I couldn’t believe the headline in today’s Scotsman: “Illiteracy and cheating rife at [Glasgow University].”

SCOTTISH university students have been accused of missing classes, passing off copied coursework as their own, lacking general knowledge and having poor literacy skills, in a critical report by their lecturers.

And I suppose you all read about IBM’s munificent — actually desperately munificent — urging of its employees to quit and become teachers, amply rewarded financially by IBM itself.

IBM has spent a fortune encouraging little nippers to learn IT skills and calling on the government to make sure there are enough science and maths teachers.

Now IBM says the problem is getting so dire the United States is losing its competitive edge. It will financially back employees who want to leave the company to become math and science teachers.

— From “IBM backs employees who want to leave to teach,” The Inquirer. (The Inquirer’s banner reads, “A monkey was once tried and convicted for smoking a cigarette in Indiana.”)

Can someone explain to me why students in my generation, and earlier generations, learned the basics — and today’s generation is full of kids who can’t? I cannot recall a student in my small town’s high school who could not — for example — write a letter with proper grammar, spelling and polite phrasing. Or who couldn’t add, subtract, multiply and divide. Or, for the love of god, couldn’t read a book, let alone a magazine or newspaper. It baffles me.

And I doubt that throwing more money at the problem will do much to solve it. My high school had none of the advantages of today’s schools, and my mother’s generation attended a one-room schoolhouse with all 12 grades, and every one of her classmates — I asked her just to be sure — were all literate and could do all essential math. What in the hell has happened to children?
I’m not a big fan of public education. I was beleagured by frequently excruciating levels of boredom in school. But at least our teachers succeeded in teaching all students to be basically competent in reading, writing, and mathematics.

When I volunteered at a rural public elementary school two years ago, I was appalled by the percentage of the school day that was taken up with disciplining students. And, I might add, too often for very minor things that could have easily been ignored. But the teachers — even the most politically liberal ones — became crabby, negative, hostile, exhausted and obsessed with controlling the kids.

Is it that the level of discipline that today’s principals and teachers seem to think they must inflict on students is a huge deterrent to learning? Are today’s students that much less “civilized” in their behavior so that most of the day’s opportunities to learn are taken up by yelling at and punishing “troublemakers”?

I also found that the most stern and — frankly — frightening teachers were rewarded the most with the highest status in the school.

Would former IBM employees be better teachers than most in today’s schools, simply because they’ve not been indoctrinated in the discipline-before-education approach? Or will they have to fall into that trap to avoid losing status in the school?

(Note: This is all subjective observation on my part. Anecdotal at best. But I think I’m on to something.)

MOST IMPORTANT: What do YOU think is wrong?

0 0 votes
Article Rating