One of the most important issue that is not being discussed in America today is out of control children who have no discipline, who are downright lazy, and who just want to be entertained 24/7. We’re bringing up a generation of children who are unruly, irresponsible, and don’t want to make any sacrifices. And this is where the problem in education lies; it’s not the teachers, it’s not the lack of funding, it’s not the curriculum, and it’s not the standardized testing. We need to have a frank and honest discussion about the behavior and lack of effort from an increasing number of American children, because this is the real reason why education is deteriorating in America today – bad behavior and the lack of effort on the part of many students.
I am a former school teacher and I’ve seen the problem up close and personal. So I’m not speaking from theory. It’s not rocket science; like everything else, what you put in, is what you will get out. Education is no different from any other endeavor. The students who do well are usually the ones who are well behaved, they cooperate with the teacher, they complete their class work, they do their homework, and they value education. The ones who don’t do well are usually the exact opposite: they behave badly, they refuse to cooperate with teachers, they don’t complete their class work, they don’t do their homework, and they don’t value education. We need to confront the behavior and attitude of these students, as a society, and stop blaming their failure on everything else under the sun. The students are the ones who are causing the system to fall apart because they have the wrong attitude.
Go to a successful school, and you will generally see well behaved students; go to an unsuccessful school, and you will generally see badly behaved students. The students define the school. The politicians and the experts have it all wrong, upside down. They believe that the school can change the student. But that only works where the student has the right attitude; if the student has already started down the wrong path, there is very little that the school can do to reverse that. I know, because I’ve been there. Success starts with the student; if the student doesn’t do what he or she is supposed to do, there will be no success. Period. End of story. We can do all the research we want, we can fire as many teachers we want, we can keep changing the curriculum and the testing every year, and we can have all the professional development and conferences we want, it’s not going to make any difference unless we confront bad behavior and lack of effort from some students in the public school system.
What the politicians and the powers that be are doing is they’re asking teachers to jump through hoops to make up for the laziness and intransigence of irresponsible students. But it will never work, because you can’t substitute one person’s effort for another if the latter person isn’t doing his or her part. The student-teacher relationship is like any other relationship – one party cannot carry all of the burden while the other party fools around. There must be a minimum amount of effort and cooperation from the student otherwise the system will fall apart, and that’s exactly what’s happening.
There are people who believe that teachers can discipline students, but that is true only to a point. In the United States today there is a hard core of undisciplined and irresponsible students who wouldn’t even listen to their own parents, so how can teachers discipline them? Discipline has to come from the home, from the parents and the immediate family, and we have to stop pretending that the school system can impose discipline on these types of kids. It hasn’t been happening in the past, it’s not happening right now, and it will not happen in the future, because institutions cannot replace family. And here is where I will start to get political, and this one of the reasons why I tend to be on the Right rather than the Left: People on the Left believe that institutions shape people and society; people on the Right believe the opposite – they believe that people shape institutions and society. In other words, it all starts with the individual. And this is what I believe also. It starts with the human being. The Left believe that it all starts with the surrounding institutions, and that’s why they’re always calling for more programs and more government intervention. I believe that the Left is wrong, because we can have all the programs and all the government intervention in the world, and if the individual doesn’t have character none of that will matter.
So it all boils down to the family structure and the disintegration of the family in the USA. It is blatantly obvious that there is a direct correlation between academic success or failure and family structure. Kids who come from stable homes where they get the love and support of the parents do much better than kids who come from broken homes where they don’t get the love and support of the parents. Anyone who denies that is denying reality. There is probably no formal study or research to scientifically validate this, (which in itself is very curious because you would think that this would be the #1 area of research and study if you’re an expert on education), but that doesn’t prove that the correlation doesn’t exist.
So why are politicians and people in the media not talking more about this? Apart from Bill O’Reilly on Fox News who talks about this constantly, no one else in the media seems to believe that the family situation is related to education. I believe that politicians, especially those on the left, are afraid to speak the truth because they don’t want to upset the people who essentially put them and keep them in office. So they pander and avoid the tough issues. The media, likewise, is worried about its bottom line and don’t want to upset its viewers, so they too avoid talking about the issue. So you see, it’s all about power and money, and that’s why nothing ever gets solved.
So, what is the solution to all of this? The solution has to be that we have to break the cycle of bad parenting so that we can start to gradually reverse the situation. And what exactly do we need to do to accomplish this? I suggest that the U.S. government embark on a massive initiative to teach current and would-be parents proper and effective parenting skills. It’s quite shocking that if you’re a parent or a would-be parent and you want to acquire some parenting skills there is nowhere in the USA that offers it for free. At least I’m not aware of anywhere where one can go and receive parenting classes for free. I mean, do you know of any place in the USA that offers parenting classes for free? If so I want to hear from you. You would think that with all the problems we’re having with broken homes and out of control children, parenting classes would be one of the most widely available courses offered by the United States government. But no, no one seems to think that it is necessary. I beg to disagree. I believe that every human being should be taught parenting skills. Being a parent is one of the most difficult endeavors in life, and people should be trained so that they are prepared.
I find it ironic that schools see the need to teach Sex Education, but don’t feel the need to teach Parenting Skills. Isn’t Parenting Skills just as important as Sex Education, if not more important? I believe that Parenting Skills should be taught in the 12th grade in high school. High school students should learn the basics of parenting; it’s not too early. And then, on an ongoing basis, classes should be offered in every community in the United States. It should be free and open to the public, and people should be allowed to attend as many classes as they want. This is what the government should be spending money on, because it will pay great dividends in the years to come.
There are many experts out there who the government can consult with and develop an initial framework on how to proceed. A national curriculum on parenting skills should be developed and distributed to all colleges in the USA so that instructors can be trained. Of course thousands of instructors will be needed for this initiative. Once qualified, instructors will go out into cities and towns all across America and teach parents and would-be parents how to become better parents. It’s a simple and straightforward plan. All it needs is the will of the Federal Government, and of course the funding.
So to summarize: my answer to the disintegration of the US family is this: free parenting classes all over the United States for anyone and everyone, and a massive public awareness campaign, like the campaign against smoking, to make people aware of the initiative and encourage them to participate. I would even go a step further and offer incentives to people to participate – incentives such as extra food stamps or extra benefits, or whatever else we can come up with. I firmly believe it will make a tremendous amount of difference. We might not see the benefits right away, but I’m convinced we will see them in the long run.