I taught Physics and Maths to teenagers for about a decade. Teaching was all I ever really wanted to do, and I’ve stopped. There are some very serious issues facing education at the moment, and there’s going to be some very serious costs if we keep keeping our heads down, and plodding along like we have always done.
To name a few;
- Teachers. Teachers are, without question, some of the most hard-working (over-worked) people I’ve ever met. They are creative, empathic, intelligent professionals with an unshakeable bent on contributing to the public good. Presently, teachers have very little say or engagement in the syllabi and curriculum they are obliged to teach. To call this a mismanagement of key resources is an understatement.
- Breakdown. They are also subject to impossible (and mounting) demands on their time and energy, generally with reduced resources and increased class sizes. They are subject to policy changes while being denied any functional venue to have their voice. This is the trend and it’s global. Where it leads us, should it go unchecked, is a very bleak place.
- The Information Age. With the advent of the internet, we are in a new age. Different rules apply. What this means for our young people, and how we can best help them to learn, develop and adapt to the present time is a big questions. Yet, for many schools, the solution is to ban modern technology.
- The Great Lie. Also called “The Great Neo-Liberal Lie“, across the world we promise students that if only they do as their told, if only they work hard and put in the hours, they will get a good qualification, a good job and have a good life. Leaving aside the question of what values and behaviors this praises and instills in the next generation, it simply isn’t true for the majority of students.
There are many more. They are issues that for many years caused me to give a knee-jerk reaction. Before I began to think about them I would unholster some reason, some excuse or some justification, more often than not targeted at whoever raised them. For a long time, I was able to keep knocking them away.
Then I wasn’t.
I have faith that school’s have the potential to be great. I think they have the potential to be the bastions of public support, centres of development, thinking, learning and knowledge and culture-building hubs of society.
The culture of the present system is immense, and is stubborn.
And no, I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know, but I am doubtful there there can be any one solution. The problem is diverse, complex, multi-faceted and interpretive. It’s going to take a lot from a lot of people, over a long period of time.
What I do know, though, is we can only solve it together. And working together, it turns out, is not nearly as easy as it looks.