A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
In 1895 Kansas 8th grade students were given a completion exam consisting of five parts that most students today don’t even come close to passing, my self included. Granted, some aspects of the exam are highly relevant to social location and the agricultural society of rural America in 1895 meant you needed to know the weight and average price of a bushel of wheat. Today’s world of service and computers doesn’t really require that knowledge for the average American.
That said, some aspects, such as the basic math skills, basic grammar skills, and knowledge of important historical aspects of this great nation are being left by the wayside, as are our young minds. Programs like “No child left behind” and a lack of appropriate funding to provide the necessary skills to students today are part of the culprit.
As a college instructor for more than ten years I have seen a decline in the skills necessary to succeed in college. This in no way means that I have seen a decline in the intelligence of my students. On the contrary, I have many brilliant students frustrated by their lack of certain skills because the system let them down.
To put it bluntly, it angers me that we let our children down. We let our future down.
Sure there are amazing teachers that put in massive hours of overtime and spend their own money to ensure that their students know the historical significance of William Penn and the nine uses of a capital letter.
But should teachers continue to be overworked, underappreciated, and drastically underpaid? I mean the only people being hurt are our kids, right?
Society as a whole is being hurt by the decline in the American Education System that is far beyond simply being a shift in focus. Yes, the shift in societal focus from agricultural to service society is an important factor that cannot be ignored, but it is far from the entire picture. When I have a student, 18 years old, come through my college Introduction to Sociology class and they don’t know the difference between a noun and a verb, how can they succeed? Well, to put it simply, College instructors, who are often also underpaid and overworked, are then expected to pick up the slack left when the educators in K-12 dropped the ball.
I am not trying to lay blame, just point out a major problem with our society right now. I love listening to the brilliant ideas of my many students. I love helping to guide them to new solutions and ways of looking at a situation that they may never have thought possible. But it breaks my heart when I see those students who, due to a system that failed them, are left uncertain and confused. Sadly, many have no option but to fail.
I am at a loss as to how to solve the problem, but it is important and essential that we do, otherwise it is our future that is lost!