A thought just came to me, and it’s one that I have been batting away for the last few years. Is our educational system so outmoded that it actually causes harm to the students who attend? I speak with regard to middle school and high school. I think elementary school is necessary. And that it should probably stay the way it is.
But really think about it…. is middle school helping anyone? High school? At least in the United States? School is important; but to be more precise, education is. And I’m not sure students are being educated anymore in schools.
Think of all the mental health crises Covid has wrought on students. And the fact that we have to have all of these drills with ever-increasing worst-case scenarios unfolding with students as young as kindergarten being trained to duck and cover for active shooter drills.
Of course school isn’t all bad. In some cases it is protective. While this post addresses how schools might contribute to mental illness, I think that mental health challenges can also stem from trauma, in which case school can protect kids who are being raised in abusive households; LGBTQ+ students are, additionally, at greater risk for mental health issues due to stress of unsupportive living conditions in their families of origin, and that they are, furthermore, most at-risk for homelessness. Socialization is important, so students know how to cooperate and be humble as learners when they are in a school environment; but independent thought is also important, and students learn this from good teachers, with modeling and guided instruction.
But with the way school is now, and especially since Covid, the question emerges: are schools meeting students’ needs and are they developmentally appropriate in their treatment of students as we go back into the classroom in the coming weeks?
Depression comes from chemical imbalances, yes. And it can also accompany illnesses like Chron’s and other diseases that impact the gut. But people can also fall into a depression when they don’t have a sense of purpose and integration and meaning. And I think that a lot of people are trained into a standard mold rather than into their true selves; and this in both public and private education. In my experience, private education features more wrote and traditional learning and that the instructional quality is higher in public schools, where teachers need to be certificated, but that student needs can be higher in public schools, which can contribute to teacher burnout, student disobedience without accountability (I had a student throw a chair at another student in the last school where I worked, and the administration had him in classes that afternoon and he was in my class the next day – essentially without consequences for his actions).
I am seeing a lot of people get educated in college even, and not be able to find work. Some people are posting about how colleges are using Covid measures as an excuse to cut funding to the humanities. In my opinion, the humanities need updating. They prioritize an objective frame on the one hand, or radical subjectivity (think ethnic studies) on the other hand. This does not compute when it comes to the real world and people actually getting a job. And of course, not having a job and having been educated for a profession that no longer exists (PhD programs in the humanities and in seminaries for professors in seminaries when they’re running out of churches for students to end up) also contributes to depression.
Then there is the work-life balance of student life nowadays. We are rewarding obsessive studying, and this leads to a lack of practitioner-learners and business people. Books written by people who only write books read differently than books written by people who are practitioners as well as authors. There are some exceptions, but I think that schools of education, seminaries, and other similar practical schools for professionals, are disconnected from the practical world. In my teacher training program, I was never taught how to plan. We had to plan, and to turn in plans, and lesson plans, and unit plans, all these plans. But no one actually told us how to do it. And a lot of teachers leave schools of education without being able to actually do the day to day planning.
People leave writing programs and no longer write after getting into the habit of submitting papers and essays and book proposals once they’re no longer getting points for doing so. Are schools training people out of discipline and self-motivation? What do future jobs look like anyway? And is education just meant for providing jobs to people? I don’t think so… but the humanities are leading to unemployment and navel-gazing of the highest order.