The Biggest Hurdle Facing Today’s Students? SCHOOL !
One in three American kids are either overweight or obese according to the Harvard H.T. Chan School of Public Health The rate has tripled over the past three decades and according to the CDC, obesity costs Americans $173 billion dollars a year
Nearly half of American children,according to the National Institute of Health, meet the definition of sedentary which is defined as greater than two hours of TV, phone, or computer time per day
The CDC reports that nearly one in ten children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a diagnosis of ADHD . That is 6.1 million children and 75 percent of those children are medicated — with stimulants. About 33% of children with ADHD drop out of high school. One in ten kids with ADHD develop a substance abuse issue . Only 15% of people with ADHD complete a four year college degree
Folks , it is time to face the facts: we are a country that is inundated with overweight, sedentary kids who are at a high risk for developing obesity. Furthermore, we have kids who are plagued by ADHD which is treated by stimulants begging the question could we naturally stimulate these kids and consequently circumvent drugging them?
I don’t know the answer to that question for certain, but I think there is merit in asking it. And, though much has changed over the years- there are electric cars, Google is no longer just a term for some bizarre sideways eight, and phones are no longer devices hanging on walls and they are rarely used for talking anymore- one thing has stayed the same: schools.
We still send our kids to school where they plop down into chairs and are somehow expected to tune in to their teachers. They are pent up bundles of energy growing up in an era that more or less encourages a sedentary lifestyle due to all of the devices at their disposal, working parents, and an absence of the need to farm for food.
Life has become very different compared to the lives of those who grew up in decades gone by.
Teachers and schools operate in loci parentis- which means in place of a parent- and by that standard our failure to evolve and address the needs of our students makes us deadbeat parents.
There can really be no doubt that a lot of the problems with our children stem from phones and technology in general. In fact, a study by Penn State University found that the average teen has the urge to check their social media on their phones every 8 seconds. The means, in a 90 minute class period at McLean High School , students will have the urge or at least the inclination to check their phones more than 600 times! When you factor in that teenagers have undeveloped brains and low impulse control, I can safely conclude that I am essentially talking to myself most of the day.
While extolling the evils of phones and condemning them is the hip and popular thing to do, it is also a colossal waste of time. Phones and technology aren’t going anywhere, and so the thing to do is to do SOMETHING — something other than bitching about it, that is.
Here are some ideas about how we can positively affect students and counteract the afflictions that we are unwittingly but almost certainly foisting upon them.
- Cut down on the length of classes. Asking living things with an 8 second attention span to sit still and pay attention for 90 minutes is akin to asking the tide not to come in. Neither are going to have any effect at all.
- Eliminate high school sports and reinvent PE classes with the money saved. Add top notch exercise equipment and give students choices about how and when to exercise without allowing them NOT to. According to the National Institute of Health “ A growing body of literature indicates a potential role for physical exercise in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Suggested effects include the reduction of ADHD core symptoms as well as improvements in executive functions.” In this manner, taxpayer money would benefit all students and not just those who make sports’ teams. In addition, an increased emphasis on exercise and giving students a variety of ways to exercise during the day would combat obesity if implemented properly.
- Provide students with stand up and seated desk options and possibly rotate students through them. In a quick Amazon search, I found stand up desks for only $70 and, according to WebMD “One study showed that adults who weigh 143 pounds burn 0.15 more calories a minute when standing versus sitting. If you stand for six hours per day instead of sitting, you burn around 54 additional calories. While this may not seem like much, it adds up to five and a half pounds per year.” Furthermore, according to a 2016 Washington Post article , standing desks increase productivity while reducing the risks of health hazards like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- Adjust assignments so that students are more engaged in their learning. For example, why not borrow scripts from shows like “CSI” and develop lessons that simultaneously teach forensic science, legal procedures, the development of TV news scripts and newspaper articles, and biology?
- It would be foolish to suggest revamping the educational system without acknowledging that offering sufficient financial remuneration for teachers and administrators is integral to doing so. According to Forbes magazine “Teacher turnover, which usually averages about 16% nationwide, could see a spike as anywhere from 25% to 54% of educators are considering leaving the profession.” The public and government officials need to grasp the fact that teachers are tired of being treated as though cloyingly sweet platitudes and the occasional Starbucks card will continue to somehow substitute for the ability to comfortably pay our mortgages, own cars, and raise families. In his February 16, 2023 New York TImes article entitled “America Should Be In The Middle of a Schools Revolution, David Brooks writes “ This moment of disruption should be a moment of reinvention. It should be a moment when leaders rise up and say: Let’s get beyond stale debates over charters, vouchers, gender neutral bathrooms and the like. We’re going to rethink the nuts and bolts of how we teach in America.” I would like to add , though, that nuts and bolts aren’t worth much without good mechanics, and the mechanics who will be tasked with reinventing American education, teachers and administrators, are tired of working for peanuts and unctuous encomiums.
In so many other areas of life , changes have been made to stay commensurate with the times: grocery stores have adjusted prices and checkout procedures to meet the needs of customers who may go elsewhere. Cars drive themselves. Amazon can get you essentially anything you want in two days, virtual reality machines are no longer the stuff of science fiction, and you can now buy once vilified cannabis for strictly recreational purposes in many states.
However, education has remained mired in antiquated ideology and practices despite the horrifying warning signs evidenced by today’s youth, and nearly all of the remedies created by politicians and those who really don’t know education make matters worse, Don’t penalize absences or tardies? WHAT? Allow forever for students to complete assignments without penalty? WHAT? Give 50% for a ghost assignment that a student didn’t bother to do ? WHAT? Calling such measures nonsense is almost too kind.
All the rose colored glasses in the world can’t change the reality that the American education system is woefully inadequate.
Despite all logic and despite all the efforts of myriad professionals who remonstrate against the ludicrous practices that have seriously jeopardized today’s American youth, and despite the fact that the lack of discipline and lack of accountability have undoubtedly contributed to these problems, the unreasonable demands and irrational policies continue to come even as so many teachers abandon ship in the face of not being able to help our students or pay our bills.
The time for change has passed. We are playing catch up now. The ideas presented here by me are but a fragment of what needs to be done, but even a small step in the right direction beats continuing to rocket backwards.