Education is a Waste of Time

Education today, to a great degree, is wasting time, money, and effort-the time and effort of the student and, to a great degree, the parents’ money.Let’s begin by dispelling the myth that teachers (for now let’s talk primary and secondary) are all that and a bag of chips. Teachers are not only given too much credit, they are given too much of the blame. Currently, the move is toward greater teacher accountability for student outcomes based on assessment criteria. What’s all that arcane jargon mean? Simply that teachers are to a greater and greater degree being held responsible for students’ grades. That, my friend, is a good one. Almost as funny as the one where a minister, priest and rabbi walk into a bar . . . Let me explain.To a great degree, teachers have a workload that even the toughest laborer would bend and break under. They not only have to prepare lessons, attend meetings (teacher, administrative, parent), and have a life-if they can fit it in-they have a workload that has them averaging 57 hours worked per week . On top of that, consider that working as a teacher is stressful because there is no time to relax. As a teacher, you are in charge of teaching, policing, cajoling, organizing, coaching, motivating, disciplining, and so on. From start to finish of the school day there is little time to relax, and you are working at full sensory capacity most of the time. That is why there is such great teacher burn out. You have very little time to kick back and recede into yourself (like a desk jockey or cubical cubby). So, on top of all this, teacher are now to be responsible for chasing 100 to 200 students to make sure they are doing their homework and are learning what they need to learn.But consider that there are other factors now that weaken the teacher physically, emotionally, and authoritatively. It is the last item I desire to focus on here. Students and parents, to a great degree, have sapped the teacher’s strength as authoritative figure, one of the reasons why 3 out of 5 teachers now entering the field (K through 12) look at teaching as a stepping stone. I have a lawyer friend who did just that.When he began teaching, he was told by a grizzled veteran that “you will either give into the student’s demands or you will quit.” To cite an example of this loss of control, at a general assembly a student was acting up. My friend told the student, who was not his, to settle down. The student challenged him and said, “I don’t care. You can even call the police. Nothing’s going to happen to me.” Another friend, a fellow classmate in graduate school, told me she was no longer a high school teacher because after 13 years her authority in the classroom had nearly vanished. Add to this parents who no longer, to a great degree, support teachers. Many a parent, if their child receives a bad grade, places the blame entirely on the teacher, the student getting off scot-free.Teachers are not, should not, or ever be seen as the main educators, motivators, keepers of their students or children. Children? What does that word naturally imply? Of course, parents. It is the parents’ responsibility to make sure that their children are doing their homework and doing it well. Get off the couch and be the teacher you should be.I have numerous friends who have taken back the teaching of their children by home teaching. An issue of much discussion, but I mention it here to show how the problems of the K-12 school system has gotten so out of control that parents are taking the issue into their own hands.It is essential that parents not only teach academics (meaning, bare minimum checking homework) but other vitally important issues of concern, concerns that last a lifetime beyond all the math, science, history, and English that is all too soon forgotten. A few things that should exist on that list are a work ethic, accountability, patience, perseverance, manors / respect for authority, cooperation, tolerance for difference, sacrifice, charity, humility, and more. If these things were taught by parents, as they should be, perhaps the number of problems we now face in school and society would be reduced.Continuing with the issue of educational necessity and change, I’d like to propose an academic overhaul. This issue is quit complex and something I go into greater depth in my upcoming book Education is a Waste of Time, but I’d like to touch on a few points here.Consider that in 24 hours we forget 80% of what we read if we don’t review, and even more so if we don’t pay attention, have acquired the skill of better retention, and, most importantly, don’t care, how much does our no-student-left-behind retain? Well, according to my eight-plus years of teaching, mostly at the junior college level (or as I like to call it, mop-up college), and concurring statistical evidence, less than 1/3 of all students entering community college have sufficient math, reading, and writing skills. The key word here is sufficient. Considering that there is a push for more math and science majors to keep up with the 6 countries that produce students that exceed our student’s preparedness, it appears we don’t have much hope. Even though the push for students is ill-founded because of the small number of existing careers that require high level math skills, the numbers do not bode well.Taking all this into consideration, how important is it that we teach our students specific, locked in studies: math, science, history, English, and so on. I often will address this point by asking my students to regurgitate on queue, from the first minute to last, all that they learned in a class that day before coming to my class. Most if not all come up completely empty handed. One thing we don’t teach or inspire our students to do is to pay attention and acquire skills that will aid in focusing on key material and being able to recall it. Where is that class in high school? We merely throw it at ’em and hope it sticks. Maybe I misspeak. Do teachers, parents, and administrator even consider hoping?Something else we’ve forgotten to do, like any good marketer should do, is ask. What happened to our authoritative, empowered, no-student-left-behinder? The overly liberal shift of power from teacher to student is being wasted if we don’t ask the empowered what they want? And if they don’t know, well, work on it. Many a parent, teacher, administrator will say, “Well, they’re children. They aren’t mature enough to know. Let them experiment in school (meaning K through 14). It’s one of the reasons we want them to study the three R’s.” How ’bout this. We ask ’em often and we ask ’em early. Consider the following. Please bare with me.On average, 1 in 10,000 has perfect musical pitch. In many Asian countries, where pitch determines meaning (i.e.: going up at the end of a word means one thing, down another) 1 in 100 has perfect pitch. My point? Practice. If we get students thinking early and often what they want to do with their life, and more know than not, then that’s where they need to focus and not struggling, spending a majority of their time in classes they don’t care about, aren’t motivated to participate in, and bottom line, will end up wasting a lot of time in. Consider this, within ten years, 70% of college grads will be working in fields they were not educated in (regarding personal acquaintances, that number is low). And considering that many employers now only use a college degree as a dividing line (a way of weeding out candidates with less potential), why not get a degree in something you love. Don’t waste those four years.There is a lot more to this topic, such as incorporating financial classes, inter-personal skills classes, success classes, and so on, but our K through 16 system is in serious need of repair and upgrading. Now, before too much time passes and more time, money, and effort is wasted. I know that this is all rather idealistic and difficult if not impossible to obtain; nevertheless, it is a goal or target that we have to shoot for. We have no alternative, remembering that it is not perfection that we seek but betterment.