Education Tunnel Vision
(This is part 2 of a 5 part series on why our school system is horribly broken)
“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.” — Peter Drucker – Men, Ideas & Politics
With education reform initiatives we keep focusing on improving our schools. Having better accountability, better testing, better teachers, and around it goes. These initiatives like to pretend that student issues can be fixed simply by fixing schools.
In my opinion this approach is the equivalent of trying to fix a car with a broken engine by cleaning the car and replacing the tires. Yes it looks nice, but it still isn’t going anywhere.
Bad Grades – More Than Just a Classroom Issue
For many students the biggest issues affecting their grades are outside of the classroom. Life is connected. Poor health, absent parents, and crime ridden neighborhoods can destroy a student’s academic performance.
“Much of new information about childhood and poverty uncovered by psychologists and neuroscientist can be daunting to anyone trying to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children. We now know that early stress and adversity can literally get under a child’s skin, where it can cause damage that lasts at lifetime….The effect of good [or bad] parenting is not just emotional or psychological, the neuroscientists say; it is biochemical.” – Paul Tough – How Students Learn
“[ACE scores compared to adult health] The correlations between adverse childhood experiences and negative adult outcomes were so powerful that they “stunned us”… The adversity these patients had experienced in childhood was making them sick through a pathway that had nothing to do with behavior” – Paul Tough – How Students Learn
The research continues to mount that the parenting and the home environment are more important than anything that happens in the classroom. Many students do not have supportive “community” outside of the school.
For most students this need for community support is not being address. If you don’t at least address the root causes of the student’s issues it will be very difficult to help them.
Eliminating Tunnel Vision
While I am not advocating a nanny state. Schools do need to take a big picture view when trying to improve underperforming students and schools. Schools should be more active in partnering with organization who provide support and development outside of the school.
For example: Instead of increasing school funding, maybe we need to increase funding for prison job training and anti-recidivism programs. This would help more men in poor communities stay out of prison, find jobs, and provide a positive influence on the community instead of a non-existent or negative influence.
The best solution will be different for each city, but trying to improve student outcomes by only focusing on schools is a fool’s errand. We need programs that engage all parts of the community. Programs that strengthen the community not infantilize the community.
In the next post we will look at how schools infantilize many of their students, and encourage them to be less self-sufficient.
Next Post: Infantilization of a Generation
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Recommended Further Reading: Matthew R. Morris – Students are People First (Medium Post)
A few excerpts from the above article:
“Almost always, these judgements are based on the narrowed and limited views of a “student”. But students are people first. When you are stuck teaching students day in and day out, it is easy to forget that your students are more than pupils existing in your class from 8:30 a.m until 3:30 p.m from Monday to Friday.”
“Teachers often forget that school is just a portion of a student’s lived experience. Teachers place homework, tests and attitude towards school on a pedestal while forgetting that kids spend the majority of their time away from school — at home, with family, tending to situations that do not require a pencil and paper.”