Politicians love to make hay about how public schools have “failed” children. Rather than take a critical eye to actual education, they celebrate the virtues of standardized testing and performance-based learning as thought it were a biblical passage. Here are five ways schools in general have failed students, and society, as a whole.
1. Zero Tolerance policies.
While “zero tolerance” has merits in some arenas, schools have used it as a crutch and a means to take sound judgment out of the equation. Lazy or cowardly administrators and teachers point to this policies when common sense is more useful. Little Billy gets caught kissing a girl on the cheek? That violates a zero tolerance policy on sexual misconduct. Really? Bring some brains back into the equation, and let give teachers and administrators the support they need to be able to have a backbone again.
2. Gravy Training
We’ve all see this one: a star athlete comes to school, and they immediately get a free pass on everything because.they can win the big soccer or football or baseball game. This sort of behavior is insidious and corrupt, but you can’t really eliminate it. Instead, use it as a teaching opportunity. Show average students that life is about opportunities and making the most through preparation. Most importantly, it gives a chance to teach students how flawed human beings are, and that we can strive for better.
3. Blind eye to bullying.
The one area where a zero tolerance policy would make sense is too often the source of much ambiguity. Rather than intervene, bullies are emboldened by a lack of action. Administrators refuse to intervene range from fear of legal consequences to, more ominously, the belief in a perverse Social Darwinism which says that bullies a somehow have earned the right to intimidate others. Often this is the result of administrators battling their own inner demons on the matter. Sadly, the best and brightest are often discouraged from learning because of being bullied.
4. Teacher apathy.
It’s bad enough when a student doesn’t feel like someone cares, but it’s worse when a teacher actually demonstrates it. Granted, there are a lot of teachers who have had great ideas but, for whatever reason, decided to give up. Unfortunately, there are way more teachers whose shelf life is well past expired and just don’t care. For this reason, teachers unions have failed our students. Yes, it’s important to protect a members job, but it’s equally important to remind that member what their job is.
And the biggest way we have failed our students….
This is the worst of all the failings. Too often, educators and administrators focus on those students they have “selected” for academic achievement. Sometimes it’s the daughter of a prominent family, or the father of a friend of the superintendent. Regardless of the person, the fact remains this practice flies counter of the American concept of rising based on ones merits. Poor kids tend to be left behind because their families don’t go to dinner with a congressman who gets a school money. Those who say “that’s how it is” only justify the establishment of a new aristocracy, rather than a continuation of what made America so strong and nimble.