I don’t know if I can find the proper words to describe what’s happened to education, but every single day the system gets a little worse. The bureaucrats have transposed manufacturing principles onto instruction, expecting to increase productivity by implementing lean production measures. But teaching a human being how to read, write, calculate, and think is not the same process as bolting together two components. Everyone learns a little differently, and skilled teachers adapt their methods to individuals. Today, the bureaucrats want a one-size-fits-all homogeneous model that only skims rote memory. It cannot and will not produce practical application of skills.
For most of us who teach, morale has never been lower. We are grossly overworked, grossly underpaid, and grossly frustrated by political forces that on one hand blame us for the failures of their system while on the other accuse us of causing economic turmoil with our luxurious pay and benefits. Most of us are quite literally at our breaking points, emotionally and financially. We have been placed in an impossible situation, asked to do an impossible job, stripped of nearly all authority, and then blamed for poor student performance. Meanwhile, we’re competing for the students’ attention with Twitter and YouTube. It’s nearly impossible to pry them away from their smartphones and laptops, but then, we’re blamed for not “engaging” them properly.
Our only hope for fixing this situation is for enough people to come forward and demand change. We need lower student-teacher ratios, higher pay, less standardized testing, more focus on application, less bureaucracy, and more autonomy in the classroom. We have to shift accountability back onto the students themselves. We have to halt this trend towards homogeneous curriculum and focus on personalized instruction that fosters skills application. We have to find some way to teach the next generation that not everything is supposed to be entertaining, and instead of catering to their deficits by adding flashing lights and buzzers to curriculum, teach them how to focus for more than thirty seconds. I say the next generation because I’m afraid this one is already damaged beyond repair.
Please, heed my warning: This country is about to lose an entire generation of educators. Once we are gone, whether it be from burnout, breakdown, or disgust, a wealth of knowledge will be lost from the system. Once we are gone, I fear what the system will become and what it will produce. Once thing I see for certain, we as a country are losing our ability to compete with other developed nations. We are falling woefully behind and more closely resemble a developing or third world country than the greatest nation on the planet.