April 14, 2013

Why Don’t We Value Education?

With the ability to learn and think, we are empowered. We are free. The world is in our hands.

Last week two different people spoke out about the current state of teaching and our educational system.

One was Randy Turner, an English teacher whose blog post on Huffington Post warns young people not to become teachers. “Classroom teachers,” he says, “especially those who are just out of college and entering the profession, are more stressed and less valued than at any previous time in our history.”

In his post he touches on classroom management, teacher tenure and merit pay, tying many of the problems back to No Child Left Behind.

“Everything that is not math or reading has been de-emphasized. The teaching of history, civics, geography, and the arts have shrunk to almost nothing in some schools, or are made to serve the tested areas.”

Then a resignation letter from Gerald Conti, a teacher at Westhill High School in New York, was also published. It explained why he is quitting his profession after several decades.

Conti’s issues are similar to that of Turner’s, especially when it comes to standardized testing and the failure of legislatures who are “selling children out to private industries such as Pearson Education.

Both Conti and Turner express dissatisfaction with the advent of the Common Core Standards. According to www.corestandards.org, the Common Core State Standards provide:

“… a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.”

Essentially, the standards are what everyone who goes through school “should know” so they can go to college, get a job and be productive members of society.

To me, they represent the dumbing down and numbing up of our educational system and its learners. They take away creativity and individualism and leave no space for real learning to happen. They also assume that everyone will go to college and work in a gray cubicle.

In essence, they require every school to get certain numbers on their test scores so that they can receive funding.

And so it comes down to money once again.

Turner and Conti sum up why I lasted in the teaching profession for precisely one year (two if you include student teaching).

I entered the profession with big dreams, big ambition and big goals. I went in inspired by a teacher I had in high school, one who taught me how to think. I believed that if everyone were given this gift, maybe we could live in a different world.

With the ability to learn and think, we are empowered. We are free. The world is in our hands.

But what I found as a teacher was precisely what Turner and Conti point out—it simply wasn’t possible to be the kind of teacher I wanted to be and believed I could be within the confines of the rules and expectations that were laid out for me (much less with the behavior and discipline problems I faced).

My big dreams lasted about as long as the grad school application process.

Instead, I was left wondering how anyone can teach someone how to think, and to think for themselves, if they are being told how and what to teach—if they aren’t allowed to think for themselves.

And more importantly, why don’t we value an education that isn’t about test scores and rankings?

It seems like our educational system is trying to turn us into a bunch of robots. As it currently stands, there is little room for innovation, much less for acknowledging and teaching to our differences.

We’ve taken basic humanness out of learning and growing.

Sometimes the conspiracy part of my brain thinks this on purpose, so that when our kids grow up they won’t be able to think for themselves and will do whatever the government says.

It’s a little too 1984 for me.

In actuality, I don’t think the government is that smart. I think they are just interested in keeping their money.

Is this the world we want to create—one without the arts, without history classes, one where one’s value stems from one’s ability to perform on a test?

A world like that scares the crap out of me. And it does a disservice to us all. In our current state, we need all hands on deck. We need every idea and every person doing their part.

We can’t ever create an enlightened society if many of us are deliberately being left in the dark. And we certainly can’t get there if there is no one willing to teach us. As one who quit before I even began, I often wonder how teachers today manage to do it.

Like so many other things it seems that the solution lies where the money does. Unfortunately, the money lies with people who have no interest in education. They see it as an expense, not an investment.

And sadly, today’s youth are the ones who will have to deal with the ever growing consequences of what we’ve wrought—global warming, economic instability, etc.

Don’t we at the very least owe them the education they will need to face our mounting problems? Aren’t they worth the investment?

More food for thought:


Plus, “What Lots of Teachers Think But Are Scared To Say:”


For more on what’s wrong with the Common Core Standards, go here.




Like elephant enlightened society on Facebook.


Ed: Kate Bartolotta

Reply to associate degree cancel

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Angelina Cloe May 13, 2015 10:45am

It has been the trend since centuries, civilizations which dominated the globe and left their marks forever were those who gave core emphasis to education and this is the only secret of success of nations currently excelling globally and will be in coming times.

associate degree May 26, 2014 1:46am

It is very important for us to give the value of our education and always continue education to increase the academic profile which is good for us in the future.

Crystal Apr 14, 2013 6:14pm

I think the common core standards can be a great launching point for teachers. It is not as though they define how you must teach a standard, that is still up to the teacher or a school district. As a new teacher, I feel creative when I can look at a standard and develop my own lesson for it. Perhaps teachers from my era of schooling were able to be more creative and individualized in their teaching, but I don't think that translates into them teaching me how to be a better thinker. I think today students are taught more about to think critically than I was.
I agree that standardized testing has become far too profitable for educational publishing companies like Pearson. It seems like there are many professionals opposed to these tests, and there are fewer but more powerful people to profit from them. What really bothers me is that I just found that in my district we have two additional testing sessions. In the fall students are tested to see how they will do on the state test in the spring, and at the end of the year students are tested again to gauge how they will do on the next year's test. This is oppressive to teaching.
Overall, I like the standards, and I think that they can be great tool to keep teachers organized. Teachers can still be creative. They can still choose to "unpack" the standards, because they are not perfect and there are too many of them to do in a year. Standards need to to scrutinized, and be reformed again and again. Standardized testing, used as the single descriptor of student knowledge growth and the merit of a teacher, is wrong. Testing being used as the monetary incentive and noose for public school is wrong. I know that state and common core standards go hand in hand with standardized testing, but I think that the standards and the standardized tests on their own are two different concepts. They are not one and the same, just interactive. We need to analyze them both separately and together.

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Stephanie Vessely

Stephanie Vessely lives in Denver, Colorado and is somewhere in the middle of a lifelong love affair with words. She feels a little out of place a lot of the time and thinks writing about herself in third person is awkward. She is regularly saved by yoga and is searching for Truth. These are a few places she’s found it: the swaying of tree branches, the ocean, the laughter of her niece and nephew and her own heart, when she can be still enough to hear it. She’s an aspiring vegan who loves travel, hates small talk and hopes to help save the animals. Someday, she’ll learn how to tap dance. In the meantime, she keeps scribbled secret notebooks
and knows everything is as it should be, even if she has a hard time remembering it. Follow her on
Facebook or visit her website.