By Andrew L. Sullivan
While not everyone may agree there are problems with educating children today, most agree there can be vast improvements. All sorts of issues have arisen regarding schools and each new problem is entrenched in previous problems as well as the general culture. Many have called for reform with ideas for school vouchers, charter schools and home school, empowering parents with greater options. In Nebraska groups like
All have fostered a call to change.
While some ideas may work better than others, the importance of giving parents greater options is crucial to helping parents and students to be break the mode of being passive to the latest culture trend or a mere subject to the school. Instead of just making certain kids get to school, learning becomes the focus and helps student become successful adults. Such reforms also will allow for greater innovation.
Innovation is important as both public and private schools are highly resistant to change. Even with reforms for school choice nationwide, the education establishment has largely co-opted such reforms and muddied up the results. Public schools are buried in administrative meetings, unions have their demands, and regulations plague the entire education system. While private schools have much going for them, often they are trapped by their own bureaucracies.
The education establishment is so heavily and culturally embedded, it has its own way of speaking and communicating. In attending an education conference, I had just missed the introductions but speaker after speaker, I could easily tell who the school administrators were just by voice. Their use of language was muted and monotone and put listeners to sleep. Listening to them was pointless. These administrators had spent so much time talking to each other over the years, and their words had become so scripted, they had lost the ability to engage and inspire their audience or offer any legitimately good idea and it was because they were largely absent from the reality. Their line of thinking was basically “your child is our property” and they encouraged parents to act accordingly.
At the same time, the world is going through an information revolution, breaking down cultural barriers and allowing subcultures and other trends to blend and rise with the massive flows of information. Access to information has never been easier, yet the latest generation of Americans, the Millennials, appear to have been lead to believe school is just a time to socialize and read a handful of books and become indoctrinated in to a set of beliefs, instead of understanding the necessity of learning and becoming a successful person.
Most people understand the flaws and problems with information from the internet. But for millennial generation who are just a bit savvier with the internet than their elders, a lie not only travels faster than the truth but at internet speed. What many people still do not understand about the internet is there is little filtering of information and often it is raw or an outright lie. When viewing internet information, you have to double check it because, you and only you, are the one judging such information. Unfortunately, many do not make sufficient judgment or critical evaluation of such information because their education never provided the base of knowledge and critical thinking necessary for the information age. This problem has impacted millennials and it shows in the “documentaries” they liked over the years.
A movie called Loose Change tried to claim the 9/11 attacks were an inside job by the US government. The magazine Popular Mechanics was so disturbed by the illogical claims, they used their website to debunk the whole conspiracy. (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military/news/1227842)
Later, Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11 borrowed many ideas which had been circulating around the internet. The movie has so many pieces of false information, researcher David Koppel ended up collecting revelations of the false information and posted them on his web site (http://www.davekopel.com/redirect/Terror/Fiftysix-Deceits-in-Fahrenheit-911.htm). Neither of these films would have taken hold without the internet but they also should have not taken hold because of the internet. People took the stories as fact without checking and comparing the information. They read headlines but not facts. Our education system failed to defuse such ignorance and actually helped such films to proliferate by leaving students ignorant. The proliferation of remedial courses is evidence enough.
In Nebraska, the education reforms have been slow to arrive and minimal. Knowing many who will read this already have young children, let me share with you my advice. Breakdown the indoctrination system and add to your child’s thinking. Supplement their learning. Turn learning into a habit, not a chore. The way to do this is when they ask you a question, tell them to look it up. In fact, push it further. Ask if they learned any new words today and if they say “no”, ask them to find a new word. Ask them what the capital of a particular state is, and then challenge them to tell you all they can find about such city. There are even websites such as Khan Academy with all sorts of lessons, including how to build a robot (https://www.khanacademy.org/science/discoveries-projects/robots/all-about-spout/v/spout-bot-at-santa-rita-elementary-school).
But don’t limit such inquires to the Internet and books. Spread it on to people too. So your child is staring at a handicapped person or other person at Church? Challenge your child and say “If you are going to stare, go up and introduce yourself to them and ask them to share their story.” Your child may look away or they may surprise you and go ask the question! I assure you, everyone loves to tell their story and your child will hear a story worthy of learning. Learning is always going involve asking a question. If you have fear of asking questions, you do not learn and you are left with the indoctrination and dogma handed to you. If people are to help each other, whether sick, imprisoned, retired or homeless or just their neighbors and family, they must be able to ask questions of each other to learn more. Regardless, changing the education system will take time which your child does not have. Engage with them now.