The MisEducation of American Youth

As an educator in the American public school system, I want to see the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel, the rise of the best and the brightest. But on the other hand, as a parent, I have the right to rant and rave about the ills of public education and say that I am disappointed, discouraged, dissatisfied and oftentimes downright disgusted with the educational system. So how can I expose all that I feel the system is not without betraying the very profession that gainfully employs me.

I never planned to go into the teaching profession. Although I started in the education program at my university, I soon realized that becoming a certified teacher in the state of Alabama was not a good idea…at least not for me! With careful research, I learned that I could concentrate on a particular subject and pursue alternative certification in practically every corner of the globe. My thoughts were that the education degree would limit and restrict my long term goals. Education degrees train you for one thing. I wanted to have options, options and more options. Thankfully, I have a rich and diverse employment history which I strongly believed laid the foundation for me to enter secondary education. I truly  enjoyed being a classroom teacher. The fulfillment that one receives from shaping and molding young minds is incomparable. The knowledge that you have the power and ability to groom doctors, lawyers, engineers and entrepreneurs is invaluable. So then, what is the Miseducation of American Youth From the Kat’s Eye?

Lack of boundaries- Children want discipline. They will respect boundaries once they realize that it is the standing expectation of the person in authority. Often times in the culture of education, emphasis is placed on building rapport with the students. Then as a result, some teachers cross the line from being friendly to becoming friends with their students. By no means do I believe a teacher should be personal friends with a student on FaceBook, Twitter, InstaGram or whatever the lastest fad of technology driven communication happens to be. Teachers at all times must maintain their professionalism when interacting with students. Using social media as a means of communication is a recipe for disaster and at the end of the day an invasion of the teacher’s privacy and a deduction of their superiority. In some cases, it may even prove to be an ethical violation. An even more obvious violation of the code of ethics are the recurring nationwide reports of sexual relationships that teachers are having with students. What a breach of trust and abuse of authority and clearly a lack of boundaries recognized and established by the teacher. This type of behavior tarnishes the pristine perception of a teacher’s role and may be the reason for the tainted pool of applicants who increasingly don the title of educator.

Lack of accountability– Tough times call for tough measures. Since elementary school, I have told my son that he goes to school for the three “L’s.” Listen, Learn and Lunch…anything else would be inappropriate and cause for discipline. My expectations are clear and concise and he is held accountable for any action that is outside the L’s. There was and remains, no cause for confusion.  The approach to teacher duties should be as simplified. Teachers go to school for the three ”E’s.” Educate, Enlighten, Empower…anything else would be inappropriate and cause for discipline. Tenure however, throws a monkey wrench in the efforts to quickly dismiss, remove and overhaul a system of ineffective teachers who go above and beyond in doing absolutely nothing. In their defense, they may have once been highly motivated and dynamic instructors; but then something changed. A responsible professional realizes their shift in passion and purpose and moves on. Students who are in the presence of teachers who have lost their zeal are doing them a disservice.  While teacher pay for performance plans have many “panties in a wad,” the concept behind the plan is rather simple once you shuffle through the rigmarole. Good actors and actresses are paid to perform. The more entertaining, endearing and effective their performances, the more money Hollywood pays them and the more fans adore them. They go to great lengths to perfect their crafts, to embody the persona of the characters they portray and to engage their audiences. They are often meticulous folk, highly critical of themselves and dedicated to their profession to a fault.  If I pay money to see bad acting in a bad movie, I am disappointed and a have lost a few dollars and a couple of hours. But when you have a bad teacher in a bad situation the loss is far greater. Tough times call for tough measures.

Lack of rigor in academics: Many states are now adopting Common Core Standards (CCS). The idea is to streamline the expectations of education across the country that will place all students on the same playing field. As a result, the students will be more equipped to compete in a global economy. The primary focus of CCS is college and career readiness. Recent studies prove that students graduating from high school are prepared for neither. This is disheartening news to a parent who sends their child to school every day only to learn that he or she will have to take remedial classes in college because they did not receive the proper rigorous instruction in high school to prepare them for post-secondary education. It’s frustrating to me when I set forth to help my son with an honors class assignment and he tells me that his teacher doesn’t expect “all of that.”  In a 2006 study called “The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts,” 47% of students reported that the classes were uninteresting and 69% stated that due to low teacher expectations and academic standards they were unmotivated and/or unwilling to perform on a higher level.  This information is alarming but very telling of the miseducation of American youth. In actuality it is not the students who are failing but the educational system that they are thrust into that is.

As educators, parents and concerned citizens, we must demand of ourselves, the children we love, legislators, reformists and school districts, an environment that is committed to excellence, high achievement and performance; an environment that builds capacity for rigorous learning, establishes boundaries and holds all involved accountable for educating, enlightening and empowering this generation to enter the 21st Century workplace.