The Unspoken in Education Is Really Costing Our Students
What's going unsaid is at education's downfall
With all the attention on schools--school reform, STEM initiatives, Lebron James commercials, Colon and Alma Powell on a speaking tour--it's just not working. For close to 20 years now, the government, celebrities, board members, teachers, parents and others have been worrying and working to not only keep kids in school, but to get them to graduate and go onto college.
Well, the really sad, bad news is that things have not gotten better but worse, far worse. We've gotten to the point now where students are dropping out of school at the rate of 26 per second. Nearly one third of all public school students are dropping out. The important question is why? The truth is that if you want to fix a problem, first you have to do some research to see what's really going on. Not what those with an agenda are saying or preaching but those without agendas who want to tell you the truth, the whole truth, so help us all. So to see things more clearly, let's consider the agenda people first, then we get to the truth.
The government's mandate and motivation to educate
Of course we know that education at the school level is government mandated. This means generally that the government funds and oversees education or what is to be taught, how students are to be tested (standardized tests), and how much funding schools get. For schools, the more they do what the government requires the more money or funding they get. Conversely, they don’t obey, they don’t get pay. State primary and secondary education generally entails three things:
1.compulsory student attendance(until a certain age or standard is achieved);
2. certification of teachers and curricula, either by the government or by a teachers' organization;
3. testing and standards provided by government.
(This list can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_school)
What does the government want most of all? The best for your child? For your child to find happiness and fulfillment? Not a main focus, really. What it wants is money for the economies. It's simply Constitutional. And this entails pushing mostly science and math (more on this shortly). Not a bad thing, but something that really leaves many a child behind. Remember the No Child Left Behind Initiative? Not working nor will it ever work for good reason. The government applies a one-size-fits-all methodology that just isn’t going to help tens of millions of children that are more snowflake than programmable robot.
So why specifically does the government want all this science and math? Well, in recent years, scientific innovation alone has generated half of U.S. GDP: $7.1 billion. That's a LOT of coin. In addition, there's a general fear that within 50 years 90% of scientists will reside outside the United States. Not good. Thus the reason that from Bush Senior to Junior to Obama the push is on for STEM students (science, technology, engineering and math).
One-size-fits-all simply only fits some
Government's one-size-fits-all education is not the solution. It was bound to fail from the start. Have you ever considered that what is being taught in high schools around the country is a mis-match for the needs of most students? High school is basically about science and math with some language thrown in (biology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, English and history). That only covers the interests and needs of a small percentage of students. If we take a look at intelligence types, or the different ways in which people think, schools only cover about 20% of all types: logic (math and science) and linguistics (language). There are nine types all together,(http://www.casacanada.com/mulin.html) so if you didn't particularly care for high school or felt not so smart because you didn’t care for or excel at science and math, welcome to the majority. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with science and math. It’s just that there’s a whole lot more that people want and can do. You may be superior to most musically, visually or spatially, body or kinesthetically, intra-personally or interpersonally. There is so much more to life than just science and math.
And certainly we need students to be able to read and write well, to gain an understanding and appreciation of citizenry (even though there are issues there), and so on. But there is more that the government doesn't do for our children than it does. Obviously, or the dropout rate wouldn't be so high, of course.
And just a point of note, a top reason for failure, disappointment, or being unfulfilled is simply going where the jobs are. This fails because trends come and go, but your talents, abilities, interests generally will remain the same throughout life. If people worked on understanding who they are more than merely trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, there would be a lot more fulfillment, happiness, and success. And probably a lot less dropping out. For you cannot sustain something for decades without passion. Hell, it's challenging enough to do it with passion. Back to the issue at hand.
But there's more that’s wrong with today’s primary and secondary education. Much more.
Important skills, knowledge, and attitudes missing from a secondary education
The majority of employers complain that most graduates lack the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to not only do well but excel in today's complex, fast paced and quickly changing work world. If you consider that the majority of one's school education consists mainly of absorbing knowledge and spitting it back on a test, where are the skills and attitudes needed being learned? Most students are not being taught how to be respectful, punctual, organized, focused, committed, responsible, and so much more. There may be talk about values and character and attitudes, but few are learning them. Probably because most are bored with just absorbing and regurgitating science and math on cue while learning little about critical, creative, intuitive, problem solving. Today, more than ever before, students need to learn how to think critically, problem solve, to be creative to find solutions, and to move between careers that will surely come (average student graduating today will have 3 to 5 career changes). And it doesn't change much in college either, thus even many college grads are ill prepared.
And what about the very nature of the economic system that we all work in? What few educators are talking about is the basic nature of capitalism or the water in which the average grad will swim. Educating our kids without the economic basics is like showing kids the breaststroke, crawl, and sidestroke on land, but never letting them in the water. And with so many having a misunderstanding of capitalism, it’s no wonder there’s so much economic failure round about. What really is the current economic system anyway?
Well, it’s not capitalism per se, but rather state, crony capitalism. Huh? That simply means the economy is mostly controlled and influenced by government and big money, not the small guy like you and me influencing through the things that we purchase or true free enterprise. But what is also rarely taught in school is that capitalism is about innovation, meaning things are bound to change, meaning there’s going to be a lot of job loss and job gain. This is called the creative destruction of capitalism. There certainly are a lot of jobs being destroyed through capitalism, but at the same time, it creates more than it destroys, generally creating jobs that are better paying and more interesting than those in the past. The number of manufacturing and farm jobs has fallen off considerably while well-paying technical jobs are on the rise, thus the huge push to find those to fill the many STEM jobs that go unfilled.
A book that is getting passed around high schools now and should be in every school is . It is a book sans all the jargon and is for the beginner to intermediate. It explains the political rules and policies that are doing our country in economically with great lucidity as well as gives some advice on personal finances. A must read for every American. Let’s get back to the topic at hand: education and its failings. Common Sense Economics
What's with all this science and math?
Even though we need a lot of science and math people, why educate everyone in math and science when only 5% of all jobs require anything beyond basic arithmetic? Of course there’s been an increase in the number of STEM jobs in recent years, but even if they reach 10-15% of all jobs, why subject everyone to something most will never need? And the myth that science and math teaches critical thinking or logic and reasoning is just not true. Why? Well, math is just too damn abstract and complex for most to grasp, never mind to use as a logic tool or a way to develop problem solving skills. In addition, few teachers explain where all these complex equations come from, origins, what they mean in real life, or attempt to connect them to real life, thus the reason for the very popular math anxiety. Many surveys taken result in 40 to 50% or more hating math. And I’m sure there’s no love loss for the remaining 50-60% who never use math again after high school. So if you think logic and reasoning are being taught through a device (math) that people can’t grasp and hate or care little for, think again. There are problems that can be solved through math, but there are many that can’t and intuition has to take over—of which Einstein said is “the only real valuable thing.” “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” The killing of imagination in schools during a time that it is a vital tool is another issue to be handled at a later date. (See the Ken Robinson video below on education and creativity).
Math and science certainly have their place, but we need to be more forthcoming to students and parents regarding what’s really going on here. I’m not advocating change, for I really have no faith in government doing the right thing for the majority. What I do want to do is empower the individual student and parent to understand what is really going on, so that the proper choices can be made down the road to not only enable these future workers of America to be productive, but to avoid a lot of wasted time and money and feeling miserable and marginalized by education to discover what skills, knowledge, and attitudes will help them to move forward in education, career, life.
Education should be defined by the individual according to her needs
The reason a lot of the above isn’t being talked about is that not much has changed in education over the years. And you know how people have a difficult time accepting change, never mind talking about it. In addition, the government wants what the government wants. And finally, there are a lot of administrators that are more interested in school image than telling students the truth, for whatever hidden agenda they may have. I could tell you some stories about board of directors and the politics of education, but I’ll save that for a later date.
Finally, the reason for so many high school students dropping out is more complex than just what I’ve stated here. There are other issues, such as the breakdown of the family, the poor economy, indifference to minorities, and so forth. But one of the major reasons for failure is an inability to understand the whys of something. Why am I going to school? Do I and everyone else need the same thing? Are there any options? Anything missing?
Time and again I’ve run into high school and college dropouts that are very successful. Some say, oh, but they’re the exception. But keep in mind that many put the cart before the horse when considering education. Is it the education that makes the person or the person that makes the education? You’ve heard the myth that if you get a college degree, the degree will help you obtain a solid career and satisfactory life. But is it the degree? Many experts say that college attracts a certain type of individual who is already motivated and has the necessary skills and attitudes needed to make it through college. Statistics show that the lower you graduate in rank, the greater the chance for failure, low grades, and a college degree that, even though obtained, is of little value.
Be more concerned about building yourself up with the proper character, characteristics and life skills than merely getting a degree. For when you need to perform, when you’re under the gun, no degree or grades will help you. It’s what you are, who you are, and what you do that matters most. Many a guru will tell you that the job you do, the product or service you provide is really just a manifestation of you or the originator. You also better learn how to problem solve and learn, for in these quickly changing times adaptability and transition will become a common occurrence. And make sure you know what your definition of education is and the specific skills, knowledge, and attitudes you will need for you and your skills set, your desires, your dreams, hopes and aspirations.