W hen I was in second grade during the last century I had a friend named Carol. She came to school one day very excited. At recess she told me her mother allowed her to do something herself. Know what it was? Carol wanted to get a box of crackers out of the cupboard but she could not quite reach them. She looked to her Mom for help. Her Mom, instead of getting the crackers, suggested to Carol that she "use her head." Carol tried to put her head into the cupboard to reach the crackers. Of course, she could not.
She said how stupid it was to try that. Her Mom said nothing and by doing so, allowed Carol to think about how she would get those crackers. Do you have any idea why I choose to share this little story I remember so well? Carol said she was determined to get those crackers herself. She looked around and saw that very near the cupboard was a little step stool. Her mother praised her for "using her head" to get those crackers. She told me her Mom commented that as she grew, the problems would get more difficult. That is an absolute truth.
In my professional opinion as an educator we do not teach our children to think for themselves. There is great value in making mistakes and learning from them; we do not forget the big mistakes, which become a critical part of growing up and making our own choices. In our schools today, constantly in need of more and more money, we have habitually not given students time to think for themselves. We see a problem and we make a Band-Aid regulation to handle it, not giving adequate consideration to the long-term effects of the decision.
One example in this area is schools are reluctant to hurt the feelings of the children they are supposed to guide into adulthood. It seems that every year more and more students are labeled as in need of "special education." I have observed that it is almost a badge of honor to be called an "at risk" child. A few times students I tutored told me they were instructed to announce and use this as an excuse for their poor performance. I strongly believe these students' perceptions of themselves have been permanently damaged in the motivation department; they are encouraged to be lazy.
Often as a teacher and tutor, I realized that teachers tend to tell students they are doing fine when, in fact, they are not. Parents seem increasingly afraid to discipline their children and they will do anything to avoid saying, "No." In schools today bullying is a problem; problems get attention. In some ways attention is desirable to some kids simply because they are ignored. A big part of schooling that is overlooked is many people involved in a child's schooling but often, the parent is least consulted or informed.
Do you remember the last time you sat down or drove somewhere with your children and talked about things that affect your family, specifically them? Have you asked your children for their ideas about how to remedy some problem in your home or at school? How many meals a week do you have as a family without a television distraction?
We have places in the curriculum for drugs, sex, bullying and gangs. Currently, we are considering gun control. It would be prudent to examine how effective other programs have been at prevention of a problem with ill-considered and knee-jerk actions. Realistically, most have not solved the problem, but exacerbated it.
Television can be a destructive form of peer pressure because programming is laden with disrespect for authority, violence, profanity, and increasingly more explicit sexual innuendo. I have noticed that commercials are equally disgusting. From TV, to social media, to Internet access and, other big forms of peer pressure, the schools seem to be acquiescing to exaggerated social problems these entities magnify and glorify.
Children have tough choices today. Many of them are without a credible male role model. Their other choices include entertainers and Hollywood types who dramatize the downside of life and glamorize sex and violence; athletes, many of whom are overpaid but less than stellar citizens; or our elected officials who are not serving the people they represent. Each of these likely choices of people to emulate is interested primarily in money and exploiting the public. Wealth is not money; money is not wealth.
The public school system has steadily declined. Teachers' unions have no interest in student success. They are an obsolete, expensive deterrent to a quality education. The family remains the most important unit of society which must be rejuvenated. Our country has spending and taxing problems; but this denigration of society is fast approaching an irreversible plunge into immorality.
• Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.