Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's Wrong with Education?

Francois Thibaut during a workshop at the Lang...Image via Wikipedia
I just shake my head when I read articles about the state of education in the United States of America, or in my home state California. Lately, my fellow teachers and I have taken quite a shellacking as the problem in education. 

As an educator, I know how hard it is to evaluate another teacher. I have been evaluated and I have evaluated other teachers. But, here in is the problem. I do not believe that the teacher is the center of the learning process. I believe the student is the center of the learning process and what happens within and and around each student is where attention needs to be focused. A few years ago some tried to focus on the learner. But, it is very difficult  to change an entire culture. 

Let me offer a few points of perspective, first from an educator and then from  a parent ( I am both). From a teacher's perspective you will always hear three basic complaints. #1 = "It's these kids!" #2 = "It's these parents!" #3 = "It's this district/ bureaucracy!"  In a public school teachers do not get to choose which students they teach or which parents will give birth to and raise said children, and few teachers have the political clout needed to direct an entire district. Since parent involvement and socio-economic factors have been shown to be STRONG indicators of individual student success or lack of success, both of which are completely out of any teachers control, it would seem unfair, to say the least, to ask any teacher to produce successful students where factors are out of there influence. In other words, "I can not change who the students are I teach, the parents who give birth to them, nor can I, as an educator, in my present situation, change this district I work for." Many give up at this point. 

As a parent I have been both pleased and not so pleased with my children's teachers. Granted, as an educator, I can have some pretty high standards. But, I do know one truth. Parents do most of the teaching. My wife and I have read to our children since they were infants. They entered school  knowing how to read. Many parents do the same with their children, as their parents did with them. I have taught children in south central LA for most of my 22 years in education. Many parents do not read with their children. I even had one parent tell me that she didn't learn to read until she was 16 so she wasn't to worried about her son in fourth grade not being able to read. I tried to encourage that the more help he received now, and the more SHE required of him now would help him BEFORE he reached 16. My point is that parents and what they are willing to do to ensure their child's success is really (in my opinion) the strongest factor in children's learning.

All that said, I think the question is wrong. The questions regarding educational success are currently focused on teachers when the focus should be on students. I do believe teachers should be accountable, but, accountable for what? 

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