Crucial sweeping changes need to be made to our educational system in the US
Put Humanity at Core of National Education
Failing the next generation
Across our nation, we (adults) are failing. Generally speaking, schools set the tone for societal norms. The way we speak to people, maintain relationships with people, our work ethic, and it becomes a mini society to both learn and practice within. If we are lucky, we build ties with adults who support us in correcting our actions and gaining coping skills and ending any behavior toward us that in the larger society we’d utilize the police for. The bigger problem is that in today’s modern world, more money has been put into technology, sports equipment, and other areas to make each school the best as far as “status” or pay to attract “the best”. We’ve even put large sums into technology for security due to the rates of school violence, drug use, sales, dangerous behavior and shootings.
In New York State, known as the most rigorous state for education with the Regents Diploma, I see a failure, a gap. A number of schools even used extra funds for mental health to boost security to include armed guards instead of enriching their emotional / mental health program.
To this I say, not only do they not know who they are looking for but there is plenty of other trauma associated with going to school with armed guards However, as we learn more each day, we should find the answers staring back at us, if we could just step back for a moment.
For socially conscious schools, in the mid 2000’s SEL or social -emotional learning was a new emerging concept. Linking social issues with classroom content was a huge push across districts.
Where we used to support students in the code of conduct and relating to each other better, creating classroom rules; a lesson I facilitated is not enough. Discussions that simply link functioning in our society to Hammurabi’s code or the constitution are no longer applicable to new generations in making change in our society.
I spent over 13 years going into classrooms teaching about social emotional issues using research based programs mixed with situations the students would come up with. They would have differential learning experiences from watching video’s to reading to discussions to experiential learning experiences (from skits to news casts). This was the real deal and what needs to be the focus, units on feelings (anger- depression), increasing self-esteem, resiliency and using positive methods of communication during challenging moments. Management of what is going on in the community, at home, and at school. This in depth work is what is needed at this time.
The Topics : The Real Deal
Our students/kids might be aware of the hostile situations abroad but, between the pandemic and many lost family members, family businesses, and homes too, the riots in recent years both political and racial; I still advocate against the wrongs. These issues have been with us since before my children were born. I witness worse racism, harassment, bullying and verbal, physical, and violence by weapons ( guns, knives etc) most fatal in nature and many over 3-30 casualties, then when I was in school. As an LCSW and a parent, I have seen first hand how these evils ( schools call them “Micro-aggressions”) can lead to decreased self – esteem, victims becoming bullies, lost confidence in school and sports, depression, low frustration tolerance, and continued social – emotional health issues throughout life, limited coping skills, and criminal behavior including homicide and suicide. Anything that impacts society so greatly I call “macro”.
A “push in” by the social worker ( most schools don’t even do) isn’t going to deprogram the generations to come… Kids are in school 35 hours a week- roughly 10 mo. a year. There is a lot of time to retrain and influence them. We need to start to use it! In order to be a productive member of society and utilize the skills taught in school, I believe we need to solidify the understanding of humanity.
“Tell an adult” isn’t working anymore for a host of reasons. One reason is that students are afraid of the repercussions for sharing. Another, is that depending upon the administration, and their relationship with the community, and it’s make-up (rural, suburban, urban) the response within in the schools can be vastly different. This was a complete shock to me. I was under the impression that our federal laws dictate student safety and protection from racism, harassment etc, not the location of the public school setting. However, I have had eye opening experiences with situations regarding rural vs. suburban school gun, racism, and harassment responses. Even to the surprise of students, who at first, expect a strong disciplinary response and become aware that it doesn’t occur in their setting and either see their own latitude, or loss of protection.
I strongly believe a state- wide or federal law is intended by the government to be uniform across all public school environments. I don’t see a need to convince parents (although their education and support would be extraordinary) but, to teach students and uphold the law as a school district. I cannot accept the excuse that “our community is just not there yet” regarding a federal law. Then the district is not following the law or acting humane or just.
The Zero Tolerance Excuse
”Zero Tolerance “ policies have been scrutinized as they don’t take specific circumstances into consideration and in urban and some suburban areas were heavily punishing students for first time offenses. Today, many schools practice “progressive discipline”.
I am a believer in progressive discipline. unless the offense threatens the safety and well being of someone or the student themselves. In my view, that includes hate related speech, symbols and sexual or other continued harassment. When admitted to as serious or repeated, or witnessed in that way…then it is not a first offense.
Humanity and Social Media Today
Unfortunately, what our students / children are being exposed to on social media and movies and the crimes committed by minors are much more violent. This is not our fault but as we identify this, let us look at what we can do to show the importance of human life and engrain that into them from an early age throughout school. As a parent, I hear all the time… “I can’t not give them snap, or tik tok.” My own children who are middle and high school age don’t have these, or access to about 1000 others. It is just accepted : never happening.
What I learned on the Inside
Working within middle and high schools for the majority of my career, three things where clear… social media was the demise of self-esteem, friendships and it negatively impacted academics.
1. The best thing you can do for your child is NOT allow other students 24/7 access to them in a million other ways! Especially, by people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to speak with them by text. A few bad texts can ruin a night. Just wait until snap and chat on a million websites are spoken about.. that they feel compelled to read.
Tips •try to model for your child how to be successful and what is serious and what is not
•Urge your children to get first hand information before they get upset about anything written or said to them by a 3, 4th party. Misinformation is common, and then they should let it go.
•Any first hand knowledge of a threat to them on or off school property should go directly to school administration by you with your evidence ( direct text from person, voice mail). Try to get the details before connecting and if possible go in or have your child go to school admin directly 1st thing in the morning with that evidence.
If it involves the bus someone will need to drive them in until you can speak with the school.
•The school may suggest to you if there is a specific threat off of school property ( bus is school property) to report it to the police,
Do you want a safer society?
More to come! It is possible!