How To Create a More Intelligent and Reflective Society

We continue to hear from many teachers and politicians that schools need more money. The thought in of itself has become somewhat of a religious ideology moreso than one based on careful arguments and factual evidence. Don’t get me wrong, most, if not all of our public and private schools do indeed need more money to provide the services that they provide. As populations grow, so do schools, we do indeed need to support them. But is money alone the solution? What is the actual goal? To improve the quality of education in America? Or is the goal to just graduate students so that they can go to college or trade school? Certainly it is many things and most are not mutually exclusive; but, if our primary goal is just to graduate students, we have missed the boat entirely and are doing society a disservice.

Money is needed yes, but what do we do with this money? Do we get more supplies, computers, pay for million dollar learning systems that haven’t even proven its efficacy in a real-world environment? Perhaps, but what is more valuable than all of this? Content and curriculum is needed, but I think we should go much further. There are a few major components that I think are missing and they go far beyond just superior content, good lesson plans and curriculum maps.

I suggest three main appendments to our status quo, some may not be able to be quantified or even tested for, but it’s a start.

1.) Finding teachers with a true passion for the subject. – Evaluating one’s passion can prove difficult but I think it imperative to scout for and support teachers that not only have the education which qualifies them to teach the subject, but to additionally hire those teachers that exude a true passion and love for their content (or the classroom). This translates over well to the students and also piques their interest, thus, improving their learning and experiences.

2.) Inculcating and Promoting Critical Thinking in Every Unit – Students should have the freedom to question all things and should be given time and space for this. Every unit should delve into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the subject or topic at hand. How do you know something? Could this be incorrect? Why is this important to know? How can we discover more? Can we trust this source? Where did these “facts” come from? If teachers aren’t doing something akin to this, I beg to argue that their students aren’t really learning anything of value.

3.) Revise teacher certification and licensing – This is controversial but let me expound on my point. I don’t think being “Highly Qualified” or “Licensed” means anything ultimately. What matters is what impact we are having on future generations. Pearson Group, and others like them, is a business and they market their tools and services to educational organizations, but has anyone stopped to ask, “Is there any evidence that teachers passing Pearson tests move on to be great teachers?” Even county training cannot truly prepare you for the classroom. I know far too many teachers that are highly qualified and licensed and just horrible teachers. Are we doing the right thing by engaging in this testing insanity? I’d say, “Hell No”. It’s possible that we are just putting billions of dollars into companies like Pearson and learning frameworks like Marzano without any evidence that such testing and support systems actually work. I think we need a new standard to assess and assist good and capable teachers, not arbitrary tests and learning fads. There is simply too much testing going on for students and teachers. Many teachers are forced to take tests that in many cases have nothing to do with one’s content area. An Art teacher shouldn’t have to pass general Math, nor should a P.E. teacher have to take some arbitrary essay writing test. They have a degree in their field, they exude the passion, they have been interviewed. Let them teach! Then we wonder why we are short teachers in so many fields. The only one’s benefitting are companies like Pearson, not our students.

I am afraid that if we continue on this uncritical and greed-driven path, that we are failing ourselves and our collective futures. We need a society that encourages rational thought, critical thinking, intellectual honesty, humanism, freethought, scientific thinking, honesty, courage, and the freedom to question. In our schools, we need passionate educators that love their fields and who know how to impart that passion onto others. Teachers passing content knowledge exams and achieving high student test scores will not fix our unsupported biases, our dichotomous political system, our religious and cultural intolerances, our greed, the celebration and perpetuation of violence, the constant “fake news”, nor our gleeful ignorances. To move towards a more enlightened world, we must continue to reach out through civic passion, patience, purposeful listening and understanding, self-reflective honesty, and we must produce truly decent and intelligent citizens for our youth to model. As educators, parents, and concerned citizens, we can begin by placing a foot on the right path by at least modifying our curriculum in all fields to include aspects of what we wish to become. In time, hopefully we can produce a society and a world that is far better off than we are now. We can avert this idiocratic dark age that we are spiraling into. It begins, with you.

 

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