Sunday, March 6, 2011

Think!

Talk about that teacher getting suspended for (anonymously) complaining on her blog about students and the education system. I remember the news stories quoting her saying things like students are lazy these days. They don’t want to do anything, they complain if you challenge them to be creative, and they feel entitled to whatever they want.

That’s gotten me thinking about something that happened in ninth grade art class. The teacher wanted us to create an island and draw it. The kid sitting across from me made a drawing of a Nike swoosh as a landmass and populated it with vegetation. Even at the time I marveled at this. That was his whole world. A damn corporate logo. There was a commercial where this kid’s imagination should have been.

It’s been a problem for years, and it just keeps getting worse. Even when I was a kid, there were children entering fifth grade who couldn’t read, and nothing was done about it, not because people are lazy and don’t want to solve a problem, but because nobody has time. There aren’t enough teachers to go around, and with so many budget cuts, if a few kids fall behind, there is no one who can take the time to help them.

For some reason, schools stopped teaching phonics, too, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many kids can’t read shortly after this happened. I learned by phonics. I maybe have been one of the last classes to be taught to read this way, and it works perfectly. It’s the basis of written language. Why not teach the sounds each letter makes instead of teaching kids what individual words are?

School doesn’t teach kids how to use their minds anymore, if it ever did. Thanks to computers, kids aren’t learning how to do anything. They don’t have to memorize the multiplication tables anymore because computers do all the multiplying for them. Kids don’t learn how to spell anymore because computers check spelling, grammar, and even format documents for them. Hell, teachers use handwritten assignments as punishment for misbehaving! When I heard that, I was so mad; it used to be the ONLY way to do assignments! Computer-written assignments weren’t required until I was in high school. Until then, everything from worksheets to history reports was handwritten.

These days, middle-schoolers are required to have laptops. Like…why?

I grew up on the very tail end of the technology age. Computers weren’t part of the classroom until high school. Calculators weren’t in classrooms until the seventh grade, and weren’t required until high school. I did all my assignments by hand until the ninth grade. I had to memorize the multiplication tables. I had to learn grammar and spelling.

Now that technology has taken over, I feel like I’ve earned the right to use a calculator to do math. I feel like I’ve earned the privilege to type everything on a computer, and let it check my spelling. I went through the period where I had to do all of this by hand, so my reward is the computer automating it.

Kids these days have all of that already. They’re used to everything being done for them instantly. It’s not good preparation for the real world, and it doesn’t teach kids how to think for themselves. Instead, they’re taught to plug the numbers in and the calculator spits out the right answer. No explanation for how this works, or why, just plug it in and the computer does it for you.

The result: kids resent putting forth an effort to do anything. We’re not teaching children how to take what they have and make it work; no, they’re given laptops and calculators and taught to use these things to get their answers. They learn procedure, not ingenuity.

That teacher shouldn’t have been suspended for speaking the truth. It’s a symptom of a bigger problem: people don’t think anymore. We’re not teaching our children how to think for themselves. In fact, we’re raising them in an environment wherein they don’t have to think in order to achieve anything. It’s all done for them.

We are not resourceful. We are not creative. We’re used to being provided for. This is a very dangerous thing.

And now education budgets are being cut even deeper. Yeah, good idea, let’s teach our children even less. All the taxes we’re paying in this country, how can states be broke? Richest nation in the world, and we can’t even afford to teach our children the basics, and yet, somehow, prisons have internet access and inmates receive upgraded gym equipment. One quarter of my income goes to taxes. I’m one of some 300 million people in my country. Where is all this money going?! Roads and bridges are falling apart, schools are shutting down, police officers are getting laid off because states can’t afford them anymore! What is it being spent on?!

What kind of country is this when school sports teams have to do fundraisers in front of Wal-mart just to exist? Not too long ago, that was state funded. Why isn’t this money being used to fix the real problems?

Well, when the motivation of a nation’s people is profit, what do we expect? People care more about making themselves rich than being useful in the world.

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