Imagine this, if you will, for a moment: An average student, doesn't make any waves academically, but is exemplary when it comes to behavior. Quiet, well-spoken, hasn't caused any trouble. Until now. Penalized for a minor offense with a major punishment. For committing something that isn't even listed on the write-up sheet, this student will face discomfort and humiliation, while other students, who've learned to fly under the radar and cause as much havoc with little punishment, continue on their merry way. Those with more experience under their belt just shake their heads in resignation and tell the horrified student to stop trying to make sense of the whole thing. With a world-weary smile, they reply to the student's cries for justification that when school administrations start to make sense is the same days pigs will fly.
As another school year rolls around, so do more tales of the woeful state of the country's education system. Stories pour in from every state imaginable, filled with accounts of blatant incompetence, injustice, and outright bureaucratic nonsense. In this age of the "It's Not My Job..." mentality and zero-tolerance policies infiltrating every fiber of every school's being, those who managed to escape in one piece must ask, "What has happened to education?"
What has happened to education? We teach students to memorize facts, spit them out, and then promptly forget them. Instead of teaching students to work out math problems in their head, (longer to instruct, but better for critical thinking) they're taught to use calculators. Whole lessons are being thrown out because there's no time to teach with when standardized testing objectives are on the line. No one knows why they're learning anything anymore. English, Science, History, Math. Why learn it? Because the teacher said so. You learn it because it's on the standardized test. You learn it because someone decided eleven years ago that administrators and pencil pushers needed a standard for relegation of funds and accreditation.
And as the new tides of well programmed test takers enter the job market, they will quickly learn what every educator seems to block out of their mind. Employers don't like robots, unless it's a factory or cubicle farm. Innovation and inventive thinking are what's encouraged if you want that good salary, but don't tell that to the test makers and education researchers, they're content to believe that free thought doesn't exist until you're thirty-five. Free thought in fact, is quickly becoming a way of the past, and as we sit and rage against no new jobs coming in, realize that the ones who create new jobs are the ones whose spirits are being crushed by the weight of our decaying education system. In the wake of horrendous budget cutting, however, schools are forced to make decisions regarding the very classes and extracurricular activities that encourage individuality. When faced with decisions about whether to get new school books or keep an art class or a music program, it's not hard to see what will be picked. This leads to fewer opportunities for the students to express themselves and leads to even more resentment.
Not only are there the problems of budget decisions, but the never ending stream, it seems, of some sort of horror story concerning administrative incompetence and a bullied/harassed/discriminated student doesn't help anyone's case. While there are times that these pieces of news are blown out of proportion, the reason they're so believable is because everyone who's ever gone to an institution of education understands. Since when did it become the norm for those that are, in essence, responsible for the future education of some of the brightest minds of the country to be so blindingly incompetent that a lobotomized monkey could do their job better? And yet it happens, time and time and time again. A bullied student, pushed to the brink, lashes out at their tormentor, only to be the only one punished, while the bully gets off, because they weren't "the instigator". The loner, the outcast, the different one, constantly harassed, constantly complains, only to be ignored, in favor of the more popular harassers.
We, the general public, sit back, shake our heads and fists at the collective gods of Education and wonder what the world is coming to. The problem is, we can shake our fists, stomp our feet, scream and shout at the ones in charge all we want, but in the end, we're the ones who need to take action first. Our trust is placed in the hands of the ones we rail against. Our kids are the ones we release to the buildings we ourselves once hated. What has happened to education, we ask? In short, our kids aren't learning anymore. They're memorizing like your or I might memorize a script. The kids who have a future are quickly losing it in favor of a new and more heinous form of groupthink. We are the ones who have the capablity and the tools for change. We are the ones who need to find the loopholes. We are the ones who need to push for what's right. We, the former students, are the ones who need to show what education truly means.