By David Williams
We should seriously consider revamping the education system as we know it.
It is common knowledge that many of our students are struggling. We are quick to inform our high school and college athletes regarding the low percentage of individuals who make it to professional ranks. Our desire is not to be hope-stealers or dream-robbers but rather to share a sobering reality: just as few athletes make it to the big leagues, just as few do not make it to college.
As a culture, we need to stop advocating that college is the only way to succeed. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. People are unique and should be treated as such whenever possible.
When I was in the sixth grade, I was attending school in Germany. As I was walking to class some students walked by me.
“David, stop those students!” my teacher yelled.
I turned and yelled at the students, “Hey, y’all come back here.”
As soon I as completed my sentence, I heard my classmates erupt with laughter. I instantly knew why they were laughing. Although I was miles away from Alabama, I had managed to bring my world into a classroom in Europe.
I did the same thing once we moved to Kansas and continued to do so until slowly and skillfully my teachers taught me to speak properly, or at least in a manner that wouldn’t cause my classmates to laugh each time I spoke.
Just as I was, so are our children/students. They are products of their environments. Language acquisition, social skills, critical thinking and self-disciple can either be hindered or enhanced, depending on the nature/nurture factor. It doesn’t matter whether it is the penthouse or the outhouse; their world will find its way into the classroom. As educators, we are challenged with helping them to make the needed adjustments for an opportunity at a successful life.
I worked at Gadsden State for a semester, and each student who passed through our GEAR-UP program was subjected to an exam that measured both intellect and interest inventory. Once this data was collected, a graph was created that displayed where the two categories intersected.
The students were informed about all the jobs available in their areas of interest and intellect. The information from the exam also illustrated to the students of what academic deficits they needed to address if college was indeed their goal.
It seems like a very logical approach to education. My plumber, mechanic and air condition repairman are all entrepreneurs who do very well for themselves. Although some of our students might struggle academically, some of those same students might possess hidden talents and skills which would afford them a chance to be productive citizens instead of college failures. Part of the revamping education has to be redefining success.
History has provided us with examples of how this can work. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the government established the Freedman’s Bureau to help former slaves make the transition slave to freedom. Booker T. Washington later founded Tuskegee Institute with the purpose of providing African-Americans skills and trades. Those students constructed their own buildings and made their own bricks. The school also produced scientist and pilots.
I’m not saying that one profession should outweigh the other; I’m saying that we should open-minded and creative when it comes to our students’ road to success. We cannot continue to fail the child and punish the adult. Why do we continue to pass students who are reading well below grade level? How can such promotions be in their best interest? Once they are passed onto higher grades, the disciplinary problems that manifest often are the results of those students’ lacking comprehension. They cannot participate in class and sitting silently while everyone else learns. That has to be some form of torture. Wouldn’t their time be better spent focusing on improving their reading and improving their consumer math skills? In the words of Big Mama, “Honey, that child just ate a Brillo pad. He ain’t going to Harvard.”
If we adjust our sights and find a way to identify talents and skills, perhaps we can break this cycle of read, fail and jail.
Contact David Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.