Friday, August 12, 2011

Is it the school or something more?

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In a time when Education is under the microscope, Gallup has released a poll that shows that Americans have less and less confidence in the public school system.  While it’s easy to simply say “it’s public education stupid”, I’m more interested in looking at all variables that might be complementing societies growing disillusionment of schools.

The 1980’s are more interesting that historians give the decade credit for.  Usually the focus revolves around the “Conservative Revolution” and the fall of the Soviet Union.  But there are lots of things that impact education and the social order of the United States that occurred in the 1980’s, or the foundation was poured in the 1980’s. Here’s a list:

-Women became active participants in the workplace.  This created empty homes that children came home to and beginnings of “guilt money” (spoiled children) and the “ever-busy-child” (packing the schedule so the child is constantly doing something).

-Income inequality becomes stronger. The Gini Index (used in AP Comp Gov to show income inequality) shows clearly that the United States started having  issues with a wealth gap in the 1980’s.  The cause is irrelevant in this argument.  But the result was that two parents had to work to maintain a reasonable standard of living. 

-Media presence has grown.  I actually almost never go off and blame Fox News or MSNBC for the problems of the world.  And I’m not about to now.  But the constant 24hr news cycle has brought to the front problems that have always been there, just not hyped up into a media brew frenzy.  Then politicians have easy access to assess blame because they have an outlet willing to do the work for them.

-The Internet.  Like it or not, the Internet and video games have changed the way kids deal with school.  So many kids are connected online late at night or scoping their cell phones in class that school has become the secondary entity, and parents are pissed.  But noooooooooo…..can’t take away that cell phone. “I need it for work”.  My ass.

-Misinformation about charter schools.  The panacea of the Republican Party is one of the most misunderstood organs of education.  Most don’t realize that charters play on a different field yet yield no more successes and often worse failures.  Yet charters continue to be touted as the replacement for public education, although they are supposed be a part of public education, even though they won’t tell you that.

-General distrust of government.  As the article stated, the American people have become more and more wary of government programs while become more and more demanding of their existence.  Watergate and Vietnam started the distrust and the growing income gap (along with a seething media) have only widened it. 

I don’t see public perception of public schools changing until society steps in and gives itself a good shake-up. I teach Seniors in high school and believe it or not, many parents aren’t interested in educated kids as much as graduated kids. When teachers throw down the hammer, schools become “uncaring” and “inflexible”, and society sends a mixed message of increased accountability, but only when it best suits the individual.

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