Six Quick Ideas for Educational Reform
- Bring back responsibility!
In my county the following changes have been implemented to “help” students:
Students cannot get a zero on a major assignment. If the student turns in absolutely nothing, he or she can only be given a fifty. This not only provides a ridiculously lax safety net, but it also allows savvy students to determine which assignments they are going to skip and still get the grade they want. Furthermore if something that doesn’t exist gets a 50, shouldn’t something that does exist and gets a 70 get MORE? Grade inflation as a result of catering to the lazy is not a great message.
Students face no academic penalty for not coming to class or coming late. Back in my earlier days as a teacher, if a student amassed three unexcused absences in a quarter, they failed! Now, kids are free to saunter in whenever they want to or not at all and they STILL get to take a test if it was assigned that day without penalty. This resembles absolutely nothing in the real world ( it resembles actual ZERO, not 50%) .
Students get an automatic two week grace period during which we can only reduce their grade by 10%. This means that nobody assigns work towards the end of a quarter. So, if you have been wondering why there are long stretches during which your kid doesn’t have work, it is because so much late work comes in on the two week cut off day we dare not assign something else because we will run out of time to grade it.
If we want to see a better education system, we need to make students accountable.
2. WE NEED TO ABOLISH SCHOOL SPORTS. School athletics are supported by all taxpayers and yet only kids who make teams reap the benefits. Last year alone, my county spent three million dollars on field maintenance alone. As a former high school coach, I can’t tell you how many times I rode a bus home from a game with one or two kids, all of the others having been taken home by their parents. This is a waste of gas money and on money for a driver’s wage. Furthermore, for most sports high school sports have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to play collegiate sports. College recruiters come to club sporting contests and rarely bother with high school as the talent level is often too disparate to make a valid assessment of ability.
3. TAKE THE MONEY SAVED BY ABOLISHING HS SPORTS AND GIVE TOP NOTCH ATHLETIC EQUIPMENT TO SCHOOLS THAT CAN BE USED BY ALL STUDENTS IN REVAMPED PE PROGRAMS. According to the CDC 20% of American teens are obese and 13% more are overweight. That means one in three American teens are at risk of the plethora of problems that come along with being fat. Schools can help this situation by making robust fitness programs and encouraging students to utilize the equipment on their own as well. Another bonus of this is that exercise has been proven to combat the effects of ADD and ADHD. Kids are wayyyy more sedentary today and it ain’t good physically or mentally. We can reduce the problems quickly with changes.
4. PROVIDE FRESH FOODS AND JUICES AS SCHOOL MEALS. Remember that shit you used to get served when YOU were in HS? Well guess what- it’s still there! The effect on diet and mental and physical health is undeniable and some experts, like Dr. Deepak Chopra, contend that a healthy diet actually promotes positive change all the way down to a genetic level. If the athletic fields are gone, agricultural fields can replaces them. Students could work the fields while learning about chemistry, ecology, agriculture, AND providing farm to table meals for their fellow pupils.
5. CHANGE HOW WE TEACH! I am an English teacher and I will attack my subject first. I don’t see how there is any real life benefit in knowing the plot of MacBeth or The Great Gatsby. Students should read high quality non-fiction literature that focuses on real life issues like climate change that promotes critical thinking. The study of language should center around effective debate and the ability to discern good sources from poor ones. Language has real life applications that go beyond reading about some dude who got dumped and can’t get his shit together ( Gatsby). Other ideas would be turning episodes of “Forensic Files” into biology lessons, utilizing cooking to teach chemistry, and analyzing a Patrick Mahomes bomb to discover the physics behind it. Preaching to sedentary people who are being sedentary makes no sense.
6. PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH. If you want more talented people to teach, PAY THEM. Don’t TALK about paying them. A few years ago, our county proposed a restaurant tax that would have bolstered teachers’ pay. It was voted down. YET, if you had asked people if education was their top priority, many would have said yes. Seems like cents at a restaurant was more valuable than sense in schools.
Make no mistake, if we don’t radically change education soon, it will be too late. Once the laziness that is tolerated from students and common sense measures to improve education become stagnant the result will be permanent entrenchment in a downward spiral.
I hope it is not already too late!