If you have a flat tire, you do not take the car apart to fix it. You simply deal with the problem at hand and “move on.” Why then, have we totally messed up our educational system? It may have had a few glitches but it did not require taking the whole system apart. Our educational system is a shambles. Under the guise of helping all, we are educating none.
When I was in school, which was quite a while ago, education was simple. We had college level, business and vocational education classes. It seemed to work. Those who were going to pursue advanced education took the college level, or “A” classes. Those who might go on to business school took the business classes. Those who were going to seek a trade for their occupation went into vocational education. There were variations on this theme but that is how it essentially worked. If you passed the classes you graduated, if not, you did not.
The real issue in this system is that it did not really address the students with special needs. To correct this problem and deficiency, we have dismantled the car to fix the flat and the car is still not running properly. Keep in mind that under the old system students could read, write and do at least basic math. Before you passed the course you took a final to determine if you really understood the heart of the courses. Upon graduation you were ready to attend College or business school or you found work in a trade like plumbing, auto repair, electrical occupations or perhaps office work. With this system in place, we became the most powerful nation on the planet and created the largest world economy. If you could not pass the educational muster, you went into the military.
There is no question that under this system there were students that did not get a fair shake. Those with developmental disabilities were, in fact, left behind. And, while this issue needed to be addressed and corrected, it should not have been at the expense of the entire educational system. Many of today’s graduating students have been short changed. Having to teach to the least common denominator, students have found themselves with, at best, a “B” level education. They are poor readers, cannot write a coherent paragraph and are mathematically below standard. While this is not true of all students, there is no question that the bar has been dropped so low that that the term, “the dumbing of America” is a current catch phrase.
Today’s students lack initiative and competence. They do not know how to question the world around them and they do not even know the geography of the world in which they live. The “cream of the crop” has continued to dwindle. Freshman year in college is now a repeat of basic high school classes as incoming students are not really prepared in the fundamentals. It almost seems that a college degree is becoming the equivalent of a high school degree.
The system of education we used to have was not perfect but it did not need an overhaul, merely a tune up. We have gone from one education craze to another and have ended up with several generations of young adults that are unprepared for the complexities of our rapidly changing world. The “nation of sheep” is becoming a reality and with their complacency liberty and democracy will be in jeopardy. I do not really believe in the “good ole days.” Looking back we always tend to remember the things that seemed right and there is no question that all was not perfect. Burt as far as education goes; our students need to get back to the basics. Consequences for poor grades and misbehavior need to have some bite. Parents need to get involved and support actions of the schools rather than always trying to undermine school authority which is at an all time low.
There is no question that education needs to be relevant and the needs of “all’ children must be addressed. Until students and parents are willing to take some responsibility for faltering grades rather than blaming the schools we will be caught in a downward spiraling cycle of growing ignorance. To me, it is ignorance that is the root of humanity’s ills. As the current crop of college graduates assume the role of teachers and leaders, my concern for our future grows ever skeptical.