Saturday, November 20, 2021

Schools are in Crisis ... and always have been

"Everything about American education is getting bigger all the time: the number of students enrolled, the amount of dollars it spends--and the vast amount of pedagogical gobbledygook. As it gets bigger, more and more people are insistently asking: is it any good? The complaining voice is not that of a few carping malcontents but a multitude of doubters deeply skeptical of what is being produced in the way of a people who should be personally content, socially responsible, and politically effective. Thoughtful parents--often aghast at what is being done and not being done--organize, agitate, protest and petition.”

– "U.S. Schools: They Face a Crisis" LIFE Magazine October 16, 1950

This clip comes courtesy of Robert Pondiscio, a teacher, parent, writer, and education pundit. Such relics from the recent past are important to keep in mind as we ponder the state of schools and contemporary society. As an educator and writer, I've often shared a similar bit of perspective, which I put in one of my earlier columns, as well as a presentation at the University of Denver, called "Unpacking the Backpack."

Unpacking the Backpack - What’s Really Going on in Education

"Our youth today love luxury. They have bad manners and contempt for authority. They disrespect their elders and love gossip and socializing instead of exercise. They no longer rise when adults enter the room. They challenge their parents, scarf their food, and tyrannize their teachers."

While you might think those comments were part of a recent NBC news special or an article in the New York Times, they have actually been attributed to Socrates in the fifth century, BC. We hear much criticism of young people and public education these days. Some pessimists and curmudgeons even argue both are in a state of ruin. I assert, however, such views are naive, and there is more to the story.

So, are schools failing or is public education still the great American success story? The answer, of course, is yes.

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