The more I think about what plagues this nation, specifically my generation, the more I start to point fingers at public education. I have addressed, in earlier posts, about how mass media and sound bites and our shortened attention spans have started to homogenize the thought processes of our society today, and how people have almost ceased to think for themselves because they would rather listen to what their favorite television personality or politician says about a specific issue. Now I’m going to talk about how the education system specifically has contributed to the fact that my generation in particular has no idea how to think for themselves and has pretty much all aligned with a similar thought process regarding almost every single issue that our nation faces.
I have already talked about how our public school system does not cater to kids who don’t learn as well using the traditional methods that teachers tend to use. We have been teaching our kids the using basically the same methods and philosophies for much too long, but that is another matter entirely. I’m pretty sure that I’ve told this story before, but I’m going to tell it again just in case. It illustrates my point perfectly.
It was my senior year of high school and I walked into government class as if it was a normal day. I didn’t particularly like my government teacher because she started every single class period with an update on what great think Obama did for the country that night or during the time before our class met that day, followed by a harshly biased recap of the Republican primary race. She would bash Rick Perry for saying this and Newt Gingrich for saying that, then she would tell us more about how Obama is the greatest President that this country has ever seen and that none of these idiots running for the Republican ticket were ever going to beat him in 2012, no matter how hard they tried. On this particular day, after the rant had ended, she stood in front of the class and gave yet another totally biased and disgusting speech about a teacher that she greatly admired, one that is now held in high regard within the AP Government community and is apparently working at the College Board AP Central to help write the curriculum for AP Government and how it should be taught.
With that in mind, this is the story she told us:
On the day that he was supposed to teach the class about the Bill of Rights, he would walk into class carrying an American flag. To demonstrate his rights that the First Amendment granted him, he would first lay the American flag on the ground, then stand on it. He would then start to lecture the class about the Bill of Rights, and when the first student started to protest about what he was doing to the flag sitting beneath his feet, he would flip that student off and keep going with the lecture.
Is this the way that we want the next generation to think? I’m all for letting people express themselves freely because any rational society should not have laws banning any sort of expression or speech, especially if it goes agains the government. However, this method of teaching might not be the most effective way to get the point across. Maybe if he showed a video of someone doing it, or told it as a story. The argument could be made that the visual of the situation will make sure that the kids do not forget it, but do we really have to be that offensive in order to get the point across? If a teacher had walked in and went on a rant about how the government is way too powerful and how most of the things that they are doing are illegal nowadays according to the Constitution, then they would probably receive a reprimand within 24 hours and would be suspended without pay for a certain amount of time. The one-sided education system that we have today is only teaching kids to think, and therefore vote (if they choose to), a certain way.
I know that there are exceptions to every rule. The Right loves to sit there and point fingers at the liberal media and teachers unions (or really any union, honestly) for causing just about every problem that this nation faces today. The Left loves to criticize the fact that the Right has advocated for the abolition of the public education system for years, automatically assuming that they are trying to create an elitist society where only the rich can afford to educate their kids and the poor people will be left without the means to learn to.. do what?
More often than not, I feel like kids don’t as much as they used to in the public school system because it’s harder to teach kids how to think rather than just telling them what to think. Public schools are becoming grievously overcrowded and it’s becoming more and more difficult for teachers to find time to actually take care of their students and make sure that they’re keeping up with the material. Those teachers that really do care will go through the extra effort (I have come across those teachers during my years in middle and high school and they were always the best teachers hands down) to make sure that their kids do well, but that teacher is truly a dying breed. In states like California, teachers that have simply been in the system longer are being given jobs every year over newer educators that deliver higher test scores, invest more in their students, etc. simply because of the fact that they graduated and got their teaching certification before the other guys did. One teacher in particular that I can think of, Keldon Clegg, was my Advanced Placement US History class teacher my junior year of high school. If he’s reading this, he probably doesn’t agree with me. We never did really agree on much when it came to politics. However, I did not do very well in his class the first semester. I was struggling from the very beginning and it took a long time to dig myself out of the hole that I dug early on. It took work, and it took some investment from Mr. Clegg to finally get me to a respectable grade, and I ended up getting a 3 – I think; I’m positive I got at least that – on the AP test at the end of the year, when I was almost sure that I was going to fail. He ended up getting fired at the end of the year i favor of someone else in the department who was more senior than he was. This makes me sick. I’m not saying that that other teacher was not qualified, but the teacher that I really enjoyed and that took extra time out of his day to make sure that I understood the material and got better grades got fired simply because he hadn’t been there for very long. He’s now teaching at a high school in Berkeley, CA and seems to be enjoying himself (or at least Facebook says so). If you’re reading this Clegg, you’re the bomb.
We need more Mr. Clegg’s in the world, the educators that are willing to help kids work through problems but not tell them how to think. He laid the groundwork and then asked questions, which is how it should be. Drones do not make good citizens. Drones make good prisoners. Individuals that can think and decide things for themselves are what makes a country or society great.