The Crisis in Education: A new perspective
Education is a perpetual learning journey for all. We never know everything no matter how long we have been in the field, and each day brings forth a fresh new adventure. If I had to pick something which remains the same when describing education I would say it is the fact that it is always changing. Nevertheless, there is one constant which always seems to remain, namely there always seems to be a “crisis in education”. Ever since I first began teaching over two decades ago there has always been this “crisis in education”. The interesting point about this however is that this crisis is far from static and seems to change with the prevailing political winds of the day. In truth, it is often manufactured to precipitate change. Take for instance a situation which occurred in Ontario, Canada. The Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in the 1995 election, and John Snobelen was appointed as Minister of Education in the government on June 26, 1995. Shortly after his appointment, Snobelen was filmed arguing that the PC government needs to “bankrupt” and to create a “useful crisis” in the education system so as to initiate significant reforms (Wikipedia). He picked a deliberate fight with teachers to initiate and justify reforms.
As with any profession there are areas which need improvement and we rely on our front line workers to implement them. I would contend however that in education the front line workers, namely teachers and educational support workers, are consistently bashed in order to justify taking measures to fix the crisis of the day. In fact, there is an actual term called “teacher bashing” which is used quite often. This is the polar opposite of what should happen. Only by rewarding and encouraging our teachers can we hope to fix any ills which exist in the system.
All this being said, what are the various crises which exist in education? That is actually a very interesting question as the answer seems to be the same wherever you go on the planet. Some common areas are:
1. Poor student academic achievement
2. Poor student social skills and behaviour which leads to such issues as drug use and violence
3. Poor teacher training
4. Lack of educational funding
5. A toxic and unionized teacher workforce committed to themselves and not the students
If you are an educator, or work closely with teachers, your blood is surely boiling after reading that list. Well, you will probably get a little more steamed by knowing that teacher bashing is essentially used to justify each point. For instance, poor student academic achievement is typically blamed on poorly trained teachers who are not invested in student academic achievement. It has led to the call for performance based pay (merit pay) which would tie in teacher compensation to student results (this is an article in Ontario, Canada which shows the push for this to happen). There are conflicting sides to this issue, and the point of this piece is not to argue those sides, rather it is to contend that this justification presented is absolutely flawed. Teachers ARE invested in their students. This I know far an absolute fact as I see it each and every day. Offering them more money if their students do better would not change how much teachers care about their students’ success one little bit!
The field of education certainly does have challenges. Lack of stable funding and helping students to develop social skills which promote respect and empathy are some of them. However I contend that teachers are leading the charge to address these challenges and the politicians, parents and public in general need to work with the education system and not use the front line teachers as a scapegoat for the ills of society. Teaching is a very difficult profession and it is often cursed by the fact that everyone thinks they know how to do it better. I say end the bashing and turn to validating, recognizing, respecting and celebrating our teachers and educational workers. Focus on the positive…only then will you receive positive and stellar results. Please check out this fantastic video designed for. It gave me shivers! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6yPkbhFQIfw (Justin Tarte)
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