Let Teachers Teach.
Mental Chain Reaction
Roars through the Classroom.
The Dumbing Down
of America and the World
Needs to be Reversed.
By J.D. Thornton
DATELINE: Saturday, September 20, 2003
Conway, Arkansas, USA
I have done a lot of independent research and asked people how things have changed over the last fifty years, especially in the field of education. The purpose of this work, however, is not to cite statistics, but to look at reasons why there is an education crisis. Some of these reasons are not always noted in professional journals, but to anyone who was once a child or has children, they should be understandable.
Over fifty years ago, teachers were not afraid to be mentors. They were not afraid to take time out and get to know their students. This was a good thing: It would give children another role model! Not only that, the teachers could figure out how each individual learns and try to help them reach their full potential. All of that started to unravel by the time the 1970s came around. More and more people were going through the educational system, and teachers were beginning to view students as numbers or names. Lesson plans became more bureaucratized. Many brilliant students were shut up because they got too far ahead of the system. Others who needed help were placed in inadequate special-ed facilities.
This problem only gets worse.
The Loss of Great Mentors.
There is very little economic incentive to be a teacher today, which often keeps many potentially great mentors of student minds from ever setting foot in a classroom or university! As a result, over time, not only does the system lose a certain amount of potential teachers of the highest quality, it might lose quantity as well.
In many cases, teachers who are in the field do not even teach their specialty. This can lead to a reduced quality of learning. It robs students of sources of inspiration, or sends them blindly into their studies. They don't have anyone to lead them.
Lack of classroom control is a problem at all educational institutions below university level. Fifty years ago, teachers could demonstrate authority by disciplining a student right in the classroom. These teachers also tried their best to demonstrate their knowledge of a certain topic. Both of these factors commanded respect in the classroom.
Can I Discipline You?
Nowadays, some junior high and high school teachers often have to obtain approval from the principal or parents to discipline a child. What kind of mixed signal does that send to students in need of discipline?
Another problem is the loss of enthusiasm to learn among students and teachers alike.
Fifty years ago, teachers often had guts and ambition — and fewer guidelines to restrict their best effort. They could make lessons exciting and individualistic. They had no problem doing a lot of hands-on activities or covering things not always found in textbooks.
Now there is air thick with a putrid blend of pseudo-academic smog: it reeks of apathy, laziness, and restriction. There are now regulations dictating what can and cannot be taught at a certain level, and in some cases, how it must be taught. Many teachers, because of these bogus regulations and restrictions, become burnt out and apathetic toward their jobs. One result is an environment of laziness in the student body. A cataclysmic and terrible mental chain reaction is set in motion!
The dumbing down of the world outside the classroom often results because of the dumbing down of the educational environment. Independent, joyous learners are often stifled at the prime of their cerebral activity. They often become disgruntled and may not always find the right outlet they need. This is not good for the individual because it can lead to self-destruction or lost potential; it is not good for society because one less brain is available to help think of a solution to a global crisis, or invent something new, or contribute something of value to society.
Many schools K-12 have become basic holding cells for children during the daytime. They no longer have fun there, they no longer feel respectful of authority (hell, what authority is there to respect?), and they certainly no longer really feel like learning, except for a few self-determined individuals. (My hat certainly goes off to them!)
Let's Look at the Solutions.
The solutions sound so simple.
Give teachers more classroom authority.
Pay attention not only to average Joes and Janes, but also to the special ones on either extreme of the spectrum.
Get better trained, better motivated teachers. Increase their economic incentive to be in the classroom. Reduce the bureaucratic guidelines in teaching. Let teachers teach as motivated, dedicated individuals. Let them help other individuals to learn and think with freedom and creativity.
When these necessary changes will ever happen I cannot know. I just simply hope they will before it is too late. I wish this not so much for my sake, but for the sake of future generations. I want them to have a better world than the one we have now.
A College Man
of Many Interests.
Name a subject, any subject, and it's likely that J.D. Thornton can speak about it with enthusiasm and curiosity. Passionate in his eclectic pursuit of knowledge, the 21-year-old senior at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway is an English major with plans to attend law school sometime before the Mayan Calendar ends. A native of the Ouachita Mountain town of Mena in far western Arkansas, J.D. is interested in traveling, weightlifting, running, swimming, snorkeling, reading, writing, amateur astronomy, and studies of the paranormal. Academically, his favored disciplines are world history, languages, and sociology.
NOTE: J.D.'s E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
*This is the next step toward THE One World Language.
Step Fourteen: *Your fricatives in the frying pan.