I was watching Meet the Press this morning, and aside from my Sunday morning political fix, I watched a segment discussing educational reform. They had a representative from the teacher’s union, the DC schools superintendent, the Secretary of Education and someone else that didn’t make much of an impression on me since I can’t remember who they were.
The points that they argued where the same things that educational “reformers” have been tossing around for years — to no effect whatsoever; bureaucrats want teacher accountability based on test scores — teacher unions don’t want teachers’ job’s tied to test scores. And both sides complain about money, and that they don’t have enough, even though the nation spends gabillions on public education.
I kept watching, hoping I might hear someone bring up the real problem — but no one did. Whether it was ignorance or cowardice, I don’t know, but no amount of money or theory will change anything about the pathetic educational system in this nation until the real problem is faced.
I’ve been teaching for 22 years and I’ve learned that the one factor that absolutely guarantees success, every time, are parents that think education is important. Not the overly-involved, micromanaging stage-like parents — but ones that simply communicate to their kids the importance of school. And not just for the end result of getting a job, or financial security, but that there is an inherent importance to learning. Parents that read, ask questions and allow their children to see them as continuous learners themselves, end-up with kids that enjoy school and want to work at it. Too many parents think that they should portray themselves as oracles, dispensers of truth who know all answers (and that they learned the most important ones outside of school).
If a child walks into my classroom, a classroom with every financial advantage and a veteran teacher — if that child’s parents place no value on what takes place in that room; there really isn’t much I can do. If a child walks into a terrible room with a novice, maybe even apathetic teacher, but the parents are dedicated to that child’s education… they will learn.
In another post I wrote about the long curve of history and the current place of our nation; I think some of those points are valid here as well. Our schools worked best when they were seen as the playing field of opportunity. Every kid, regardless of economic advantage, religious affiliation or ethnicity could use school as a way out and up — if they worked very, very hard. My Irish ancestors used the educational opportunities to move from railroad labor to corporate leadership in a single generation, largely due to the fact that as the father came home knocking the grime of a long day from his cover-alls, his first questions were about the school day and whether or not homework had been done — and done well.
Educational opportunity back then was based on aptitude and effort, today it seems to be based on finance or glandular-based athleticism.
If a parent values education, they ask questions of the world around them, they allow their kids to see them “not know” things and watch them look them-up in a book. That child sees the world as an immense and fascinating place, worthy of a life of engaged thought. A process that doesn’t end with the school years, and one that holds a life-time of interest.
btw — these families do not watch Fox News