In part one, we began our investigation into the looming crisis facing the education system in America. For those who did not get to read part 1, here is a brief summary of what is happening: Massive amount of current teachers are rapidly approaching retirement, 17 percent of all new teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years (that percent is much higher in some states) and there has been a steep reduction in teacher training enrollment programs (as much as a 50 percent drop in some states). In short, if things do not change soon, we will reach a tipping point where we will have more students than qualified teachers to educate them. (This is already the case in Arizona and Nevada)
Brief summary of why this all happening: Unrealistic federal mandates regarding student testing and outcomes tied to teacher performance reviews (this teacher resigned because of them), low salaries, removal of tenure and other protective policies, discipline problems in the classroom, difficult parents making teaching even harder, and an overall lack of respect for the teaching profession in society. (For even more reasons why this crisis is happening check out this Huffington Post article on how to create a teacher shortage.
Sadly, for many current teachers and aspiring teachers, the cost of teaching is simply just too high. To accept things as they are, is to accept the fall of a once great educational system, which sent men and women to the moon, to the battlefields, to the operating table, and to the oval office and beyond. It would be a terrible injustice to our children, grandchildren, and ultimately our country, if we do not find a way to turn things around fast. This crisis has many working parts and the fix will not happen overnight, but we need to get to work!
Fortunately, there are organizations and individuals already working hard to address many of these problems, and we will take at look at them later, but first I am going to ask you a question: “What do you see as the real underlying problem facing our education system in America?”
Please allow me to pontificate a moment. I have the sense that a loss of National identity and collective meaning are part of the underlying problem. As a child of the 80’s we had NASA to inspire us to reach for the stars through math and science with the Teacher In Space Program, we had Rambo to defend us from our enemies, Rocky and The Karate Kid to help us overcome adversity and strive for greatness, and the overall zeitgeist was rather positive and patriotic. There was the feeling that anyone could make it if they worked hard and kept fighting for their dreams. Things changed a lot in the 90’s.
I am not an economist, but I think NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the overall economic pivot towards free trade and globalism played a big part in dislodging our sense of self and helped to deflate our shared balloon of optimism. All of a sudden we went from preppy kids in the 80’s wearing Izod shirts (generalization of course) to teens in the 90’s wearing eye shadow, ripped clothing (mostly black). Just google 80’s and 90’s fashion trends and you will see what I mean. To further prove my point, google popular films from the 80’s and 90’s and you will really see what I am talking about. Clearly something had changed.
Could it be possible that economics affect ones outlook on life? If your town or city lost its local economy because it was cheaper for the corporation owners to produce overseas and your once thriving town is now largely shuddered, how would you feel? When your town is slowly dying and property values have plummeted, how will your schools fund themselves? How would you feel if the only growth industries were minimum wage jobs that were difficult to get or high-tech jobs that required years of schooling, loans and debt? You get my point?
Sure, some say these are all just growing pains as we transition into the new economy and that may be true, but many might give up before that day arrives. So what do we do to reinvigorate our students and teachers and population at large? What will the new zeitgeist be to carry us boldly into the future? I know that was perhaps a bit of a tangent, but thank you for sticking with me. I would really like to know what you think the underlying problems facing education are and your ideas on how to fix them. Please comment below or share them on our Facebook page.
Whatever mine or your ideas might be on how to right the ship, it will take time for any sweeping changes to take hold. In the meantime we still have the very real problem of attracting and retaining qualified and enthusiastic educators. As I mentioned earlier we are fortunate to have organizations already working hard on this huge issue. The following are a few I have come across:
- Teacher.org: Our mission is to inform, empower, and encourage aspiring, new, and veteran teachers. We believe teachers inspire our future. With that said, Teacher.org is a website for teachers by teachers. Since great educators are always needed, we aim to continuously inform and encourage aspiring and current teachers.
- Teach.com: Teach.com is a comprehensive educational web resource dedicated to discovering, discussing and encouraging great teaching around the world.With America’s need for more great teachers, particularly science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teachers, Teach.com provides current and aspiring teachers an easy-to-navigate map outlining the steps to become a teacher, including information on teacher salaries, teacher preparation and certification requirements for all 50 states as well as information on teaching abroad. The site also profiles great teachers from around the country and highlights the need for more great teachers.
- Teach.org: TEACH is a national movement to recruit one million high achieving teachers over the next 10 years. The TEACH campaign originated as a Department of Education initiative to increase awareness of and support for the teaching profession. Today, TEACH.ORG is sponsored by a coalition of public, private, and government sponsors who have united for the common good of the American education system, with help from the Ad Council.
If you are an aspiring teacher or a current teacher please weigh in on what you just read. Your feedback, insight, and participation is greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading and for sharing!
Image Credit: Pattanawit Chan / Shutterstock.com
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