May 012011
 

I am so tired of hearing this line. “The problem with school is…” It prefaces every discussion anyone has about education these days. Whether it be politicians, parents or even teachers, when ever people gather to discuss education, the discussion inevitably turns to how horrible things are in the classroom and how things have just got to change!

Now if you have been reading my blog at all, you know I have a little different view of things so it won’t be surprising that my opinion on this issue will be something between curmudgeonly and downright miserable. I hope to rattle some cages and create some discussion whether it be in agreement with Old School Parenting or not.

The Lie

The public school system has gone to hell in  a hand basket and kids nationwide are failing miserably. The fear mongers would have you believe that schools are awash with kids who can’t read write or even tie their own shoes, that we are in the midst of a crisis that will render Canada incapable of competing in the world economy. The reality however, is that the public school system I work in consistently produces intelligent, competent kids who go on to do great things with their lives and make positive contributions to society. They are kids that are willing and able to become useful adults. Were this fear mongering true, all I should be seeing is a steady stream of dullards and misfits stumbling out of the doors of our school and straight onto the dole.

In reality, the Canadian Public School System fairs very well on the international stage. In the Organization for Economic Co-operation & Development rankings, Canada proves itself to be able to hold its own. In the 2006 survey we came in with a 5th place rank but had a bit of a fall from grace in the 2009 survey, with a 10th place finish. Certainly the drop in rank is something to be concerned about but it is hardly a reason for the complete dismantling of a school system which ranks in the top 10 in the world.

The Contradiction

The curious thing about education on the world stage, is that everything which North American education leaders feel should be changed about our Public School system are precisely the things the highest ranking school systems in the world use to achieve their high academic results.

  • Text based learning
  • Rote memorization
  • Rigorous testing
  • Fierce Academic Competition

These are the four pillars of education systems found in Asia and for the most part, it is Asia which we compare ourselves and say, “LOOK we are failing miserably!”

The problem is, that in North America we are stumbling all over each other trying to build a twenty first century education system with two diverging educational philosophies. On one hand we have a call for a return to the days of rigorous academic standards and testing based on a back to basics curriculum. In the same breath, educators are being asked to create classroom environments which meet individual needs, foster creative thinking and celebrate the differences found in each and every one of their students.

Two more unlikely bedfellows could not possibly be found, yet educators are being asked to make these two procreate, from which the perfect hybrid education system will be born. Personally, I am not sure that this can be done. All I know, is that far smarter people than I have been trying to bring these two together but nothing has sprung from the loins of madam pedagogy yet. I can only conclude that, either one or both are sterile or they are just not meant to be together.

The Elephant in The Room

It cannot be denied that our current education system is based on a 250 year old model, created to meet the needs of industrialization. Sure we have tweaked things here and tweaked things there but for the most part we crank out kids in pretty much the same way as they did, when they first started warehousing kids in what we affectionately call our public schools.

What has changed however; are kids and the world in which they live. Compared to the world I lived in 25 years ago, when I attended grade school, the environment my children are growing up in is vastly different. As a grumpy Old School Parent, I feel I should be saying “things have gone to pot since I was in school” but quite frankly, I quite like the world we live in today. I do however, feel that there is one change over the past 25 years which has had a profound and negative effect on our children and the overall academic achievement in today’s school system.

It is simply the absence of necessity or consequence in our children’s lives.

Our kids are no longer expected to do anything and want for nothing. School has become nothing more than an inconvenience for kids rather than a required step on the way to taking their place in the adult world. Kids see no relevance in school today because they do not need to. No one ever tells their kids that the gravy train stops when the education does. Certainly parents try to impress upon their children that school is important and they have to do well in school but fewer and fewer kids are buying the sales pitch. Some kids honestly feel they have the right to be supported by their parents throughout their lives. Hard as it might be to believe, I have heard kids say on numerous occasions “They chose to have me so it is their responsibility to support me”

In contrast, when I was 18 I had two choices, go to school (on my own nickel) and I could live at home, or… get the hell out, NOW! I had friends who were given the summer to get their affairs in order after high school graduation and then they had to leave, whether they were continuing their education or not.  Parents didn’t mess around and actively extend their children’s adolescence. Childhood lasted till 18, at which point it was time to get out and make a life for yourself and if you screwed up in school, well… you were screwed. You were no ones responsibility but your own.

This didn’t mean we loved going to school and appreciated all that it had to offer but we understood that there was a consequence to not succeeding. The adults in our life had little time for laziness nor did they care what you thought or wanted.  Just get the job done so you can become a useful adult and contribute to this world.

Now I would never suggest that this change in the social fabric of our society, is the leading cause of poor school performance BUT it is a real factor in how some children see school today.  I mean really… Why would you work hard or concern yourself with succeeding in school, if there is always someone there to take care of you? It is really quite logical when you think about it but this is our world. This is the way we parent.

Now complete this sentence . The problem with schools is…

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