Our educational system is failing. Yes, politicians can argue on this topic, but parents and students as well as teachers can see that it is failing miserably. How do we know that? Because too many who have graduated have no idea how to function in our world and have no background info on the many different things that impact their daily lives.
These ten problems have been gleaned from talking to numerous teachers, parents (including myself), and talked in length to actual students or ones who have graduated within the last ten years. It was surprising how many of these were repeated by every single one of them. Not a one said our educational system was working great. They were very concerned about the future of our children.
Note: I want to point out here that this doesn't reflect every individual school system. I've seen some who refuse to stay with the mainstream and try to find new ways to educate more effectively. This is looking at the overall educational system in America.
Seeing All Students the Same
Not everyone is the same. Look at yourself and then at someone else. Do you react the same? Do you think the same? Do you have the same talents? The answer is no. Then why are we teaching all students the same and expecting them to learn through the same methods as the students on the other side of the country?
In today's educational system, students are not encouraged to ask for a different way of explaining or to ask for help in understanding a concept. They are told to just do their homework as the teachers have to follow a timetable and can't slow down to teach a child. Let me give you an example of this.
My oldest was struggling with math. She just couldn't grasp what the teacher had taught. Several lessons later, she was failing. When she approached the teacher, he said he had no time to work one on one with her. She had to keep up. Only when we spend hours and hours exploring new ways to explain the concepts did she get it. And boy did she! That girl was soon past the other students and doing work her own teacher couldn't do because it was explained to her in a different way, not the same as the other students.
I'm a visual learner. My son is a hands on. We cannot always grasp information at the same time in the same way. If we were in a class together, we'd have to be taught it in different ways. Now that is not as hard as you might think as many teachers have learned how to mix up learning methods so they aren't going over the material again and again. But the system itself pushes teachers to only use "approved" methods and not to think outside the box.
Not all students are the same so the educating of them should be flexible enough to meet those needs.
Changing Strategy With Elections
When one president is elected, a new educational policy is implemented. Four years later, a new president comes into office with another new policy. The school systems have to change again to meet these new expectations. That can mean a change in curriculum, teaching methods, and number of teachers. Time and money have to be spent to get up to speed. Who pays the most? The students.
When my oldest was in grade school, I noticed that she was having an excessive amount of math homework. When I asked her about it, she said they never discussed math. They were just given homework. When I spoke to the teacher, she said that math time was now reading time as the results on a national scale was a decrease in reading scores. So parents were supposed to take up the slack and teach the math? That's what the teacher confirmed, but she didn't have an answer when I asked, "So what will you do when the math scores fall?" The school was following the latest directives from the new politicians in office.
Yes, it makes sense to have new ideas come in, but to have all schools in the country to change with the winds every four to eight years is unreasonable and hurts our children.
In order to make it appear that the system is being successful, many school leaders lower the expectations of the students. In one school my husband taught in, he was told not to ask his high school students to write more than a two paragraph essay. Why? Because most couldn't do it so the expectations were lowered to minimize the number of failures.
How do we expect children to be understand the demands of the real world if we keep lowering the expectations of them within the educational system? They don't have to try hard because no expects them to. That's not how the real world works.
Students are not pushed but are allowed to direct the levels of education within the system. Test scores are used to lower those expectations so that the next round of testing might look better. But the truth is that the levels will keep dropping.
When my son was a senior in high school, he discovered that he was only one of two in his class who knew how to write an essay. When we asked the teacher about this, they said that they are instructed not to teach it as most can't comprehend how.
Teaching the Wrong Subjects
Yes, we need math, English, history, and science taught, but there are other subjects that should be taught that aren't. Why are we forcing students to take so many science classes if they don't have an interest in them? Yes, they need to be exposed to the subject to understand their world, but why have them take physics when they won't go into that for a living? Introduce basic physics to them in a general class and turn more to much needed subjects like...
Debate - Listen to those around you argue debated topics. They royally suck. I can't think of a better way to say it. People are not taught how to argue their points in a mature and logical way. When my kids were in school, I'd always play Devil's Advocate with them as they wrote papers or prepared projects. I would challenge them to explain to me their stance. They have all thanked me over the years as they were never taught that in school and find that they can out debate most people. This is taught as an extra-curricula activity instead of a vital part of life.
Basic Life Skills - I was shocked when my children told me that they were never taught in school how to balance a check book, understand a mortgage/load, and how to apply for a job. The schools told us that it was up the parents to teach them this. Do they realize that many of the parents don't know because they weren't taught? Macbeth is considered more important than how to live on your own. I'm a literature junkie so it pains me to say that the classics are not that important. Priorities are not reviewed.
Logic - I am shocked at how many people can't figure out things logically. They expect info to be spoon-fed to them and not figure it out for themselves. Students are not taught to figure things out. They are told to ask for it. A few new graduates in my workplace are prime examples of this. They ask me questions. I respond with "Did you look in your emails? Did you review the notes? Did you not see that if one order on the truck is late that the others will be too when the driver says he has a flat tire?" They don't get it. They can't understand the logic of the world around them in order to empower themselves.
Life Application - To sum it up, children are not taught how all the education given to them can be applied to their lives. When I was in high school, I could not get chemistry for the life of me. It made no sense. In college, I had to take it again and got a teacher who applied it all to my every day life. As she connected it to household cleaners, a lightbulb came on. Chemistry actually applied to my life. I use chemistry now in knowing how not to mix cleaning solutions. Too many schools just teach and don't apply it to their lives.
Catering to Trends
The latest trends in some schools is to rewrite history and portray it as one-sided. There is always more to one side of the story. Two of our friends who are teachers are finding themselves in a predicament. They have been ordered to teach their history classes with an emphases on how the white man is the cause of all problems in history. One of this friends is an African-American man who is very upset with this. He believes that the issues need to be addressed but not to slant it such an extremely biased nature.
I want to note here that I'm very glad schools are educating our youth on more of history and achievements by minorities that have been missed over the years, but I do not like rewriting history but instead like having a better understanding of it. The trend is to make one group look all good or all bad. This is not a good trend to follow.
A logical balance has to be used when trends impact our educational system. Sadly, many decades ago had the school systems white washing everything. Now it is swinging the extreme opposite direction. Instead of looking at the reality of life, schools tend to follow whatever will make the public happy for that moment. It will change again in some way ten years from now.
Trends can be good in that in brings in awareness of where the educational system is lacking. They are bad when they dictate complete revamping to opposite poles.
I'm surprised at how much our teachers are handcuffed. I had a teacher friend recently retire because she said she had become nothing but a glorified proctor and babysitter. She was ordered not to "teach" but to give the kids the prescribed assignments and help them finish it. What has happened when we send teachers through all this training and not allow them to use it?
There are many wonderful teachers out there who are not allowed to use their gifts. They are directed by their department of educations to follow a prescribed educational formula and just be present to keep the class in order. Children will not learn like that. They are put in a box and told to conform to the government's approved way of learning. How do we expect them to thrive in such an environment?
Teachers need to be allowed to teach and not proctor. They need to be able to address issues with students and be able to modify the lesson in a way where the children will learn and grasp the ideas.
Graduating Students Unable to Function in Society
I touched on this above, but it bears discussing again. Students are graduating without being able to function in society. They are not taught how to interview for a job, where to look for jobs, how to save money, how to rent an apartment safely, how to take out loans, or how to protect themselves in the medical world. They can't function as adults.
All three of my children have left home. All three refused to listen to anything I said because I'm Mom and don't know everything. Now they wish they had listened to a few things because school didn't teach them. They still call me now to ask about things and lament why school didn't better prepare them since they should know kids don't like to listen to their parents. Many times, they have wondered why they were taught some things but not others. My children feel that they were taught what the politicians wanted and not what the children needed.
There are too many people running our school systems that shouldn't be. It takes a special gift to run the schools, and too many are there for the political power. That will not result in effective education.
I'll give an example from a teacher friend of mine. The vice-principal he worked for spent his day roaming the hall and yelling at the teachers in front of the students. He was demeaning and condescending to them. Even the students were tired of his attitude to the teachers. When complaints were made, the administrators above him said he was a rising star and to not complain. This led to stress on the teachers that impacted their ability to teach. This administrator was not in a position he should have been.
Another teacher friend had an administrator begin to limit what they could teach. It was election time, and he wanted to teach the children the history of the parties and their stances. He was told that he had to teach that Democrat was the only party that was for the children. He wanted to dictate what the children believed instead of teaching them how to make their own decisions.
One local school board wanted to determine what the curriculum was and how the teachers were presenting it. In a similar scenario, they began dictating how the information was presented and put a very narrow slant on it. Some school board members threatened the teachers. These school board members had no educational background and were only on the board for political moves.
School systems and even the voting public should be aware of who is running their schools and making critical decisions. The administrators should be qualified and really care about the students and teachers.
Teachers Who Shouldn't Be Teaching
There are just as many teachers who shouldn't be teaching as there are administrators running the schools. One of my daughters had a geography teacher who argued with her on her report on Indonesia. When my daughter presented her report, the teacher flunked her because she said the report wasn't on India. My daughter presented her instructions the teacher gave her which resulted in the teacher saying that Indonesia and India were the same. And she is teaching geography!!!!
Another teacher gave my daughter a bad grade because he said the information on her test was wrong. She showed him that the textbook was wrong. He said it didn't matter as he had to only teach what the textbook said even if it was not correct. He wouldn't think for himself and didn't care if he taught the right stuff or not.
Teachers need to know their subject matter. They need to know how to teach. They need to learn to listen to the students and adapt their methods. Too many teachers need to find other careers or to retire. They are hurting the education of our children. One teacher admitted to us that he flunked some students because he was mad at the school administrators. He couldn't be touched because he was in a legal battle with them. The children suffered.
Blaming Parents or Budgets
When confronted with problems, too many schools push the blame to the parents or the lack of funds. I've heard it from their own lips. Education is poor because parents aren't involved or there is not enough money coming into the school system. Really?
The parents are supposed to get these children to do their work per the schools. Yes, the parents should be involved in the education of their children, but they are usually working full-time, taking care of other kids, keeping a roof over their heads, and making sure the family is healthy. The time to focus on teaching their children is very limited. They should not be expected to carry the burden of educating their children when they are sending the children to schools. Otherwise, they'd be homeschooling. Teachers are paid to educate the children with parents helping and not subbing for them. I was actually told by one teacher that it was my job to make sure my child knew her math as the teacher didn't have time to.
There is a lot of money funneled to the schools, and most teachers don't have the funds to have Kleenex or pens to use. Why is that? Because who controls the money? The administrators who get all their supplies they need and quite a few 0's in their yearly salary. They determine where the funds are spent and how much. We had a school superintendent going on and on about how they needed more money as she was given a raise that was higher than any superintendent and drove around in her Porche. Very poor budgeting of the school system.
Not all schools have the issues discussed above. Many see the issues are are looking for ways to go around them and find ultimate success. The problem is that too many running the schools are not equipped for the job and are just in a rut from the days of old.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2021:
You are correct in writing that all students do not learn the same way. I once dropped a course in organic chemistry rather than fail it. I absolutely did not understand the subject from that teacher. The next time I took it with a different teacher, it made sense.