With the protests in Wisconsin still front page news f there has been a great deal of discussion about education reform. I've heard a a lot of discussion about teachers unions and that these organizations make it impossible to fire bad teachers and that this ability to not route out bad teachers and conversely reward good teachers is one of the major reasons our schools are failing our students.
Now I will agree, like any profession, there are ineffectual teachers that are hurting the school system, however in my experience that population is rather small. Most teachers are passionate about their profession and the students they teach. My belief is that the last person to blame for poor test scores in the U.S. are teachers. However there is one group of people who are never mentioned as a problem in our failing education system, and that's the students.
I believe as a society we focus our energy telling our children about the importance of education but we don't try to instill a passion for education. While some students go to school with a genuine passion to learn most treat school like a social event. While it's true that learning how to socialize is an important skill set you develop at school it's not why you go to school.
The lack of passion became clear to me when I started teaching in higher education. This is the first time students are really given free will to go to class, do their homework, and learn. I'm always surprised at the amount of students who choose not to come to class for a myriad of reasons none of which are illness. It shocks me how many students don't turn in their homework because they forgot to do it. Some students (not all) just don't care. It comes through everyday when a kid texts in class, has a side discussion, doesn't come to class, comes late, etc. They have no passion for learning.
So I would say one of the real causes of bad test scores is so many students just don't care about education. It's the students fault.
Now of course that's not entirely true. It really comes down to how our culture values education...which it doesn't. Look at the people we idolize, Paris Hilton and The Kardashians (who are famous for nothing), professional athletes, rock stars, etc. I don't mean to belittle the hard work that these people do (well maybe Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian) but why don't we idolize scientists, teachers, doctors?
We need to have a fundamental shift in our society. We shouldn't stress the importance of education we should help develop a passion for education.