FINAL BLOG IN A SERIES: The country, the culture and the people who are a part of the problem and not a part of the solution to the spiraling downfall in American education.
This is the final blog regarding the specific topic of What’s Really Wrong With American Education. I would encourage you to go back and read all previous blogs on the subject. Next week there will be no blogging as I travel to my home state of Nebraska to speak about my book. Oh, and if you missed the title: Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child! (Amazon/Barnes and Noble).
Today’s topic: Is Everyone Welcomed? The country, the culture and the people who are a part of the problem and not a part of the solution to the spiraling downfall in American education.
THE COUNTRY: At the age of eight my dad took me to my first Nebraska football game. I didn’t even know much about football but almost everyone in Nebraska looked at Saturday game days as a social event. The band marched on the field, as we were asked to stand for the raised U.S. flag . A 170 member band boldly played the National Anthem. Something inside me welled up in my soul. Goose bumps sat up on my arms as the song continued. Tears formed in my eyes for no reason other than there was an emotional connection to my country’s flag and the Star Spangled Banner. From that moment on, at the age of eight, I knew I loved this country. And when I grew older, I loved it even with its faults.
When I turned 13, school prayer (and later the Bible) were removed from public schools. I was not aware of its impact at the time. In 1962, the Unites States Supreme Court didn’t ask God to leave our schools. They demanded it. Arguably, the court appeared to make the mention of God illegal in our public education. I know this to be true as a choral director. If the word “God” appeared in any music literature, many times a student or parent would demand I remove the song.
Before you click “end“on this blog because I am probably one of those Christian nuts. I am. Christian, hopefully not nuts! And before you use the favorite anti-Christian word “hypocrite”, let me assure you I was the victim of such hypocrisy. For it was my principal and colleague after my job who attended my church. The other colleague who constantly accused me of not being a team member, is the wife of a pastor. I get it! I am not proposing Christian prayer or Bible class. What I am proposing is that students and teachers of Christian faith have a voice in the public school system. Academic classes should hold a balance of thought. Margaret Mead, who said children should be taught how to think and not what to think , would like this model: When speaking of the Big Bang Theory, the lesson should be balanced with Creationism, with the teacher staying neutral in the presentation. Then children can weigh the lecture with the walk of life they journey. Today, one would be hard pressed to hear even the mention of creationism in the context of how our universe was formed. It is time to re-evaluate how biology, human reproduction, history, English literature and science are presented. By the way, the Supreme Court didn’t actually kick God out. But their decision made it easier for a few to cancel the Christian perspective in the public school setting. So the poster Everyone Is Welcome may not necessarily apply to the Christian community.
THE CULTURE: The definition of Secular Progressive, according to yourdicftionary.com is: a non-religious person or organization that promotes and supports liberal change and reform.
Interestingly, the so called culture wars date back to the 1920’s with the polarization of the rural communities and the “Roaring ‘20s” urbanites.
James Davison Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, introduced the expression again in his 1991 publication, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. Hunter described what he saw as a dramatic realignment and polarization that had transformed American politics and culture.
He argued that on an increasing number of “hot-button” defining issues—abortion, gun politics, separation of church and state, privacy, recreational drug use, homosexuality, censorship—there existed two definable polarities. Furthermore, not only were there a number of divisive issues, but society had divided along essentially the same lines on these issues, so as to constitute two warring groups, defined primarily not by nominal religion, ethnicity, social class, or even political affiliation, but rather by ideological world-views.
My thoughts? Unfortunately the American public has allowed and even promoted those cultural conflicts as an integral part of the school system. Why are we addressing gender neutrality restrooms when our kids can’t read at grade level? Do we really need to spend part of a classroom period asking each child which pronoun he/she/they/them prefer? Why are debate subjects of pro-choice vs pro-life required when we are not addressing college preparation or life skills courses? Why is a theory about race taught to shame white children and victimize children of color when teen suicides skyrocket every year? And my favorite: why do schools insist on using smart phones, tablets and computers for an entire day when experts warn that too much screen time may have effects on brain development.
According to Dr. Lamont Moore, Director of Educational Leadership at Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina: Studies have shown that students who spent more than two hours a day using screens scored lower on language and thinking tests (Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development, 2018). It has also been said that students who spend more than seven hours a day may experience thinning of the brain’s cortex. The brain’s cortex is the part of the brain that is related to reasoning skills and critical thinking.
Again, my thoughts? Parents need to start parenting, especially when their children are in the public schools. If nothing else, Covid taught us that parents discovered an entirely different school environment as they watched their children attend online schooling.
THE PEOPLE: In a simple word, activism has long played a role in education, both positively and negatively. According to Terri S. Wilson, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder, there are three ways to deal with today’s issues in public education: opt out, dissent and activism. I concur.
Parents need to opt out of schools which have a political agenda (either conservative or liberal). Students need to opt out of classes designed to alienate one another or squash freedom of speech. Teachers need to opt out of working for a school district which is reactive and not proactive. Administrators need to opt out of adding any “push the envelope” 21st century class designed to polarize students.
We, as a community, need to dissent out loud when poor choices are made at the local schools. Here are examples I know of personally: rap music (clean lyrics but unwholesome messages) played on the school intercom before classes start; teachers who use profanity in the classroom; coaches who diminish players’ abilities with rants about failure; boys identifying as girls using girls’ restrooms and locker rooms; electives taught for their political agenda and administrators allowing bad behavior in the classroom.
We, as a community, need to get off our recliners to attend school board meetings, monitor how our children are taught and insure our children are being nurtured in a safe environment. Most importantly, throwing more money at our school systems has not worked in the past. We are fourth in the world in education expenditures but our literacy rate in the world is seventh, behind Switzerland and Sweden. Quite frankly, I do not believe those statistics. In doing extensive research, the U.S. education and achievement levels range from 1st to 27th. Oversight committees should wield power over the school districts to guarantee tax payers’ money is spent prudently, expeditiously and with integrity.
I’m Paula Baack, the author of Rescue the Teacher, Save the Child!,
TUNE IN SEPTEMBER 27. Here’s a tease: Poetry with a punch!
PLEASE SHARE THIS LINK WITH ANY AND ALL. If you’re experiencing unfair practices in your teaching position, please reach out to me at rescuetheteacher @yahoo.com! Please subscribe to my podcast: paulabaack.substack.com.