Ann Bednarski: Needless programs erode our critical-thinking skills
The most profound and interesting psychology course I took was “Motivation and Emotions.” We were studying behavior and what and how it is influenced. I initially would have had a difficult time explaining what I gleaned from this course, but, as my life experience continues, I appreciate it more every day. I have become particularly sensitive to what motivates people to action. Equally what alters, distorts, or destroys any motivation.As I observe the world and interpret the lack of academic excellence expected from today’s students, I appreciated hearing the renowned education advocate for students, Michelle Rhee, say “The word ‘education’ is derived from a Latin word, ‘educo’ or the verb ‘educe’ — to draw forth from within. She said it means every person is born with knowledge; the objective is to help nurture and guide it to use. In other words, the purpose of education is “to learn how to think and use your knowledge to live.” This objective has been seriously altered or dismissed. Increasingly, we seem to have lost the importance of thinking and making decisions and easily acquiesce to someone else thinking for us. An unused body part atrophies; so does the brain. The word “education” still means ‘raising’ and ‘bringing up’ — what is already there in each person’s brain. It is the primary responsibility of parenting. The philosopher Socrates employed the “draw forth from within” method in his teaching. That ideology has systematically been displaced by professional deference, a courteous yielding to another’s opinion. The result is fewer and fewer seem to know how to think, write or find their own path. Parenting has become lax and schooling is increasingly without the vigor for excellence. Instead we have taken a progressive approach to everything. We do not allow children to think or make decisions. We have created too many programs to help things be easier and dropped expectations substantially. Peer pressure has far too much status in children’s growing and learning years, so they become non-thinking sheep following the crowd. One of the most prevalent side effects is a general lack of respect — for self, adults, property and authority. Things have truly gone askew, which has led to an increasing number of people without skills or direction and therefore, dependent on a plethora of social programs to take care of them. Sometimes I honestly feel lost in this society. My ears cannot believe the solutions to pressing problems our society has accrued. Ads on the television and radio, for example, encouraging people to apply for food stamps, known as “Cal Fresh” in California, are aimed at increasing the dependency on government to solve our problems. Long-term unemployment benefits have an adverse effect on the readiness to get back to work.Our education systems are constantly short of funds and always in need of volunteers. For the past 40 years, the same message and pleas to reform education have continued. We have instituted program after program to ease the burden on teachers and make schooling more exciting for students. None of these things really works in the long term. Students today are less prepared than they were 20 years ago. Parents have yielded their duty and authority to huge numbers of people who generally treat them as a number in a case load. Administrative positions and bureaucracies are multi-layered and expensive.As Ms. Rhee pointed out, the teachers’ union does an excellent job taking care of teachers, but it usually is at the expense of student success. A true educator, in my professional opinion, should know how to think and have no need for being in a union. Many financial problems in schools have nothing to do with students; they are the result of union-negotiated contracts. Unions are obsolete and infringe on the purpose of educating children. There is now a place on the Internet where one can learn which federal programs they are entitled to receive. I learned about this on TV, where the newscaster said she qualified for three assistance programs though she earns a six-figure salary. Recently a welfare recipient was advised to take a lower-paying job so her assistance with housing, medical and children’s expenses would not be terminated. Some of the most constant and prevalent promotions seeks volunteers to donate their time or money or skills to further assist those in need or trouble. Often, far too often, I ask myself why or what would motivate people to become self-sufficient? This progressive, politically correct approach is very recessive and relaxed, and retarding growth.May I suggest with strength of conviction that each one reading this not be duped by deceptive dazzle which seems to abound at all levels of leadership, especially in Washington, D.C. An uninformed, uninvolved constituent is losing his rights and privileges. The spirit of America is suffering. Please help stop the madness. • Ann Bednarski of Carson City is a career educator and journalist.