We All Can't Be Rocket Scientists If We're Too Fat For The Space Suit!

Parents and students need to be held accountable. We have to stop throwing money at our educational system. More money is not the solution. Lack of resources, and lack of funding are not the reasons our system is a failure. Great teachers and motivated students will engage in teaching and learning under the most dismal of circumstances. Just look at Afghanistan and other countries in Central America and around the world where children use twigs as writing utensils and the ground as paper. When there is a desire to learn, learning will take place even under the most extreme circumstances, and when someone is eager to teach, they do not need texts, tools or technology to do so. An eager and willing disposition will suffice. The problem in our country is our students have become apathetic. And adults have become apathetic and pathetic! As adults we keep lowering the standards, coddling students, enabling them, and simplying learning because we are afraid that if we make them think too much it will be hurt their self-esteem, and worse of all, we are afraid students won’t like us…guess what…they know we have low expectations for them; they know how to manipulate the system, and they know we are afraid to let them fail! When it did become child abuse to let a kid experience failure?

Our educational system is completely dysfunctional, and we have a vicious cycle of victims, victimizers, and accusers. First and foremost we have dysfunctional parents who do not value education. There are parents who are all about status under the semblance that they care about education. Along with the house and the car, the kids must be in honors or AP classes to compete and complete the “we’re better than you” profile. However, these parents all want the honors or gifted label for their kids, but not the rigor to be expected in these types of courses. Their kids are too busy playing sports or involved in other status building extra curriculars to be able to keep up with the required workload of an honors course.

Since the creation of the College Board AP program over 50 years ago, the number of students enrolled in AP classes has more than tripled. However, AP and Honors courses were once limited to the crème of the crop; today any Joe Schmoe can get in if mom or dad signs a waiver overriding a teacher’s recommendation. What does the teacher know? Joe Schmoe’s parents have to brag about Joe Schmoe to the other Joe and Jane Schmoes in suburbia. And here is where the crisis begins. Joe Schmoe can’t keep up with the rigor, nor does he have the motivation or the study skills or the innate desire to learn about all this AP “stuff”…he may be a good kid, but he is not a scholar, yet mom and dad and the spineless counselor lie to Joe and tell him he’s God’s gift to studenthood, and it’s the teacher’s fault he’s struggling! So now it’s the teacher’s fault! The principal calls her to a meeting, and he recommends that she make accommodations, and take Joe’s self-esteem into consideration, his future, his extracurriculars…Joe is the school’s basketball star for goodness sakes…Joe Schmoe might fail AP English, and God forbid that were to happen! This type of culture thrives across American suburbia, and it gave birth to a myriad of 21st century teaching issues such as increased teacher burnout, teacher harassment, grade inflation, lowered expectations and standards, the death of the deadline, conflict mediation between teacher and student, and so many more issues.

According to Mensa, only 2% of the population is considered “genius” and only 5% of the population has an IQ above 125! Visit any suburban middle or high school in the country and the number of honors classes surpasses the number of regular education classes. Statistically speaking it is impossible to have so many gifted and honors students in one suburban school. As a former teacher of the gifted for 15 years, I rarely had truly gifted students in my classroom, and only once did I teach a student who in my observation was a genius. My teaching experience supports the Mensa statistics. I taught lots of highly motivated students, but they were not all gifted. I also taught a lot of duds and way too many Joe Schmoes who would have been better off learning a trade than learning about Shakespeare. This created many issues for me as a teacher, and it often forced me to slow down the curriculum against my will. Notice I said slow because I refused to water it down, but in the end the system won, and my refusal to dilute forced me to quit! Which brings me to the tragic reality of why we have so many failing classrooms. Every class needs to be taught at the rigor where students will be challenged based on their ability level. We need to stop watering down the curriculum, and administrators and parents need to listen when a teacher says a student is able to do better, but is choosing not to. We need to tap into students’ innate desire to learn. We need to change our attitude about education and about teachers. We need to learn from those nations who value education and hold their teachers in high esteem. We need to create a culture in our country that values being smart. As human beings we are hardwired to want to learn; we need to make learning relevant and purposeful without compromising high standards so kids will want to learn.

We need to realize that we all cannot enroll in Rocket Science 101 if some of us have motion sickness, some of us are afraid to fly or if some of us are too fat to fit in the space suit.

Suburban parents listen up! Change your attitude or else! Nobody cares when you drive up the school driveway and drop off your Joe or Jane Schmoe in your leased luxury SUV; what should matter to you is if your child will have the knowledge and skills necessary to give himself a comfortable lifestyle in the future, if your child will have the critical thinking skills to be able to discern if he is being manipulated by his government, and if your child will have the intellect to be able to perserve a democratic government.


Anonymous said...

You're right that the curriculum - and not just for AP classes - has been watered down. I also have found, though, that many AP classes pack way too much information into the curriculum. So, it becomes an exercise in memorization rather than critical thinking.

In this age of the internet, when people can find out the answer to pretty much any question within seconds, it's critical that we move past rote learning. Children need to be able to solve problems, and study topics in more depth. Quality is so much more important than quantity.

Thank you so much for addressing this important topic.

dcsblueyes said...

You are so, so right. I wrote an article on my blog about this. (http://www.factualxchange.com/2010/03/education-reform-2010/)

We need to get our voices out there and tell our elected officials what we, as educators, being those who are seeing things first hand, what we need from them to help our students be more successful.

It is not more money. Yes, more money helps. But we need administrative, parental and legislative assistance in holding students AND parents accountable for the lack of participation and effort in their education.

dcsblueyes said...


I have been fighting the "packing too much information" before our standardized test (FCAT)
into the curriculum for years. Dade County adopted this years ago.

Students are unable to learn a concept fully, not matter how good or bad of a teacher you are. Sometimes they don't learn the concept and you still have to move on to the next concept whether students know it or not.

Then the frustration comes in for both teachers and students. GRADES!!! will suffer because everytime you grade a paper, chances are they will be of a failing mark and students will be frustrated as well.

Then, you have administrators hounding you to see why you have so many students failing.

Then, you have parents asking the very same questions.

Then,.......so many thens....!

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