As parents, students, and educators look ahead optimistically to next school year and getting back to ‘normal’, we should pause to re-examine what ‘normal’ should look like and make concrete plans to rebuild an education system worthy of this great country.
The covid pandemic aside, over the past 30 or 40 years there has been a significant decline in the quality and substantiveness of the education our young people receive, and we need to aggressively reverse this trend today.
There is plenty of blame to be scattered about when discussing why this has happened; some parents have completely washed their hands of being the primary educators of their children and in some cases have abdicated the parenting role as well, making it nearly impossible to educate their students; politicians have become overly involved in the education process as they mine for votes, choosing to throw tremendous amounts of money and unproductive ‘mandates’ into the system, causing some in administrative roles to chase the money versus doing what’s best for the students; teachers who have long ago lost their passion for teaching or perhaps were never truly called to be an educator wait out their time until retirement with no risk of being fired or replaced.
So where do we go from here, and how do we turn this massive ship?
The first and most important step in this process is for educators and parents alike to dramatically raise the educational expectations for their students. Whether our students struggle to learn due to behavioral or neurological challenges, or whether our students come from erratic home situations, or whether our students have the intellectual ability to become the next Isaac Newton, we are obligated to provide our students with the tools and the encouragement they require to achieve their full potential.
There have been many inspirational true stories (and movies made about them) detailing the successful transformation of miserably failing schools that were transformed when a leader steps in and demands those high expectations. But the transition to improved educational standards does not need to be that dramatic. Many private schools, charter schools, and rural schools are providing excellence in education in very traditional ways. These schools have many things in common: they rely on curriculum and teaching/learning strategies that are uncomplicated and have a proven track record over decades or more; they demand certain standards from their students including behavior, dress, and effort, and if those standards are not met, alternate means of educating those students are created to allow for the rest of the student body to reach their potential (even if graduation rates suffer); and the staff and administration of these schools are committed to fielding the best teams of teachers and staff to provide the highest level of education, even though that requires them to fight the politicians, the status quo, and the education ‘system’.
As this transition to excellence in education takes place, parents will need to take the lead in encouraging their students and demanding more.
Instead of ridiculing the idea, parents will need to embrace the idea of homework on a daily basis and schools will need to provide parents with the tools they will need to assist their students with that homework. When parents, educators, and the community all work together to raise educational standards in this country, our students are incredible, and they will step up. If we choose to do nothing, our young people will be unable to think critically, they will be relegated to occupations that do not challenge or interest them, never reaching their full potential, and they will be sheep all too willing to follow the next politician that promises them ‘safety and security’.