1 in 4 Americans think the Sun Orbits the Earth? The Real Problem with Education in America
In 2014, we wrote an article about a study which found that 1/4 of Americans do not know whether the Sun revolves around the Earth or the Earth revolves around the Sun. You can read that article here. Now the problem may be a poor understanding of science. The problem may be poor reading skills. But whatever the problem, you can guess what happened next.
Naturally, everyone started the blame game.
And who did everyone think was to blame? Teachers. People were arguing over whether we should blame the teachers who are liberal brainwashers or the teachers who are anti-science conservatives. So I thought I would weigh in.
I was educated in New York, and I taught for a number of years at the University of Southern Mississippi. Now I am back in new York teaching again. My life has been divided between two states that are polar opposites, and you know what this taught me? That there really aren’t that many differences between the two States.
Before you launch into a big tirade about how Mississippi is full of crazy Christians, or New Yorkers are a bunch of socialists who have no morals, please read on:
While it is true that the political stances espoused by politicians from the respective states differ dramatically, the people are essentially the same and so are their values. Now I know that everyone is probably ready to run to Google to find this article or that post to prove just how wrong I am, but (newsflash) the media thrives off on sensationalism and hype. And (another newsflash) politicians are primarily concerned with maintaining the status quo.
What does this mean? It means that, rather than talking about actual issues or furthering a real conversation, these various individuals are really just interested in is keeping people distracted and entertained – in making money and diverting conversations to inane and mundane things.
After all, distracted and entertained people don’t call for revolutions; they get lazy and complacent and help you make money with little to no effort.
Politicians and the media both focus on isolated issues that get people excited, and in their discussions the aforementioned individuals often erase the broader relations and historical contexts that give these issues actual meaning (ex. As opposed to discussing the merits of an attitude, idea, or belief, we focus on one person who made one stupid comment in order to vilify and stereotype anyone else who promotes this idea or falls into this group).
These isolated issues become flashpoints–things that people zealously respond to without thought. This ultimately serves to distract from real, difficult, long-term issues; ensures a continuance of the bipartisan power system; maintains the power divide between the wealthy/political leaders and the rest of the public; and hides the operations of power.
We don’t have real conversations about education, health care, poverty, teen pregnancy, the debt ceiling, gay marriage, abortion, religion, the role of the state government or the role of the federal government, property laws, gun rights, free speech…instead, we stand in quicksand and scream hysterically at the other fools who (like us) were dumb enough to get themselves stuck in a pit of inane arguments propagated by politicians and our increasingly viral-story-driven media.
And we don’t try to pull ourselves free because we are too busy taunting the person who is sinking beside us. And so we all go down together.
The main point?
Teachers teach. They are not more or less likely to do so because they are liberal or republican or atheist or conservative or a magical pony. The problem isn’t the teachers, and it sure isn’t the teachers’ political leanings. The problem is us—you, me, all of us.
The problem is that we value entertainment over education; we reward athletic ability over intellectual ability; we use property tax to ensure that the children of the wealthy and elite get the best education; we have classrooms that are overflowing and teachers that are underpaid and overworked; we have standardized tests and merit based pay that force teachers to stop teaching and focus on mindless regurgitation; we force facts down children’s throats, but we don’t teach them what to do with these facts; we don’t give teachers the resources necessary for them to teach to every different type of learner; we point fingers and name call and hate and blame instead of stopping to evaluate the ways in which we contribute to these problems and what really needs to be done to solve them.
We have facebook activism. And I guess that’s better than nothing, but if you really want to understand the problem—if you really want to know how to help—talk to teachers; they are not the enemy. Talk to students; they are smarter than you think. They key is to talk; don’t yell or blame or accuse. That is the starting point anyways.
TL;DR? Ah, yes. Not enough time to seriously engage with another’s statements. I understand. And that is precisely the problem.