A school hallway is distinctive in that it is a symbolic pathway to enlightenment. However, our education system is based on the wrong assumption that it can warp the hallways that carry students from classroom to classroom into a never-ending circle, place kids right back where they started, and still churn out the men and women of tomorrow who will be able to compete with the best in the world. A massive mindset change needs to occur -- one that rethinks our education system as a whole and gives it the attention that it deserves.
Students are being pushed from grade to grade and are not getting extra help. "How do I divide fractions again?" is the question I hear every week from the mouths of 17-year-old children who are tutored at Bazan Public Library, located in a low-income area of western San Antonio. These are children who are supposed to be competitive with their same age group in countries such as India and China but instead are being outplayed on every level. The cause of this problem is very simple. This year, according to the Census Bureau, Texas Legislature cut five billion dollars from its public education system because it had a deficit of close to 30 billion. Of course, it was necessary to stimulate jobs somehow, but there has been absolutely no deadline for when this money is going to be put back. This has disastrous implications.
First, schools do not have the resources to cut down the number of students per class and teachers do not have the patience or time to give special attention to those who need it. These students are also getting the short end of the stick by the flawed accountability system that has been put in place. Teachers are forced to teach to a specific test thereby shifting the focus from innovative and out of the box thinking to simply test strategies that will help students pass the standardized test. Also, teaching towards a test automatically changes the mindset of the student from learning for the long-term knowledge to cramming for the short-term grade.
Second, those who want to be challenged are unable to be because teachers are forced to teach to the lowest common denominator. For example, the gifted and talented math program at schools in San Antonio was disbanded just so that teachers could focus more on the standardized exit exam that is given at the end of the year. These potential scientists and inventors of the future whose skills are nurtured through the everyday challenges given to them in a GT class instead now listen to Kanye and Jay-Z's Watch The Throne while the teacher repeats the answer to same question over and over again. So, in effect, the education system doesn't cater to anyone -- it ignores those on both ends of the spectrum and brings inadequate results to those in the middle.
Third, good and experienced teachers are not incentivized to stay in the profession because they have to do so much for so little reward. Additionally, those who are potentially good teachers are not motivated to join because they can easily get better pay elsewhere. Thus, the teachers that do stay are inexperienced and have no idea how to teach so that students stay excited and interested. The plain fact is that teachers are fed up and with good reason. There's no reason for them to do good things, if they can expect nothing good in return.
The fact that education is not a high priority is evident from the fact that we are content to gamble with our future. It's not about the next 50 years anymore; it's about the next month and the next election. Anything's fair game if it will get just one more vote. The result is that future citizens will inherit a far worse world than we did.
We need to invest in the hallways of our education system to make them linear -- otherwise, we will be going in circles forever while our country runs down the hallway to ignorance.
Start your workday the right way with the news that matters most. Learn more