Most would automatically assume from the title that this is another discussion about cycling. It is not. As a teacher in the public school system for over 14 years, one thing is drastically obvious when it comes to the education of students: the rapidly diminishing amount of educational support at home. Just like the best cyclist in the world, with all of the tools he needs to accomplish his goals, he still needs support to give nourishment or a word of encouragement or direction or tell him to get his head out of his rear end and do his job.
As the world picks up the pace day-by-day and parents struggle to provide or are just all out selfish with their time, it becomes blatantly obvious that future generation of students are falling further and further behind. Many point to the educational system, and yes there are problems that can be fixed there too. Standarized testing has become the norm and takes weeks out of the learning process to test students on what the teacher is already testing them on in the first place; all of that to take a look at data, eyeing bar graphs and charts of demographics and other superficial drivel. Testing data that cannot show a kindergartner having to prepare supper for himself or a middle school child taking care of her four siblings. Data also does not show abuse or hunger.
As the years slip by, I become more and more amazed at the lack of student motivation and thirst for knowledge. Most students’ only goal is to exist. Many of my colleagues over time have only waved a hand in the air and mumbled something about this generation. In my opinion, we’ve been on a downward trajectory for a while. Students could not care less. It is most shocking to discover what students have never been introduced to. Here are a couple of examples: Recently, a middle school child conveyed to me that he had no concept of what the Eiffel Tower is or even where it is possibly located. After giving the class an assignment, I had an eleventh grade student tell me that her computer at home was old, so it is a possibility that it won’t have Roman numerals on the keyboard! What?
All of us have experience the wide-eyed amazement of a child and the questions that go along with everything he sees. From birth to around six years old, a child’s mind is constantly absorbing everything that the senses can feed into it. I remember both of children asking everything from the color of the sky to why we don’t come from eggs. It was during those times that my wife and I did everything in our power to answer the questions and return more questions to keep them thinking. If the question had something to do with thunder, we didn’t reply with things like angels stomping their feet or God bowling. We discussed warm and cold air masses. Too much? Over their head? Good. It creates thirst for learning. Not that we have all of the answers, but my son is now a software engineer and my daughter is burning it up in college.
As parents, the last thing we need to say is that is teacher’s job to teach the children everything they need to know. In the years past, it was job of the whole community to teach to be strong intellectually and socially. The school was a reinforcement of values and curriculum. Take a look at this test from 1895 8th grade exit exam and see how well you could have performed. Remember. This is an exam for an 8th grader. We have slid so far.