I have a simple question. How much have human beings changed in the last fifty years? I don't mean who we are, I mean what we are. Physically? I think it's a valid question and one worth examination.
As a teacher, I am constantly being told that I have to be accountable. People want me to keep trying different techniques. They say education is failing.
Yet, teachers pretty much do what they did fifty years ago. We assign reading, we engage the students in discussion, we attempt to engage them through interactive activity, we take on the role of Socrates. We assess and check to see what the class isn't getting, target some students who seem to be lagging too far behind, and then we test to check for competency. Sure, teachers are constantly being told to work on critical thinking, to teach to the test, to do a myriad of other things which sound great to the community-at-large, but the basics of teaching haven't changed. Even homeschool teachers can't really teach differently, although they have the advantage of a smaller group of students.
So if education is failing, then what's changed? The teachers? Most teachers I know go through a four year program, majoring in their desired content area. They take two more years after that and get certified. Then, they take eighteen additional college credits over the next five years and assorted professional training experiences.
Over half the teachers graduating college leave the profession within the first five years, so those that remain to teach have accrued some strong knowledge of their craft and appear to have a degree of dedication.
So what has changed? Really? Why is education failing? I go back to the original question: are human beings physically different in how they are able to learn?
Or is it possible society has changed? Could education's failure somehow be influenced by a fifty percent divorce rate or the amount of single parents? Could it somehow be influenced by the amount of time students spend in front of a television, playing videogames or watching vapid programming? Could it be somehow influenced by the diets of the young, manifested by the obesity level in the country? Could it be influenced by the elements within the government who, desiring to implement an agenda of privatization and politicization, twist curriculum this way and that?
So what's changed?