Notes for Adolescents and the Schools
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504 Instructor: D. Witt
From your textbook's instructor's manual. Compulsory education was instituted throughout the United States between 1890 and 1920 - including standard curricula, vocational courses, and citizenship as a subject to be taught. Later classes in areas such as music, physical education, and sports broadened the curriculum have been added and taken away as local funding varies. U.S. Educators follow numerous strategies to promote learning:
The Carnegie Council proposed core social policy for improving adolescent education by creating learning environments that promote learning communities, curriculum standards, academic success, effective school personnel, student health, family involvement, and community-wide resources. Students making a transition from grade school to middle school, and then to senior high have both stressful experiences and beneficial outcomes. Students experience the top-dog phenomenon as they move from top to bottom positions between grade schools and middle schools. School changes provide students with the opportunity to gradually shift toward personal independence and responsibility. Fewer transitions, increased involvement in extracurricular activities, high-quality friendships, and parent support are correlated with good student adjustment and high self-esteem. Successful middle schools create settings that provide personal attention, involve parents, support rigorous instruction, and promote student health. Many high school graduates are ill prepared for college or the workplace. Educators believe that high schools need a new mission to better prepare students.
Criticisms of U.S. Public Education
We don't teach the way we think.
Remember Information processing? attention-perception-memory-thinking-problem solving
My experience in public school was one long lecture, filled with facts, almost totally devoid of a guiding philosophy, with very little in the way of principles or development of skills. Of course I was young at the time and may not have developed the ability to understand the subtext.
Here's an example from my 7th grade Texas history supplemental text (circa 1963).
While we did have a real
textbook, we all got most of our Texas History from a
little pamphlet entitled "Texas History Movies" (Patton
& Rosenfield, 1928). Note the blatant racism in just
two frames! Recently all the racism was removed from the
treatise and reissued!
Accountability: The current debate over the demonstrated ability of public education to transmit valid academic skills is filled with invidious comparisons and faulty logic, which we'll get to in time.
Another part of the bad news is that, once the functions are agreed to, we don't teach the way human beings really think.
My experience in public school was one long, 12 year
lecture, filled with facts, but almost totally devoid of
guiding philosophy, logical underpinnings, with very little in the way
of principles or development of skills.
Here's this very imaginative
kid (little Davy) who hungers for a taste of life, being
asked to color in a map of South America for 55 minutes.
One day I would visit Brazil, and let me tell you, it is
not burnt orange in color.
Or practice spelling
tests - With the entire 5th grade
at the ready, Mrs. Wiest would stroll around the room,
carrying this week's spelling words, and read off each
word four times - s-l-o-w-l-y.
This is mind-numbing - This is mindless - This is
disrespectful of the student! All this is to illustrate
the typical traditional classroom which was
structured and rigid, with teacher in the front of
the class directing small actions and students facing
teacher, essentially taking dictation. And it is very
much alive today.
So, from 7th to the 12th grade students have spent approximately:
In terms of curriculum, the American educational system uses the Inoculation Theory of Education (Postman and Weingartner, 1969: 21 - Teaching As a Subversive Activity). English is not History and History is not Science and Science is not Art and Art is not music. This means that education sees each subject as a distinct and solitary discipline, which isn't true. It wasn't until college that I took a course entitled the History of the English Language. Art and Music are minor subjects - English, History and Science are Major subjects, and a subject is something you 'take' and when you have taken it, you have 'had' it, and if you've 'had' it, you are immune and cannot take it again (for credit). Did you, in your entire secondary education career, have a teach that was so good you wished you could take his/her class again because you just know you'd learn something new?
We teach by Rote learning, performance for grades and mystification. It's not what you learn that matters to teacher or student, it's the grade you get that counts. Implicitly we are teaching students that the grade is the important thing. We've forgotten one of teaching's fundamental rules. From the American Pragmatist Poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who was buddies with William James and John Dewey. Dewey remarked that,"The secret of teaching is respecting the pupil." and he ought to know being the architect of that American education system.
Teachers too often make a game out of education, taking unfair advantage of students in much the same way a bully might beat up on smaller children. There's the "Guess What I'm Thinking" game where teachers have all the right answers, not students. And they pose questions like, "What is the real meaning of this poem?", "What were the three causes of the Renaissance? ", or "What do you suppose was running through the writer's mind when he wrote this article?" One might as well call up the Psychic Phone Line.
Even all the way into graduate school, students inescapably feel a definite class structure separating them from faculty with boundaries of impenetrable condescension. And the sad part is, students are not motivated to change these situations, and neither are teachers. Perhaps we are conditioned from the first grade through to their first day on the job to expect no more than repetitions of the "right" answers to subjective questions and logging up hours toward graduation/retirement.
We teach powerlessness, dependency, and reliance on authority to adolescents. To quote Vinkman from Ghost Busters, "This is Bad!" How can increases in self-confidence, respect for one's body, empathy for others be instilled under an educational system that rewards passivity, makes us sit still for hours on end, rewards those who are most cooperative and least intellectual, and emphasizes grades above all else? There's a much better way to accomplish the goals of education, which are to
The Big Event that initiated the emphasis on increasing the quality of education back in the 1950s wasn't a strong desire from the leaders of our nation to give children the best education in the world. It was Global Politics - the Russian's caught us with our technological pants around our knees with the successful launching of the Sputnik satellite in 1957. For all the wrong reasons, the federal government decided to finally get into the education business (for middle class white kids anyway). In the 1960s, the public schools were singled out as the most likely institution to achieve racial equality, reduction in teen pregnancies, adequate social and personal adjustment, reduction of child abuse, and safe drivers. So how are we doing on these issues?
Recent student reactions to school - What if you were forced to attend the University of Akron? Would your attitudes toward the institution change if this were true?
Erikson's criteria for a good teacher:
Personality Traits of Good Teachers Baumrind's discipline Traits:
Teachers do influence learning with the degree of enthusiasm, organization, adaptability, and cognizance of individual learner’s requirements they possess. Parent and school cooperation must continue from grade school and middle school through high school to ensure positive outcomes for students academically and physically. Students in middle school interact with many peers on a daily basis. We know that popular or accepted students are more successful academically. Some children and adolescents are the victims of bullies. These children have several characteristics in common including parent who are demanding and unresponsive and a tendency to internalize problems. Victims of bullies can suffer short-term and long-term negative effects.
Socioeconomic status (SES) also has an enduring influence. Students from low-SES neighborhoods attend schools with lower graduation rates; fewer students going to college; and young, inexperienced teachers. Ethnicity and SES are often difficult to understand by themselves because many minority group members experience poverty. Educational programs often reflect attitudes of institutional racism. Strategies for resolving these difficulties are complicated. Student relations in ethnically diverse classrooms may be achieved by creating jigsaw classrooms, encouraging positive personal contact, advocating perspective taking, promoting critical thinking and social problem solving, establishing cooperative school-community efforts, and advocating for knowledge and respect of ethnic attitudes.
Cross-cultural comparisons of secondary schools have found several similarities such as being divided into two or more levels but have uncovered many differences as well. College attendance also differs with Canada having the largest enrollment. Exceptional adolescents represent students who often require curriculum modifications and adult support to reach their full potential. Students with a learning disability most often have difficulties in reading, written language, and math. Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have difficulties focusing on relevant environmental stimuli and show high levels of physical activity. About 90 percent take prescription medication for behavior control. Adolescents with disabilities typically are included in regular education classrooms, the least restrictive environment. Inclusion in regular education classrooms ensures that all students have the same opportunities to learn both academically and socially. Adolescents who are gifted demonstrate characteristics of precocity, independence in learning, and internal motivation. Programs for gifted students include special classes, enriched regular education settings, apprenticeship pro¬grams, and community internships. Educators and schools are continuously challenged to support diverse learners within local educational settings
Some Important Research Findings
The Policy Debate on Education
Beyond Choice to New Public Schools:
Going beyond the current debate over school "choice" plans,
Kolderie, of St. Paul's Center for Policy Studies, advocates
ending the exclusive franchise of local districts to own and
operate a public school by permitting enterprising educators
to open innovative public schools under contract to a public
agency. Under divestiture, local districts could even give
up the operation of schools altogether, while retaining a
broad policy-setting role. Kolderie offers eleven guidelines
for creating a more competitive public school system that
would remain under public control.