As I told friends and acquaintances, I have decided to blog. My beliefs and thoughts spill over the levee, despite my best efforts to stop them. I don’t want people to hate me because of my beliefs but, at the same time, I feel that everyone should have a right to express themselves if they feel strongly about doing so.
Facebook is a social site and not really an appropriate place for me to express myself. Because we live in a complicated society where people judge people so nonchalantly, I fear that my rantings will alientate me from others and possibly negatively impact my job.
So, Subject One.
I rant to my students about the inability of our public school system to educate them and to prepare them for college. Ths is not an opinion: studies have shown that more and more students are taking developmental courses because they don’t have the abilities necessary to enroll in courses like English, algebra or chemistry without taking non-credit or partial credit classes that will help them develop the skill sets needed to succeed in such courses. We have watched the quality of education diminish for years, and the general reaction is to complain and do nothing else. The No Child Left Behind Act has deepened the gap: students can take tests, but cannot write, read, or do math. They can act like robots and write five paragraph essays that mean nothing, but they can’t be creative nor apply higher order thinking to evaluate, consolidate, and process the information they are given.
It is my observation that students today have no idea how to glean information from what they read. They cannot take notes, and they have little, if any, study skills. They are used to having information spoon fed to them, and then only the basic information that they will need to answer questions on standardized tests so that they might move forward from one grade to the next and their school system might continue to receive state and federal funding. Education today is based on numbers: scores and dollars.
When I see how little significance many students give their education, I am saddened. They can sleep in class, text in class, talk in class and skip class, but they have little understanding of why they’re in class, what value there might be in the classes they take, and how the knowledge they gain from them could possibly benefit them down the road. The momentary needs and desires of today’s students far outweigh their need to prepare for their futures. They carry books they never open, don’t complete assignments on time, don’t prepare for tests, and get very upset when they’re told that they are expected to be in class every period and show up on time.
I have warned my students that those who know how to get the most out of their educations – the students who do the work, take interest in that’s going on and plan for their futures – aren’t geeks or brown-nosers, but the people who the rest will probably work for and resent in the future.
Another concern I have involves the cluelessness among young people. They will say they want to be rich and successful, but show little interest or understanding of how much work it takes to get these things. There is a strong need for instant gratification. This comes with drinking and partying. It also comes from texting: they can text a friend, tell that person how bored they are and comment on the lameness of their class, fellow students, instructor, etc. and then get agreement or an “LOL” from a friend, and feel that they are absolutely right in their thinking and continue the behaviors that don’t serve well. They accept a C as a perfectly appropriate grade. It’s not failing, and it generally requires little effort, so a C is the target. I have told them that a C is an F in college, but it they don’t buy it. Those who seek a C will likely be nothing special, but they think of themselves as such.
Those who float to the top most generally deserve to be there. A friend recently said, “It kills me that the lazy and self-centered ones will somehow succeed and do well and it makes no sense. They’ll make more money than me and won’t deserve the breaks they’ll get.” I disagree. Unless they do something underhanded, marry well or were born into wealth and privilege, this won’t happen. We know that the wealthy and privileged generally put less effort into what they do because they already have the boost of inherited wealth and power, and those people don’t concern me. BUT, those who don’t have those advantages but feel that they’ll somehow get what they want by being charming, cute or popular find that charm, cuteness and popularity wear off after awhile. It takes toil and effort to do good things. Nothing falls into one’s lap…at least, no more frequently than every half million years or so. Moving forward takes energy. Nobody sits on his ass and becomes rich and successful.
America, despite what flag wavers and Bible thumpers keep chanting, is not what it used to be. Our future is reliant upon its citizenry and they can only move forward with knowledge. As I say again and again, it is my belief that the Mike Judge satirical comedy film, “Idiocracy” is quickly becoming a documentary.
As this school year draws to a close, I am reflecting on the last two semesters and realize that I will have to make adjustments to all of my courses for the fall. I must give regular homework to ensure that the books are opened. I have to have in-class quizzes and lectures that require note-taking to ensure attendance. I have to add incentives to keep students focused and make it worth their while to pay attention. It’s not about obtaining knowledge: it’s about candy and extra points and the like.
In my experience, I have found that I can’t force a student to do anything. They will continue to arrive ten minutes late and fall asleep within five minutes after they sit down. They will sit with their hands in their laps, phone between them, and look down to read what their friends are typing to them. They will slump down in their seats, baseball caps slung low (some guys in my classes have never taken their hats off in class, even to check for those pesky cooties), and sleep. They will talk and make rude remarks and laugh at other people. They will tell their parents that they’re “really trying” in school, but it’s “too hard” and the instructors are “unfair” or “hate them.” And, most of them will not graduate or get the certificates they set out to earn. They’ll blame the school, the teachers and everyone else but themselves. In the long run, what my friend said will NOT be true. In the long run, the motivated will make a way, and the rest will be greeters at Walmart.