Tuesday, August 9, 2022

 Defeating the Purpose of Education

Updated: May 2024
Most people would agree that the primary purpose of education is to prepare children for a good and productive life. Having been involved in education for over 50 years I would describe the proper education of children as preparing them to earn a good living doing work that pays well and is fulfilling, learning to live in harmony with others and in compliance with society's laws, to understand and enjoy science, the beauty of nature, enjoy and produce art, literature, and to generally find happiness in life. The U.S. Declaration of Independence emphasizes "the pursuit of happiness".

In the past few months I have reviewed the results of education reform in Louisiana to see if it was accomplishing these important goals for our precious children. I have come to the conclusion that almost everything teachers are required by their bosses (the legislature, BESE and the DOE) to do in Louisiana education is defeating the purpose of education. 

One of the highest priorities of education should be to prepare students for the world of work. There are common skills we need to instill in students for any career whether it be academic or physical labor. Our students need to learn a set of values and habits that can be referred to  good work ethics. That means that you show up for work on time every day, that you do your job right, and are generally dependable. We should be teaching that attending and doing well in school is the same as a job. Students need to be taught  good work ethics in their school performance. We are now teaching the exact opposite in our schools today. Students don't have to show up consistently at school, they can skip a lot of school (see this article on truancy), they can be disrespectful to their teachers, disrupt classroom activities without real consequences, they can refuse to do homework or prepare for tests and they can fail all their tests and they are still promoted to the next grade and are seldom disciplined. (see my study on state test results and automatic promotion) also this more recent study on accountability. Just look at the statistics: 40% of students are classified as truant every year, they  seldom make up the days they missed without an excuse, 35% fail two or more of their LEAP tests and they still get promoted to the next grade. School authorities regularly violate state law on compulsory attendance and testing and promotion laws with the tacit approval of the Department of Education. The school's performance score would go down if they enforced these laws. Our schools are teaching almost zero responsibility and a terrible work ethic. This defeats the purpose of education.

Don't expect BESE to approve real accountability for students and parents. Don't expect BESE to insist on schools enforcing the mandatory attendance law, and don't expect BESE to enforce the laws requiring denial of promotion to students who repeatedly miss more than 10 days of school and fail all their state tests.

BESE instead will continue making teachers and administrators the scapegoats for the lack of courage in enforcing mandatory standards that are clearly described in state law. 

I just don't want to hear any more education officials or politicians talk about "raising the bar".