The Wake County School system, and public education in the U.S. in general, is failing our students, and here is a snippet, from a mom’s perspective, of why:
The curriculum completely ignores geography – at no point in my own children’s time in elementary or middle school, have they been asked to even learn the states in the United States or their capitals. How can we be expected to understand or compete in a global society when our students don’t even know where anything is, or have a concept of their place within the world overall?
The curriculum ignores basic tenets of social studies. For example, kids aren’t taught the difference between a town, a city, a county, a state, or how our society works. My kids were never even taught how to properly address an envelope. But they learned economic theory in 3rd grade – the difference between goods and services. Because every third grader should know that.
Correct spelling isn’t emphasized at all. I was told by an elementary school teacher that students were encouraged to focus on writing a story and they weren’t corrected for spelling because doing so would interrupt their creativity. They said spelling would be taught later. It never was. It’s still not corrected on my kids’ assignments.
Critical thinking isn’t taught. Much ado is made about teaching multiple methods of solving a math problem in elementary school to ensure that students “get it” by one method, if another doesn’t work. And kids are assessed on their reading based on their deeper comprehension. But that’s it, and it’s only in elementary school. Since my kids have been in middle school, they haven’t written a single critical essay on anything they’ve read. Maybe they discuss it as a class, but they aren’t asked to individually think about, anything, write their thoughts, and prove their theory. They haven’t moved beyond the five paragraph structure. My oldest child can solve a math problem based solely on memorizing an algebraic formula, but she doesn’t understand the deeper concept of why she’s solving the problem, or why the formula works to solve the problem. There is no practical application taught for anything they’re learning. They (might) learn or memorize the problem, but if they don’t understand why they’re learning it, what’s the point?
While our students sit in school for six hours, merely brushing the surface of the topics of language arts, social studies, science and math, educators are all the while debating the merits of limited grading and how to improve self esteem. Every base class in high school is now labeled an “honors” class. Students are allowed to join academic honor societies not because they’ve worked hard , shown a passion for the particular subject, and excelled beyond the expectation. No – these aren’t requirements at all. They must only have a B average and want to join. High schools with 60% proficiency in the core subjects and a dismal number of students achieving a satisfactory score on the ACT test are somehow also graduating 97% of their students and patting themselves on the back for it. Schools are eliminating the identification of a valedictorian at graduation because the competition is just too stress-inducing and fierce.
There’s a lot wrong with this picture and I wonder how we devolved into this state of things in a relatively short period of time. I’m all for trying to find a way to help lower performing students achieve, but I don’t agree with this dumbing down of the education system, this pushing everyone to the middle, and that is what is happening here. I’d like to say it’s happening just in Wake County, but I’m hearing from family in Maryland that the situation is the same there, too. In fact, it’s happening at the college level as well. Professors are being pressured to give students higher grades, so as not to tick off parents, risk damaging the school’s reputation, and see enrollments drop.
I believe there are many culprits: A generation of parents whose children, in their opinion, can do no wrong, helicopter parenting, local school boards and state legislatures that are too interested in the next fad in education, an overly litigious society, and the elevation of importance attached to financial gain over doing the right thing.
As a parent, I worry that I’m doing my kids an injustice in sending them to public school. I wonder what I can do to effect change for all students and I wonder what, exactly, is wrong with challenging kids? I understand the appeal of homeschooling and am drawn to the idea of it, while also realizing the inherent dangers associated with it.
I do believe that a lack of education is truly a danger to democracy and I believe we can’t just send our kids to school anymore and assume the school is doing a good enough job of educating them, because it’s not. And while I like to think I’ll have time to fill in the gaps in my kids’ learning through outside enrichment activities, at home discussion of a wide variety of topics, and travel, that hasn’t happened as much as I’d like because life gets in the way. And besides, most people don’t have the time, money, or resources to supplement in this way. And they shouldn’t have to, if public education was effective. Unfortunately, in its current state, it’s not.