OUR SCHOOLS AND OUR CULTURE
It would be easy to point your fingers at schools and say, ” All our problems lie. ” There is no doubt that the school system is the source of many of its own deficiencies. But the truth is that the United States. schools are filled with dedicated teachers and principals who want American schoolchildren to succeed more than anything else. These people are at the forefront. You see what’s right in our classrooms and what’s wrong. They are dismayed that so many of their schools achieve mediocre results.
Talk to these men and women and you start to feel deeper problems than schools themselves. The troubling news is that many teachers feel like they work with little help from their parents. They express unhappiness, worry, and bitterness about their circumstances. They are convinced that many schools are fighting partly because parents do not stop the deal. Those teachers are right.
According to the Public Agenda research organization, more than four out of five public school teachers say that many parents do not set limits and create structures at home, do not control how long their children spend with TY, computers and video games and do not hold their children accountable for their behavior or academic performance. Too many mothers and fathers are not interested in learning for their children. They don’t make sure assignments are done. They do not teach self – discipline, perseverance, and respect to be successful for students.
This lack of supervision has real consequences for the classroom. Almost seven out of ten teachers say they are facing a serious problem because so many students try to do as little work as they can. More than half say that they have serious difficulties with students who do not do homework. And over four teachers in ten point to disruptive children in the classroom. ” There are very few students who bring good habits to the class, ” said a teacher from Indiana. A teacher from Nebraska agrees that ” parents don’t send them to school. Simple things like basic ways, but many parents don’t do it anymore-‘ Thank you, close your mouth when you chew. ‘ The parent didn’t teach the child:’ Take your things together the night before, leave them at the door. ‘ Today’s children need more than what they get. ”
Of course, many young people still come from homes where the message from parents is: ” We care about what you do, we want to be involved, and we’re with you every step of the way. ” But the signal to the school in other homes is: ” Here are our children. Now, you ‘re in your hands. Let us know how it turns out.” As Diane Ravitch of New York University observes, too many mothers and fathers have the attitude that school is like a car wash where you leave the child and pick him up at the other end. They don’t realize that you have to be involved in the washing to get a good student.
America has increasingly asked schools to fill the gaps and take the slack where families leave. We have tried to integrate schools into the first line of defense against problems far beyond their competence. Teachers today tell us that they spend a lot of their time ” bringing up children ” to teach them the basics of hygiene, manners and rudimentary respect for the rights and property of others.
They advise divorced children, teach children the facts of life and train them in ” conflict resolution. ” In the meantime, we expect them to learn to read, write, multiply and divide. Over four teachers out of five say that many parents expect the school to do its job for them. Half of the parents surveyed say that schools should do a good job with students whose mothers and fathers pay little attention to discipline and behavioral supervision!
This type of expectation is unreasonable. We should not ask schools to undertake basic socialization and education. There’s just not enough time. Even with perfect attendance at school, American children spend less than 10% of their time at school. There is no way 10% can overcome what happens-or not – in the other 90%. When schools distance themselves from basics such as English, science, and history, they take time away from what they can do best.
We cannot expect teachers to produce good students unless we send them the right kind of raw material young people who are well behaved and willing to learn. If parents don’t spend enough time with their children, don’t try to interest them in reading, don’t pay attention to homework and don’t see that children are ready for testing, the job at school is almost impossible. When students come to school with a cavalier attitude towards education, poor working habits, little self – control and no respect for authority, a good education is no longer available.
If in the last three decades we have learned anything, it is this: schools cannot take the place of moms and dads. When parents have their main responsibilities distracted, teachers find it extremely difficult to fill the gap.
Finally, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that what we see in our classrooms reflects the wider culture and that the mediocrity of our schools is part of a general reduction in standards. We have teachers who are afraid of teaching right and wrong because they feel that ” judgmental ” is the greatest sin. We have administrators who fear strict discipline because they don’t want to be prosecuted by parents. We have children who have spent thousands of hours in the company of television shows, films, video games, and music celebrating trash: profanity, violence, promiscuity, stupid language and rebellious attitudes. We have parents who rarely complain when their children receive many A’s in ” fun ” classes, but who complain when teachers try to give more homework or raise standards. If it is the world in which our schools operate, it is not surprising that the education system has problems.
Many schools do a good job, we repeat. In the same way, millions of devoted parents want to do all they can to ensure that their children receive a good education. Nevertheless, when we look at the cultural and educational landscape in which our children grow up, we find that things are not as they should be. This country can offer a great deal materially to most of its young people but does not necessarily give them some of the things they need most. We tolerate mediocrity in the hard, important lessons and try to make up for a sort of material lavishness that cannot bridge the gap. We do well in many respects, but not almost as well as we can in others. For all the greatness of his nation, it does not give many students a formation worthy of our ideals.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be like that. If you take certain steps and keep your eyes on certain goals, you can make a difference-all the difference. Education is not an enigmatic company. There’s a mystery about what good schools and students do. We explain the basics, together with the steps you can take with your child at home, how to see if your school does a good job and how to adopt strategies when things go wrong. James Madison said that ” a person who wants to be his own governor must arm himself with the power that knowledge gives. ” If you have a little knowledge of what works in education and take some of the actions described in these passages, it is your power to help your loved one learn to his potential.
Remember that good things are likely to happen as long as you remain at the heart of the education process. Countless American parents demonstrate this every school year, including new ones on our shores. There are bumps on the road, but your child grows up in a wonderful country and in an amazing time. Despite our problems, the educational opportunities are more than abundant. We look forward to informing and encouraging this book. We hope your determination strengthens. We look forward to helping you raise an educated child.