August 19, 2012

Meeting the Needs of Our Students' Futures

We started school with the kids on Thursday. I have been teaching for 36 years. I was a student at an urban school, and I have taught in a destitute Georgia school and rural schools in Illinois. I have never seen a more desperate time for my students' futures and more demand for preparation for their careers. What is particularly disconcerting is that we are not only woefully incapable to prepare them properly for the technology they will need in this new work environment, but that even if we did indeed have all the technology needed, it would be obsolete 2 years after they learn this.
Teachers are being cut. Schools are losing funds from their respective states. Administrators are walking are like basset hounds, fearing the next collection of bad financial news while demands are being made on their accountabilities. Where does it end?
The veteran that I am (and I intent to go for another 15 years) has been cynical about the changes proposed because states lose the philosophical fortitude for the long haul of following through on the new "ideas." This is different.
This change is sticking with us. I can tell you we in the western part of Illinois are feeling the urgency to do something substantive. We have no option. It is not about test scores, despite what we are being told by the state, and it never has or should be. It is about the realization that students can no longer say "I can just get a factory job and make good money" like they used to. There is no good option anymore outside of more and more post-secondary education.
What can fix this? I honestly believe that the move to charter/private schools is the exact wrong answer. The opposite is what we need--free education from pre-kindergarten through PhD. The A&R aspect instead of the immediate financial reward philosophy that has overtaken this country must be re-established. Do we have the will to do this? No, we don't in present form, but I think this is our only salvation.

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