Is the System Broken?

“The system of public education is broken and we need to tear it down and rebuild it from the ground up.”

I feel like I keep hearing this statement or some version of it from all angles. For a while I bought into this idea and felt the frustration and quickly got wrapped up in the negativity. It is very easy to look around and think the system is broken beyond repair. Some people are even going so far as to say we don’t need an evolution of the system but in fact a revolution. As a history teacher, I think the word revolution may be a bit harsh.

Now, I may be completely off but are we complaining too much about the boxes we have been put in instead of actually looking at how restrictive the box actually is? Are educators really that handcuffed and unable to change the systems within their own classrooms and schools? I think in many cases we have far more control to change our own piece of this so called system than we want to readily admit.

I keep coming back to this idea that the system is broken and we need to tear it all down and rebuild. If the system is so broken then why do millions of kids come to school every day and become better prepared for life? Why do I have kids that love learning in my classroom every day if the system is that broken? If the system is so broken why are there so many selfless people teaching in classrooms around this country?  How is it that in this broken system there are kids whose lives are literally saved by attending school? Broken systems don’t produce the mind blowing and inspirational things that are happening in public school every day.  Yet we have evidence of these things happening all around us in public schools across this country.

The public education system in America has its issues…no doubting that. Yet the issues are primarily with the politicians and corporations that are trying to ruin it not the people that are actually doing the work. Too many people are claiming the entire system needs to be rebuilt because they are not looking at what is working and building on that. It is much easier to tear down an entire house rather than doing the hard work of fixing it up. Politicians love to talk a good game but when it comes down to it, their actions do not match the candor. Corporations claim to have an interest in education but truly it is about their bottom line. I know the system is not perfect. However, I see so much good within it that I will focus on doing my part to make learning the best it can be in my classroom. If we all just focused on that rather than trying to “fix the system”, we might be in a much better place.


William Chamberlain said...

I think the system is broken on a lot of levels: the way schools are funded, local control, federal control, lack of professional oversight by the professional teachers, etc. With that being said, I agree that we need to focus on our classrooms first. I have much less time to debate big issues (until maybe the winter break in December) and need to be jealously guarding where my thought capital is spent. Let's do what we do best, teaching.

Anonymous said...

I half agree with you. Yes, there are shining examples of what public school can be and what public school teachers can do. But I fear that the things you highlighted are exceptions, not the rule. There's so much ignorance and hate in our country - and that's not a byproduct of a system that's working.

To use your "tear down the house" metaphor, I think we DO need to tear down a house that's structurally unsound. But we can save the materials that are sturdy, that add character and charm, that can be recycled into something greater.

So: I agree that people overlook the good. But we also can't underestimate the bad.

M. A. Hauck M.Ed said...

Both of you can't fathom the obvious. The reaqson why schools fail is because we don't produce enough good teachers. This Gen Y/Millenial group of kids are, for the most part, a disaster. I see them in action all the time. Many of them can't spell or speak proper English. And they are supposedly COLLEGE GRADUATES?! Many wear ugly tattoos that everyone can see, plus many wear ill-fitting clothing (the girls, especially) that exposes areas that should not be exposed (especially the girls carrying extra baggage). I saw a kid recently who looked like he never properly learned how to knot a tie so it falls down to the belt line.

This generation was not groomed for the professional world. But really, how could they be when they were taught all the wrong values by their so-called "progressive" thinking teachers. Teaching kids to avoid making judgments of others, teaching them that their country is not exceptional, teaching them that we should tolerate every aberrant lifestyle as normal, etc etc didn't teach them to be ready to assume adult responsibility. They may be more competently touchy-feely warm and sensitive, but you don't get very far in life just on that. You certainly can't profit from it and earn a living

Dan Boyle said...

Thank you for your post, Josh. I agree with you that there are many great things happening in classrooms all over the country, and while we certainly have problems (some of our own creation as teachers, some beyond our control), we have the power to make a difference in the lives of children every day. No system is perfect, but if we can start focusing on our own students and make one of them better a day, then very soon we will see other things get better. I would not consider myself a "progressive thinking" teacher as a previous commenter has suggested, but I would like to think that I am "progressive" in that I challenge my students to use technology in different ways to improve their thinking and their future. Maybe its not perfect, but it's better than thinking that the only hope is to tear it all down and start over. That is more than I could bear.

Brandee Smith said...

Thanks for your post. I agree with you that many students benefit and are saved by the educational system! It is nice to read a post with some hope for the new school year.

Elizabeth Mims said...

Hello. My name is Elizabeth Mims and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. My major is Elementary Education.

I found your post, "Is the System Broken?" to be very insightful. While I believe that the education system is far from perfect, I agree with what you wrote about teachers having more control in the classroom than most think. I am becoming an educator because I want to make a difference in the lives of children. Teachers might not be able to control what goes on with our education system as a whole, but they can make an impact in the classroom. Children are growing up and doing amazing things with the education they received from an education system many deem broken.

Twitter: @bubbiemims
Class blog: edm310classblog
My blog: elizabethmimsblog

Mandy said...

I agree with you when say that the American Education system isn't perfect but that it's not broken to the point that it needs to be torn down. My personal feelings on this are if you are a politician or businessman with NO background in education whatsoever, stay out of it, we don't want your opinions or directives because you have no idea what you're talking about. I think the educators' solution to the 'broken education system' in our country is the move/push towards Common Core standards because the reality is that we have been stagnant when compared to the academics in countries such as China. In terms of trying to fix the system, we need to start with the What rather than the How. Let's look at what is being taught rather than how it's being taught. My co-teacher is fantastic and modifies her lessons on the fly based on the group in front of her and what they are struggling with. We never present the same lesson in the exact same manner in the last three years we have been teaching together. But we still need to cover the same thing. We just get to control the HOW instead of controlling the WHAT. With all of the concerns being raised in regards to pension plans in the state of Illinois, my challenge to each politician that I have spoken to or e-mailed is to come do my job just one day and see what it really is like to be a teacher. And my challenge extends to those same politicians and businessmen that think they can 'fix' the broken education system. They have no clue where to begin, let alone what they are even talking about!

Nasreen Naeemullah said...

I agree with you that the system is not broken. However, there are so many faults within our system that are usually caused by politicians and lobbyists that have their own interests in mind..and then there are teachers who simply don't reflect on their teaching to improve upon it..there is a lot of negativity out there that can bring people down and affect those that could have otherwise been successful.

In my opinion, a great teacher can have a profound influence on a student's life. However, that teacher is usually only the student's teacher for a semester or a year. All the new teachers over the years need to be great teachers in order to reach the struggling student. If a struggling student tends to have average or bad teachers, it is a lot harder for that student to succeed.

Yes, curriculum, laws, state testing, and such have a profound effect on education. But, like you said, the learning takes place in the classroom so it is up to the teacher to make the most of it and really help the students learn.