I have to admit, I think my generation ruined the U.S. Educational System.
I think I am Generation X, falling in the 1965-1980 era, just a little beyond the World War Two “Baby Boomer” scope. My generation is the generation “in power,” so to speak. We are the ones who occupy a good portion of the seats of leadership, authority, and power, especially in Educational roles.
The other day at coffee, the thought of my generation being responsible for the decline of our current educational system occurred to me. Identification of a problem is not always enough. Immediately, problems should be recognized, addressed, and remedied. Then, a more detailed analysis needs to be performed to understand why the problem developed initially; what conditions were created or encouraged which led to the problem, what I like to call the “downstream effects.”
My parents generation, those born right at the onset of World War II, the progeny of the Greatest Generation, detailed in Tom Brokaw’s book of the same name, were hard working people. Their parents, members of the Greatest Generation, were very hard-working people. One grandfather worked in the oil fields of Kansas and Oklahoma, a roughneck and prize fighter. He literally scratched a living from the earth with his hands and barbed-wire. My dad’s family lived in a tiny little house in central Kansas and often their groceries consisted of rabbits my grandfather would catch among the oil field equipment. My other grandfather was a Nebraska farmer who also literally scratched a living from the earth’s soil. He raised cattle and row crops, from the Great Depression until the 1990s. He lived all of his years, but two days, in the very same house in which he was born.
These men and their wives, and their children knew the value of hard-work, a work ethic. They appreciated everything they earned and instilled in their children the very same values. Some of those values were passed down to me (inherited culture) and my sister through my grandparents, as I was very fortunate to have know them a fair portion of my life. No amount of gratitude can express my thanks for their contribution to who I am today. By the same token, my parents reflected the values of hard-work, sacrifice, and commitment of their parents, and kept these traits alive after the passing of my grandparents.
I honestly do not see these traits in my peers. Even worse, my peers as parents are not communicating any of the aforementioned traits to their children in any meaningful way.
A nearby county high school has a policy which allows students in their senior year to avoid doing any homework. Across the country, K-12 teachers, parents, and administrators argue for shorter school days, shorter school years, and less homework for school kids. Furthermore, local, state, and federal politicians actively engage in debates encouraging cuts in education spending, cutting teacher benefits, cutting teacher salaries, and further constricting financial aid dollars available to college students.
Now, I don’t mean to castigate all teachers, parents, and administrators, as there are woefully few who are witnessing a once brilliant educational system slide into mediocrity. Yet, there are vocal teachers who do not want to take work home with to grade, do not want to attend summer training and workshops, and do not want any obligation imposed upon them outside of the classroom. Parents do not want to assist their children in homework after school. Parents would much rather watch TV, shuttle their kids among soccer and baseball, or spend time at the beach than prepare their child for the world, and instill any kind of work ethic. In fact, more and more children are arriving in college with a sense of entitlement,
“If I cannot do the work while I am in class, I will not do it. I will not spend my time outside of class doing your work. You expect too much.”
I have a rule-of-thumb which says only about 15% of students really will apply a work ethic. These students are the ones who recognize,
“what I get out of Life is what I put into my Life. The more I work hard and apply myself, the better my situation will be. By taking charge of my Life and my responsibilities, I will eventually be ahead in Life’s Rat Race.”
The “15%” probably have a good role model somewhere, a parent or grandparent. The potential exists the student may be self-actualized enough to have evolved a good work ethic in spite of having parents who could care less.
My peers, other Generation X-ers, appear to lack the same discipline my parents encouraged in me.
“I remember having to do 4 hours of homework each night and I’m not going to ruin my kid’s childhood with that.”
“High school is a time for fun; she can worry about what she wants to do with her life in college.”
“Kid’s spend their childhood in school. I hated school. Why should I imposed on them something I didn’t like, either.”
“Childhood is for fun, and we push too much stuff on them too soon”
All of the statements end the say way:
“And, I turned out fine.”
Your logic is flawed based on what happened yesterday, based on looking into the past, and using the same myopic view to gauge the future. Good luck. One of my favorite quotes I like use goes like this:
“We ride into the future sitting backwards in the saddle watching the past go by with little notion or concern about what lies ahead.”
The world is not the same world into which you were born. The economic, cultural, social, and educational demands are different. Adults who make the mistake of preparing their children for life today are dooming their children to failure. Adults need to be preparing for Life in 20 years, not tomorrow, not in two years.
To my peers, I say, your ignorance is appalling and thank you for undermining our entire economic system and ruining what the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomer Generation spent their lives building. Your short-sightedness, ignorance, lack of competitiveness, and complete ineptitude to understand the consequences of your behavior on the lives who will one day be responsible for administrating our nation borders on criminal negligence. We can find plenty of money to fight wars abroad, when we can rationalize the spending of said funds, yet investing time, energy, and money in our children and their future – and our near future – seems to not only be too much to ask, but appears to be something many of my peers would working actively against.
I suggest a new name for my generation, the “Irresponsible Generation.”