Saturday, August 18, 2007

Read and Weep #5 Rights and Responsibilities 

In previous posts, I discussed my teaching background, all occurring before the educational establishment decided to ignore their responsibility in teaching our youth. Yes, these are strong words but I believe they are true. Today I teach college students in their 20's and 30's - those who went through American and foreign school systems of the 1980's and 1990's. Suffice it to say, a general observation is that the foreign students are better grounded in history, memorization, writing skills, thinking, behavior and work ethic.

Too many of the so-called teacher colleges began emphasizing self-esteem, the whole person, etc. over content in the 1970's. These institutions were extremely influential. When these "can do no wrong" ideas began, the college population came from homes where books, magazines and papers are readily available. Most came from English speaking homes with trditional work ethics and those who did not understood an earned degree (vs one given to students) would open doors regardless of background. Unless spoiled, these students would succeed. Once the feeling mentality overtook the learning mentality, problems started. Though today's college population is more varied the skills to succeed are the same. Unfortunately too many students are not taught necessary academic or social skills and too many parents overprotect their kids while demanding too little respect for themselves and teachers. The result is: a less educated populace; entry level workers who do not understand that showing up on time and doing what needs to be done are necessary for success; businesses and agencies that hire workers discover these new comers often cannot think, cannot make decisions, and call home when the going gets uncomfortable (note, I did not say the 'going gets tough').

Teaching is hard work, takes time and patience. To default to "students will figure it out" is insane. On the other hand, teachers have lost their ability to discipline. They must tolerate students whose parents think their Johnny or Susie are perfect; that anything that goes wrong is because the teacher discriminates or picks on certain students. Hence teachers and school systems have become reticent to demand standards academics or inappropriate behavior.

To all of this, I say, "Wake up!" We are denying our history and our future with this copout mentality.

Every player in this process has rights and responsibilities.
Teachers - the right to discipline students; the responsibility to know the material and teach it.
Parents - the right to expect their children to be taught; the responsibility to respect teachers, other students, administrators; to make sure their students do homework, are prepared; to understand that their kids are not perfect - in other words, back teachers when the "perfect" child misbehaves.
Taxpayers - a right to demand an ROI for their investment; the responsibility to hold school systems accountable
Students - the right to learn, to be taught what they need to succeed and not focus on an empty self-esteem mantra that leaves them educationally handicapped when they have to earn a living; the responsibility to treat teachers, administrators and other students with respect; to do their homework, to learn.

We have spent far too many years in the bubble of "I'm ok, you're ok." We are ok but we still need to learn. By default, American attracts the best, brightest and most energetic. We are lying to ourselves if we continue to adapt a system that handicaps everyone, native and foreign born.