The (Flawed) Culture of Education Today

The cartoon above depicts one of the most troubling aspects for educators today.  Teacher accountability is spiraling out of control; from parent blame for their child’s poor grades to pressure from administrators and government officials who decide how much funding the school receives based on student test grades.

Fifty years ago teachers worked in a simpler educational system; corporal punishment did not carry the stigma it does today (although I do not condone the practice) and the curriculum did not have to be altered in an effort to produce better test scores.  Today, technology-driven students are driven by instant gratification while being over stimulated through smartphones and social networking.  This, in turn, has led to a culture of youth entitlement and parents adhering to their children’s every need, however ridiculous.

What this means for teachers is that their class’s attention span continues to wane, forcing them to be more like “edutainers” than educators.  While not all teachers subscribe to this ideology, most if not all are affected by their students’ behavior.

To find some form of solution, as minimal as it may be, teachers must first look towards their administrators.  As mentioned in a previous post, the culture of education in America is lacking and parent involvement continues to dramatically decline when it is the most needed.  That is not to say all parents fail to play an active role in their child’s education.  Many parents are very outspoken and critical of schools and educators.

In many cases, if a parent is upset by the way a teacher is conducting their class or their child is receiving poor grades, they by-pass the teacher and go straight for an administrator.  This is where steady communication between teachers and administrators is essential as it eliminates doubt on both ends, producing a singular narrative.

The problems with some children today are their growing dependency upon their parents, shortening attention spans influenced by instant gratification and stimulation overload and overall apathy towards learning.

How do teachers combat this new breed of student?  That is a great question.  Technological approaches never hurt as teachers use one of their most prominent barriers in reaching students and use it to their advantage.

My teaching philosophy has always focused on a student-centered, expeditionary learning model with differentiated instruction/assessment, so developing lesson plans that are stimulating and diverse is a necessity.

Some teachers, disenchanted with the prospect of change, are not willing to conform and remain conservative in their philosophical approach.  It is usually this type of teacher who gives the anti-tenure argument strength and validity.

To use another political cartoon, the one above shows how teachers continue to be stripped of leverage and authority within the classroom.  As hard as any teacher attempts to adapt to this generation of student, the politics are grossly one-sided and not in their favor.

I ask again, what can teachers do to not be the punching bag for both parents/students and administrators/school boards?  Does reinvigorating your lesson plans and catering to the students’ un-quenching desire to be electronically stimulated help?  What about basing their pay on student performance on standardized tests?

Quite honestly, there is no definitive answer.  The debate between merit pay and tenure is for another post, but the sheer existence of merit pay illustrates how teachers are under fire from every angle.

Both of the cartoons portray explicit messages illustrating the low respect shown towards teachers.  Students will not, and cannot, accept blame nor take any responsibility for their actions, parents refuse to believe that collaborating with teachers will help their child succeed, and administrators expect high test scores because they are instrumental to the school’s flow of revenue and prestige.  It is worth noting that the United States is not alone in this problem.

France is going through this same stage of change in parent attitude towards their partnership with teachers.  The emphasis on preserving the child’s self-esteem while sacrificing their fortitude and ability to accept failure is a major concern for the United States and beyond.

Do parents over-protect their kids?  How bad off are teachers really?  How can this be remedied?  Please share your thoughts.  And remember, when I explain students, teachers, parents and administrators I do not use absolutes.  By mentioning a group I do not imply every single teacher or every single student.  There will always be exceptions to the rule and in this case there are plenty.