As millions of young people return back to school this year, we are still faced with the elephant in the room — what’s wrong with education? Education meant to empower and prepare is now a prolific problem, with many facets of error that have grown over the years and become increasingly anomalous to what the original idea was.
As an educator I know that education is supposed to teach students to be productive and successful citizens in this ever-increasing global economy we are living in.
Education is the cornerstone of a prospering country. Our nation is in peril without a progressive educational system that trains our youth to be productive culture-shaping leaders.
The problem is education has been painted with a broad stroke, assuming every student learns the same at the same rate, thereby becoming more systems instead of student centered. Every community is different and every student is different, requiring flexibility. This is what makes charter schools more attractive to many. I know first hand that charters specialize in providing a focused individualized education. Schools in low-income areas must be able to serve the student’s needs before they are able to educate them towards their wants. Second is Teachers’ pay. It becomes hard to keep good teachers if they are not paid the kind of salaries that esteem them important to society.
Teachers in this new millennium are asked to be psychologists, social workers, curriculum specialists, facilitators, and educational specialists. As the requirements for successful teaching in the classroom increase, so should their pay. If we don’t find a way to increase their salaries to coincide with the demands of the classroom we will lose them.
A third problem we must solve, that I stand ready to engage and work towards real solutions is the boy problem. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics:
Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school;
When it comes to grades and homework, girls outperform boys in elementary, secondary, high school, college, and even graduate school
Boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD);
Women outnumber men in higher education with 56 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 55 percent of graduate degrees going to women
According to the U.S. Department of Education: Boys make up two-thirds of the students in special education and are five times more likely to be classified as hyperactive. These statistical statements, while we may have heard them before, are issues that are further exacerbated by the fact that male teachers are becoming an endangered species. Often times many of the boys attending schools are coming from homes where Mom is the only voice heard.
By the time they get to school the female voice pales in comparison to the voices in their head. If they are not fully engaged these boys potentially can become behavior issues. Furthermore, boys connect more to whom they see than with what they hear, therefore relating better to male teachers than to females. Yes, I would be remiss if I only shared the problems. I believe that with every problem comes a tangible solution. It is time we begin to acknowledge the severity of our educational problems and engage with each other, above politics — merging all sectors of business, faith, politics, civil rights groups, etc — to not just create but implement real-time answers that lead to solutions. Activism without action is mute. As is complaining without offering answers.
I have worked with our youth for more than 15 years in places like Chicago, Las Vegas and Dallas, along with eight years experience in private and charter schools, most of those years being in private education. I have participated in after school programs in public schools. I’m most proud to be a 38 year-old father, married with three young boys and former Principal of Clay Academy in Dallas TX. I understand first hand the issues plaguing the educational system and realize that there are more issues with education not mentioned, but here are some immediate answers that would certainly improve our educational system’s success rate.
We need to use technology as a means to foster an environment of collaboration, discovery, cooperation, life learning, learner-centered instruction, and leadership skills in the context of entrepreneurship and a global worldview. Whether or not you have and utilize technology depends on the socio-economic status of the community as well as the proper support of parents within those communities.
Increase the Pay
Most men run away from being teachers, because of the pay. In fact, they will pursue administrative roles instead. If you increase the pay then you increase the likelihood of more men being attracted to teaching, thus solving two problems. When an intrinsic value and passion for impacting young people meets with a commensurate pay scale, men will be attracted to teaching again.
Find ways to make school more customized and not so standardized. A customized educational approach will attract students who will walk through the door engaged because their curriculum has been streamlined to educate the type of learner they are, while maintaining certain standardized content areas.
I have seen the power of these solutions at a micro level in my work to some exist and I as a father, educator, motivator and associate pastor am committed to do what is necessary to make these answers real for all students, especially young black boys. Will you join me so that we can get our young people back to school in a way that helps them become productive culture-shaping leaders? What is wrong with education can be fixed.