When I hear about educational reform I normally see some mention of funding. I agree that adequate funding must be provided in any effort at reforming our nation’s schools however, ‘fixing’ that issue alone will not solve the so called problems in our educational system. Although this opinion is based anecdotal evidence, American ‘culture’ must be examined in any discussion of education and its outcomes. Walk into almost any classroom in America and you can see firsthand that a small number of unruly students can significantly disrupt learning. Today, many teachers are advised to ‘look the other way’ except for the most egregious violations in their classroom to avoid a dispute with their administration and or the disrupted student’s parent(s). How could even the best educator expect large number of students to achieve when some malcontents are forced into their classroom and disrupt the learning process.
Even, in well manged classrooms, America’s cell phone-driven, must always have fun culture inhibits learning. Even in a post secondary environment teaching ‘well-prepared’ students, today’s professors are faced with electronic distractions which made it difficult for them to teach and for their students to learn. Learning is hard work, and in many cases it is not as ‘fun’ as checking a Facebook page for likes. Learning is hard is not the message most educators tell their students so how can we expect students to react differently when required to do the hard work of learning. When on the occasion students are assigned long difficult reading assignments reports from even prestigious colleges and universities state that outside reading is not being done today by a vast number of students. Reading and comprehending 50 pages of Adam Smith is just too boring the students say.
In many inner city classrooms, students ‘get away’ with verbal and physical assaults on other students and even teachers on a regular basis. No matter the funding, racial makeup of the school, its status as a regular or charter school can learning happen in the aforementioned environment. I suspect this experience is not unusual in many big city school districts thus we see an achievement gap. Students must be held to account for their behavior.
Next, the romantic belief that all students can and will achieve equally is ‘bullshit’. Education and psychology classes spend quite some time on intelligence and achievement and they examine scientific literature which shows strong connections between IQ and academic achievement but their teachers and administrators avoid this reality. News flash, we are not all equal when it comes to intelligence. Yet, even in our best schools, they push all students through the same college prep curriculum and ‘achieve’ the same outcome – high school diploma. Then, a corrupt higher educational system takes these ‘graduates’ and lures them into another environment with low standards and high costs in the storybook world where everyone must go to and complete a 4-year college program.
We need to address these and other core issues when speaking about any educational reform. Speaking about other issues before these major American cultural flaws is a distraction from real reform.