A friend recently gave me a copy of “The Exhaustion of the American Teacher” by John Khun. As I read it, I was aware that this was yet another commentary about the state of ‘what’s wrong’ in education without any sense of the power of possibility of what education could be. I know that we can see the world as ‘us vs them’ and focus on placing blame where we think it should be and we can see ourselves as victims or we can move far beyond that to create what we want.
From my point of view, I believe that teachers are tired of having to be more than educators. They are expected to be well-versed in their subject areas and in matters of classroom management, questioning, assessment and evaluation, curriculum development, and lesson planning and delivery. Now, teachers are also expected to be de facto social workers, psychologists, psychometrists, and guidance counsellors, and conversant in nurturing character education, encouraging students to make healthy life style choices, and supporting student emotional growth.
That’s what is expected of teachers now – teach my child specific subject material, teach my child how to learn, guide my child to prepare for post-elementary and post-secondary life and learning, and teach my child how to be an emotionally and physically healthy person and support them in their efforts as they grow.
I believe that parents are tired, too. They work to provide home and shelter for their children. They struggle with increasing costs and strive to find a way to make things work. They want their children to have a better life than they did – better education, more opportunities for meaningful work, and possibilities to explore who they truly are. And there are times when, for all the parents’ work and effort, the future for their children seems a bit bleak.
As the world changes rapidly, everyone involved with children looks at what is happening and wonders, “How did it get this way?” And, as seems to be human nature, we cast around for answers and look for those to blame. We reason that it must be someone else’s fault and believe that, once we have rooted out who is responsible, we will be able to develop a plan to fix everything.
It is very easy to cast around for someone to blame. Parents, who can be confused by the speed at which things are changing, are often told that what’s wrong with education is the teachers who are often portrayed by governments and media as callous and uncaring and incompetent hacks whose jobs are protected by their unions whose sole purpose is to protect their members.
Decisions about education have always been driven by political considerations. In my life time, there has never been a Minister of Education who has been an educator before becoming a politician. And let’s not forget such policies as ‘No Child Left Behind’ and the like. Money is given to those schools whose students achieve at or above the expected level on standardized tests. Don’t achieve, no matter what the cause, and funding will be cut. Measure up or pay up!
Consider the world in which our children grow – a world of poverty and an increasingly disenfranchised and disenchanted middle class, a world where the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ continues to grow, a world of often vulgar ‘celebrities’, a world of often self-serving politicians, a world of too many power hungry CEOs, a world of over-paid athletes, and a world which lauds consumerism and materialism.
So who owns some of the responsibility for education? Parents who, like most of us, hand over authority to those they perceive as ‘experts’ and who don’t know who to give credence to? Teachers who are tired and confused and often beaten down by those who cross-question the decisions they make? Governments which pass laws without consulting with parents and teachers and students?
The reality is that everyone who has some involvement in the teaching of children – both in school and at home – parents, teachers, pundits and politicians – shares responsibility for the current state of education. And for believing that the current structure is the only structure – that it is impossible to dismantle it or change it or let it go.
It is past time to point fingers and seek to fix blame on anyone. That will never lead to anything changing and evolving. All we will continue to get is more of the same. We will lose sight of what we can create if we only focus on what has been.
So, we can believe that we are caught in a trap and that there is no way out. We can decide that we don’t have the right to create what we want. We can sit around and vent and feel that we are powerless victims or we can know that the change starts with a first step forward toward the future we want to create. We can choose what we want and then go about creating that. We can trust our right to be creators. We can work together to find solutions which work. And while we’re developing solutions and creating new, we need to ensure that our children are part of that process.
Note: If you are interested in learning about a different process, one that has the potential to explore a different way of being and choosing in your world, go to: http://www.wel-systems.com/programs/decloaking.