enough of a break to relax, unwind, a have fun without losing everything their parents, their teachers, and they themselves have worked so hard to achieve over the school year.
Also, this change can be made so that teachers and administrators work the same amount of time each year, and still get major holidays off, which would allow for pay rates for teachers to remain the same or close to what they are now.
- Attitude Adjustment
In families where children are successful, more often than not parents are very involved in their childrenâ€™s educations.Â These parents do not see it as the schoolâ€™s job alone to educate their children â€“ they understand that their involvement is imperative to success, and so they make the time and effort to ensure their studentâ€™s academic success.It may seem like a lot to ask the busy parents of today, but showing up to meetings, helping kids with homework, and just in general being aware of what goes on in the school and the classroom is an automatic boost to a childâ€™s academic success.Â Children with involved parents excel in school, regardless of race, gender, economic background, and even grade level.
An excellent example of this is Japan, who, as a country and a society, see school and education as extremely important.Â Americans, while concerned with education, do not seem to look on education the same way.Â We must alter our attitudes about it â€“ we must raise our children to see school as an opportunity, rather than an obligation.Â We must involve ourselves in our childrenâ€™s schools as active, interested participants, rather than pushing these responsibilities aside because we are â€œtoo busyâ€ to incorporate these tasks into our days.
Many parents already go that extra mile, but the more we commit as a society, the greater the improvement will be all-around.
- Improved Curriculum and Classroom Behavior
Work is already being done to improve curricula, but in-class behaviors will have a greater impact on student success than simply getting new types of homework to pass out each night.Â With parents getting more involved, and attitudes toward school improving, studentsâ€™ in-class behavior should naturally improve.For cases where this does not happen, a no-tolerance attitude must be adopted by both teachers and parents, and more responsibility must be taught to ensure that children play a role in taking their future success seriously.Â It is hard to make a teenager follow a new set of rules, but if we start from the early ages â€“ pre-school and kindergarten, even â€“ we can make sure that more and more students have a positive attitude toward school and a deep desire to succeed.
- Responsibility for Own Education
All the work in the world on the part of the teachers, system, and parents wonâ€™t be effective if the children we teach arenâ€™t taking an active part in their education.Â By using the right approach, teachers, parents, and society as a whole can ensure that students will have the desire to learn, and thus be more likely to succeed on their own.Of course, it is easy to make these claims in theory, but putting them into practice is much more difficult and complicated.Â The fact of the matter is that our schools are suffering and we simply donâ€™t have the resources to keep pumping money into a failing system.Â We must, as a country, band together and help improve schools in every way we can, not just by funding new, fancy programs that promise results. Â These methods might not be free, but they would be a more efficient use of our tax dollars and are more likely to produce the results weâ€™re aching to see.