Time to rethink how we teach our kids
Contrary to the Gazette's latest opinion about public education in West Virginia and the policymakers who are mostly focused on inefficiencies and test scores, now is the time and opportunity to think about education and learning differently.
Ironically, despite the fact that so much of the focus of education policy has been on raising student achievement, we have done very little to help children to value education and to understand why learning is important. Something is wrong with this approach.
Sadly, too many American children take education for granted. Some cut school if they can; others drop out altogether. Of course, some are pushed out in subtle and sometimes obvious ways because their presence is seen as a threat to obtaining higher scores and better performance. But others leave or become disengaged because their experience in school has left them bored and uninspired. Rather than developing a love of learning, too often students become less interested in it the longer they spend time in school.
We have not done enough to make education compelling and important. We have also not focused on creating schools where children would be excited and motivated to learn. Instead, we have devised policies that motivate children by fear. We threaten them with failure if they don't get good grades and test scores, and we rely on pressure to motivate them to do their best academically.
For many American kids this strategy isn't working. The pursuit of education has been totally disconnected with things that truly matter like helping one's family, solving the problems facing a community, or using education to fight for justice. It is hardly surprising that many students, including many of those who do well, treat education as a chore, a burden, and an unpleasant responsibility foisted upon them by adults who seek to make their lives miserable.
When it is all said and done, it is the kids who need school to change.
It is time to rethink almost everything about the process of teaching and learning but this is increasingly difficult in this era of testing and standardization.
Please read Dennis Littky's book "The Big Picture: Education Is Everyone's Business" or "Democratic Education in Practice: Inside the Mission Hill School" by Matthew Knoester for a compelling vision of what learning could and should be.
Learn where our money problems originate
Perhaps the most telling indication of shortcomings in the West Virginia public education system is the fact that we have so many citizens railing about President Obama spending so much money. Evidently most have either forgotten or never learned in the first place that revenue bills originate in the House of Representatives and that presidents cannot appropriate money. Every civics student should remember the old story about Teddy Roosevelt sending the U.S Navy fleet half way round the world and Congress having to appropriate money to bring it back. Congress appropriates money. Congress borrows money.
At this point, our total debt is becoming a problem. Instead of blaming Obama, dig up your old civics book and read the Constitution of the United States. It is never too late to learn.