Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An unexpected conversation about schools

A seminary professor is talking with a small group of mostly older adults.

“We’ve had to change how we teach our courses,” he says. “Half of the students in our classes have made it through high school and college without reading a book. They can’t write an essay. They don’t know how to spell or anything about grammar and punctuation, because they were never taught it.

“These are young men mostly in the mid to late 20s. If they went to one of the better public high schools or a private school, they’re in better shape. If they went to an average high school or worse, they’re in worse shape. And they made it through college without reading a book.

“Boys are taught differently in schools than they used to be. They’re expected to behave like girls so the teachers can teach them all the same. If they don’t, and most of them don’t, they’re doped. Given Ritalin for years. They sit in the back of the class with their baseball caps on backwards and looked spaced out. However, they usually find ways to rebel.

“Do you know what it’s like to be talking with a 28-year-old who discovers his intellectual potential for the first time in his life? When he realizes he isn’t stupid?

“The first thing he understands is how many of his years have been wasted. And then he realizes just how many people participated in that waste.

“This has been going on a long time.”

This short conversation left me stunned. It came up independently of the subject at hand, which wasn’t about schools or young people or the state of American education.

A student can enter a seminary after graduating from college and high school and never have read a book. Students can walk in the door having never understood or even glimpsed their intellectual potential. Students can walk into a seminary without knowing how to write an essay.

And if it’s true for seminaries, it’s also true for business. And government institutions. And non-profits. And schools.

Yes, this has been going on for a long time. We pulled my oldest from public school after 6th grade – and we lived then. As we do now, in one of the best school districts in the state, with the second highest paid superintendent.

We pulled him because his English teacher kept sending notes to parents about classroom activities – and the notes were filled with misspelled words and grammar and punctuation errors. The English teacher didn’t know grammar and punctuation. Or how to spell.

This was in 1993.

A generation ago.

Photograph by Ian L via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


nancy marie davis said...

it really helps to have a great principal and counselor.
and the teaching profession has taken too many hits.

Jody Lee Collins said...

Kimberlee Ireton told me of her friend Susan, PhD and prof in Ohio, who lamented the same situation recently....I'm on the beginning edge of the process with the 'littles' but I can tell you the cracks are showing everywhere. And 1993 wasn't that long ago. A sobering post sir.

jasonS said...

Catching up on reading your posts, Glynn, and I had to comment on this one. I taught an English course last year in the private school associated with our church. I was more than a little shocked at how many students didn't care to do their homework or turn in other assignments. Some others just told me, essentially, "that's just how students today think." They can't find a reason to care and I think, sadly, many teachers accept this and end up promoting it. The work ethic and any drive for excellence is all but missing. We need a cultural reformation for sure! Very interesting topic, Glynn. Thanks.