Monday, September 17, 2012

The Root of Failure

I'll give credit to the Oshkosh Northwestern for their in-depth examination Sunday of the efforts undertaken by the Oshkosh School District to lower the freshman failure rate at its two high schools.

The lengthy article details the added staff, intervention programs and general babysitting techniques being employed by high school staff to try and get kids to pass all their classes.  Unfortunately, the entire article really could have been about two paragraphs long.  Specifically, the two paragraphs where students admit that they failed their classes because they "found them boring" and that "it's more imporant to fit in at school than to do well in classes". 

And there is your root of the so-called "decline" of the American education system.  Children no longer come to school in anticipation of learning--but instead  they come expecting to be "entertained".  Like kindergarten teachers should be Elmo or Dora the Explorer, elementary school teachers should be Spongebob Squarepants, middle school teachers should be iCarly and high school instructors should be Snooki and The Situation from The Jersey Shore.

Maybe teachers should forget about dry erase boards and just "tweet" or text their information to the kids in their classrooms.  Longer items can be posted on their Facebook walls or their Instagram pages.  That seems to be the only thing that can hold a teenager's attention nowadays.  Or, maybe lectures should be videotaped and streamed on YouTube, so the kids can watch on their tablets--rather than having to watch a real person standing in front of them in the classroom.  And everyone will have to listen on their individual Beats Audio headpones or iPod earbuds.

The Northwestern article could have added a few paragraphs featuring comments from the parents of failing students as well.  I'd love to hear about their reaction when they found out their child was falling behind.  Did they ask to see completed homework?  Did they require their kids to read their textbooks every night before logging onto the computer or plopping down in front of the video games?  Did they make sure the kids were getting to bed early enough so they weren't tired for that first class of the day?  For some reason, I doubt they did.  It's much easier to blame the teachers and the school for "not helping their child enough".

So what can we--the educated taxpayers picking up the tab for this major effort--learn from this article?  That we face a simnple choice: hold students and parents more accountable for their education and success in the classroom--or continue to dump more and more money into an effort that is proving to be fruitless.

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