October 22, 2021

Wasting minds is wasting lives

Posted on 11. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Education, Social/Cultural

If a mind is a terrible thing to waste, how come we’re wasting so many of them? Alarmingly high dropout rates are signaling the exile of millions more young people to the ranks of the semi-literate.

Can the U.S. really afford to lose another whole generation because we can’t find the courage to revamp our educational system?

We see it every day. Man on the street interviews reveal how awful our schools are.

A special reporter for a cable news network show interviewed approximately 100 young people under the age of 25 on Independence Day and asked a very simple question, “Do you know what we’re celebrating today?”

Nearly 60% of those asked didn’t have a clue. Of those answering correctly, a tiny percentage even knew the century when America’s revolution took place.

Here in New Mexico, we lose thirty-eight out of a hundred potential high school graduates each year to dropping out. Their lack of a high school diploma will doom them to a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder and a life of low or minimum-wage jobs.

While I applaud the efforts being made by hard-working teachers and administrators to reverse the situation, it’s a little like pushing a snowball up a desert sand dune in July.

Instead of trying to reform the status quo, maybe we should replace it, entirely. Changing what we teach, how we teach it and when we teach it might be the answer. This applies to the total schooling experience in primary, middle and high school years.

If we are going to prevent students from dropping out, we must give them a reason for staying in school. To do that we’ll need to front-load new and exciting curricula, early on, to keep students’ interest levels high.

And, though it may sound distasteful to some, we’re going to have to sell that new curricula, energetically and creatively!

Due to our lousy economy and resultant dwindling tax bases, the amount of funding earmarked for public education is dropping fast, and along with that drop many elective or so-called ‘expendable’ after school programs are biting the dust.

Our educational system is also affected by our politics, and should we continue on the same ideological political path we’re on, our school curricula might need some revamping.

New courses might be: Learning to develop your victim status; How to get the most out of government entitlement programs; Using ethnicity as a bargaining tool; The benefits of wealth redistribution; How to demonize the opposition; How to cherry pick your facts; and finally, How to organize a successful protest.

Obviously, these are not my suggestions for the new age curriculum. I’m just making a point about how politics can change what we teach our children. It can encourage them to be open-minded and inquisitive or be politically correct and self-censoring.

Instead, our students should learn real survival skills, enabling them to become productive citizens. Here are some course suggestions:

How an economy and a democracy work;

Why voting is so important;

How to deal with dysfunctional parents;

How to resist peer pressure;

How to find the truth in any given situation;

How to recognize true authority;

Why obedience to the law is essential;

How machines work;

Why the environment is important to protect;

How to reduce aggression in the world;

How to eat and sleep properly;

How to protect yourself and your family;

Why work is important;

How to find and keep a job; and finally,

How to rein in your own selfishness.

I’m sure we could find some intelligent educators that would be happy to teach them.

Time is running out for our young people. If we don’t change our approach to educating them we will find ourselves paying the price in the crime and substance abuse statistics, more social illiteracy, rising unemployment and general societal dysfunction.

Readin,’ writin’ and ‘rithmetic still have a place in the little red schoolhouse, but unless we throw open the windows and let in the light of new common sense-driven curricula we’ll continue taking two steps backward and one step forward and end up with a society that can’t even live with itself let alone with others.

- Editor


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