It is an indisputable fact that if children showed up on day one of first grade smarter, better behaved, and with stable mental health, schools would function better. It would be better for these kids, the other kids in their classroom, and the teachers.
Lifetime success is greatly influenced by the first five years of life. Schools can help children improve themselves, but schools cannot be expected to save children who have poor home lives or lack adequate mental health services.
To improve American education, we need to fix the general social climate. We must not exclusively focus on what happens in schools, but what happens before and outside of school. We must acknowledge that much of the education problem comes from bigger social problems such as poor parenting, and limited, misguided, or recklessly ignored social services.
We won't solve the education problem till we solve the "Day One Problem" and acknowledge the simple fact: on day one of first grade, we need better kids, not just better teachers.
So why don't we recognize the Day One Problem?
No matter the issue, people have a tendency to ignore contextual factors and blame focial visible factors. This tendency manifests itself in education when people ignore how important parenting, mental health, and early childhood are to educational success and instead focus on teachers and curriculum.
This tendency to ignore context and instead attribute blame to visible focal factors is such a fundamental human bias that psychologists label it the fundamental attribution bias.
Not only do some parents misguidedly blame schools, some parents may actively want to blame schools. You've probably met one of these parents. Blaming schools allows these parents to hide from the reality that A) they are not the best parents or B) something is wrong with their child.
It is very difficult for a parent to admit they need help with parenting, that their home life is problematic, and they personally need social services or therapy. Likewise, it's very difficult for parents to admit that their children may not be the brightest students or that their children may need help with mental issues. Some parents do admit these problems, but these brave and rational parents are far too rare.
Let me be clear: there are definitely problems with some schools, teachers, and laws. We know these problems well, because these problems get talked about all the time. However, the Day One Problem rarely breaks into daily conversation. It's almost taboo to talk about because it seems like one is blaming America's children.
That's why I say in this article "we need better kids." It is a direct attempt to break the norm. Children are obviously not to blame. Society, laws, some parents, and a host of other large contextual factors are to blame. We must step up and break political correctness and say that on Day 1, the kids need to be better. They need to be smarter, healthier, and better behaved.
In the end, schools cannot save children. Children must be up to an adequate level on Day One. It's up to parents and us as a society to make children better prepared for Day One.
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