Putting the Teach back in Teaching
Education has been broken for a long time, but what has happened to education recently? We no longer teach the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic that everyone used to know. Now we teach children how to do math the “Common Core” way and parents are unable to help their children with their homework. We are stripping teachers of their ability to choose the best way to teach their classes and making it more difficult than ever to teach students to be educated citizens. Why have we, the people, allowed this to happen? Why are we not fighting back? We must limit the role of the government in educational policy.
Government has been involved in education since before America was even a country, but within the last 60 years, the federal government has become increasingly vocal in their involvement in elementary and secondary education. Sam Blumenfeld, a journalist for The New American, states in his article “Why the Federal Government Should Get Out of Education” that the government passed eleven minor pieces of legislation regarding education between 1867 and 1940. The 13 years after 1965, there were 43 pieces of legislation passed; that is nearly four times as many regulations in a sixth of the time. The government is becoming a boundless power as they continue to infringe on education. From standardized testing to Common Core, the government has sucked the fun out of learning in school.
What we need is less government involvement and more teaching in education. The government does some good things for education. Eighty-five percent of the funding comes from some form of government (local, state, and federal) and without the government, school curriculum could potentially drastically vary across districts and state lines. This being said, they have created a ridiculous amount of regulations that should be subjected to no one. They have made it difficult to actually teach substantial information. They have subjected teachers and students to the wickedness and pointlessness of standardized testing.
The pointlessness of these government sanctioned standardized tests is why Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, believes parents should opt their child out of standardized testing. They have taken the teach out of teaching. Teachers feel like they have to teach to the test because the tests do not comply with the already mandated curriculum; these government required tests are creating robot teachers and making the students feel as though they are in a factory rather than a school. Not only do we need to put the teach back into teaching, but we also need to put the teachers back in the charge.
The government has no business being in education in the same capacities as it has previously held. The federal and state governments are infringing on education, and preventing teachers from doing what they a) are passionate about, and b) what they went to school to get a degree and a certificate in. Changing education is a tricky business; there are many problems and even more possible solutions. I cannot propose one solution without bringing up other possible solutions, but the three biggest issues that must be resolved at one time are: limit the federal and state governments, put teachers back in charge, and enhance ongoing training for teachers. If we do just one of these things, we will be no better off than if we did none of them.
The first step in this three step solution is to limit the involvement of the state and federal government in education. Education falls into most people’s top three “must haves,” so why are we letting government officials, who have no background in teaching and education, create legislation that affects it? Not only are there uneducated, inexperienced people creating the laws, but school districts rely on the some form of government for 85 percent of funding, which means as the national debt increase, and budget cuts are made, education receives less and less funding.
Less funding means less resources and less resources means a lower quality education. Lori Rice, a fourth-grade teacher in Kansas, wrote a letter to Kansas government officials detailing a day in her life as a teacher in a school where resources are limited because of funding. In addition to distributing the funds, the government also requires schools follow certain guidelines and regulations in order to receive those funds (No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and Standardized Testing). We cannot just limit the role of the government though and call our problems solved; we must also put teachers back in charge and continue their training.
The second step in this solution is to put teachers in charge of education. Just think about what would happen if we put those whom we trust to teach our children, in charge of creating the guidelines for teaching and educating the young minds of America. It makes sense that those who face the classroom everyday are also the same ones regulating what is being taught in that classroom. It does not make sense to have officials in Washington D.C. (and in state capitols) creating legislation that is geared toward teachers and students when they themselves have not stepped foot into a K-12 classroom since leaving the public school system. Does it? We have state boards of education and the US Department of Education that claim that they know what is best for our schools, but in reality, they do not experience the legislation they put in place. The teachers do, so put them in charge of creating that legislation and regulations.
The last step is to continue training teachers; they need training before they enter the classroom and once they are in it. We cannot see education improve if we do not begin by building better teachers. If teachers are going to be required to teach children about today’s world (which they should), then they need to be trained in today’s world. Education does not end for teachers; there is always a new theory, a new approach, or a new device that is being developed for educating children and teachers need to know about it!
Teachers go to in-services and workshops throughout the year, but if we are going to change they way we run our education system, we need to boost our teachers’ ongoing training. There is a saying that states “you learn something new everyday,” which means learning does not stop. Why should training stop for teachers? Experienced teachers know how to run a classroom and what works and doesn’t, but without ongoing training, those experienced teachers are not going to learn new approaches, new technologies, and new lessons. We cannot let teachers go without continuous training because we expect them to be the best in their field.
So, what does this mean to/for you? As voters, no matter how small the population, we are ultimately responsible for deciding who will be making decisions about the education of children past, present, and future. We are, in part, to blame for the issues that have been created by legislators and elected officials. If we are going to complain about the way our education system is failing, then we need to educate ourselves on what is happening in Congress in regards to education. We need to stand up and make our voices heard. We can change nothing if we do not speak up. We, the people, have the power to commence an education reform like no other.
Yes, we need some kind of regulation for each grade level so that students in sixth grade in schools across America are learning approximately the same thing. Yes, we need sources of funding for education (perhaps the government, perhaps not). Yes, we need qualified teachers to teach our children. Yes, education is key to our future, but that does not mean it should be another pawn in the hands of the government. We need teachers in charge of education regulations and requirements. We need passionate, qualified teachers in classrooms making a difference in students’ lives. We need teachers who have continuous training and workshops so that they remain qualified to teach the children of tomorrow.
If we want to see change, we must first make change. We must stand up against our government on matters relating to education and vote. Your voice matters. Our voices matter. Vote. Vote to limit government involvement in education. Vote to put current teachers in charge of creating education policies. Vote to continue to train teachers. Or vote against those things. Whatever you do, make your voice heard. Silence does not win. Silence has no power in voting.