I feel a bit challenged when discussing the state of schools in the U.S. because we are not the world leaders in education like we should be. The interesting assumption is that this has something to do with how smart our kids are, and this is not at all the case. Other countries seem to have a different level of focus on education, perhaps because they have more to prove and therefore take it more seriously. Whatever the reason, our public school systems are falling behind and not setting a good foundation for students, which is leading to young adults entering the world without the stability and security of a solid education.
There are particular areas, most notably science and math, in which our public school systems are very much behind other countries which puts our children at a competitive disadvantage in today’s rapidly evolving, technologically proficient world. School systems in many parts of the country appear to segregate and compartmentalize themselves, only teaching subjects relative to jobs in need in that particular area. For example, areas that are heavy with factories or farms are more likely to teach skills related to those industries as opposed to technology or leadership skills. This puts those students at a distinct disadvantage and limits their potential to become part of the global economy.
One of the most important factors in a quality education is the teacher, yet the profession does not offer the salaries or incentives to attract as many qualified and talented people as are needed. Teachers today face hardships, both financially as well as getting the support and resources needed to do their job to its fullest potential. It is critical that we value teachers and give them the tools they need to be successful at educating our children.
As important as a teacher is to a child’s education, the parent is equally vital. Parents must initiate and maintain a role in their children’s education in a way that will effectively help and encourage them. A parent must ensure continual motivation as well as enforce the completion of assignments, projects and all the due diligence that is necessary for successful advancement.
There is a big difference between parents who act as supervisors and parents who see themselves more as managers. Supervisor parents just make sure the child does his or her homework, whereas manager parents work alongside the child, giving them a regular opinion so that they know they’re doing things right. Manager parents motivate and make the child feel encouraged, proud, loved and confident.
And finally there is the role of the student and his or her responsibilities for their own success in attaining an education. This starts with students understanding and respecting the importance of education. From this comes self-motivation to do well and seek out knowledge in every way possible.
Education is more than just knowing long division or reciting Shakespeare sonnets; it builds self-esteem and allows us to be confident in ourselves whatever the endeavor. Education broadens individuals and makes them want and seek more out of life. It is this mindset that, above all else, positions a person for a successful life.
So when we look at the problems plaguing our public school systems, we need to recognize the issue for what it is: a blockade to raising a generation of successful, productive children who will one day be faced with these same challenges when raising the next generation of students. We must refocus, reprioritize and revisit where we put our resources, as individuals, as parents, as professionals and as a country.
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