The dismal statistics of a recent South Dakota News Watch story painted a simple picture: Just under half of state students fared poorly on English tests, and they fared worse in math and science.
Poor, immigrant and Native American children — many of them poor — depressed the curve.
Gov. Kristi Noem demanded remedies.
The story sketched solutions used with some success, but they all cost money, so expect the same dismal story to appear next year and in years following.
You don’t have to be in school to ignore important lessons.
A ridiculous amount of scholarly research has mapped available paths to better student outcomes. In essence: Kids need to be in secure and stable environments, understand the lessons presented, feel supported, receive help as needed and be held accountable.
Meanwhile, many taxpayers really don’t want to provide security or stability to struggling children. They want, they say, for parents to be held responsible, but really, for most, it’s sufficient that they blame the parents. Blame provides cover for the indifference showered onto struggling kids feeling hungry, insecure and neglected. Blame permits us to avoid our responsibilities for fixing problems, because, well, it’s not our fault.
Politicians use blame to further erode funding, ignoring volumes of educational research. Blame is an expedient solution to saving money. Too bad it never fixes anything.
Things were better, say some, in the days before we spent money to feed hungry students, counsel the abused and tutor those who can’t speak English well.
Yes, they certainly were different times. Back then, stay-at-home mothers had a sandwich waiting for a child who walked home for lunch. Back then, three TV channels played cartoons on Saturday mornings. There were no cell phones or internet games. Importantly, everybody was middle class.
In truth, poor or abused children struggled then, too, but they did so silently. We blamed them anyway.
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The state’s lackluster test results came just two years after lawmakers addressed South Dakota’s last-in-the-nation teacher wages using revenue from a half-cent sales tax. So, either South Dakota invested in teachers and it didn’t pay off, or more must be done to address a problem generations in the making.
Blamers will take away the wrong lesson. Money blinds them.
In those good old days, grandparents and parents truly revered schools. Education was the key to a better future for everyone. They celebrated schools, students and all educational centers.
Today, many prefer to distrust education, fearing it fosters foreign ideas. Many blame administrators, teachers, parents and even the children. Blame absolves them.
Abundant distrust and blame will cause schools to leave many children unprepared for the technologically dependent 2030s. We’ll all suffer because of it. Today’s students will be our doctors, nurses, co-workers and bosses. Inadequate educations will restrict our country as it battles in an increasingly competitive world.
We already suffer from poor decisions made 30 years ago. Ask any employer. It’s getting harder to find capable, conscientious workers. We should expect more of the same.
Every parent knows they shoulder blame for some of their children’s failings. It’s a hard job. It’s even harder for those without money, good role models or a good education.
But blaming parents shouldn’t permit us to ignore the needs of children who will either become a productive part of our communities or dependent upon them.
We’re in a hole. We all see it. We don’t need another politicians’ plan to fix our schools. We need the political will and determination of ordinary citizens to do what is necessary.
We know what works: Parents helping children, early childhood education, programs that support English language learning, mentors, role models, good teachers, well-equipped schools and loads of long-lasting community support.
If you can’t identify your own roles in that picture, don’t blame somebody else for education’s demise. Blame yourself.