Major Issues In Public Education Today

by JohnK Wright

Too many students today live in a world where everything is easily accessible to them with little or no effort. There will be many changes in our society in the coming years; especially in technology, so how can we change this mindset? I believe this disconnect can be solved in three steps. These would include support from students’ families; imparting knowledge on how to deal with this changing technology; and educating the students in the importance and concepts of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education.

Family Support

While statistics vary from source to source, it is evident that many states are having difficulties graduating incoming Freshman and further that there is a distinct correlation between the high school dropout rate and the rate of incarceration of these young people. Schools need the help and support of parents to make their children understand the importance of staying in school.  Families need to give encouragement and guidance on the importance of staying in school. There must be a partnership between our schools and each student’s family to work together in coming up  with a plan for them to stay in school. If we can get the student to stay in school and graduate with a high school diploma, it will hopefully prevent them from becoming a statistic and allow them to be resourceful and successful in life.

Technology Is Changing

Students are graduating from high school and competing for jobs in industries that did not exist when they began. How do we teach and train our students to survive in this world? I think the secret is that we need to make our students effective problem solvers. There is more to learning than just inputting some text into a search engine. Students need to understand the WHYs and HOWs. Life does not come with an Owner’s Manual. Life happens. Students need to learn to be resourceful and to figure out how they are going to accomplish something; whether it is a term paper, final project or passing a state EOC exam. We need to help students stand up when they fail. Quitting or giving up is not part of their solution. Students have to and should move on with encouragement. Thomas A. Edison once said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. Teaching our students to work with technology is important, but it is more important to teach them not to give up and find a solution.

STEM and Life

I guess I am a little partial to STEM because of my education, engineering, math, and technology background. I learned the importance of STEM while a Military Engineer Officer. We worked outdoors and needed to know about our environment and under what conditions it changed construction methods. Sometimes we needed solutions when there were no blueprints. Technology gave us resources that were important in our world. Mathematics was related to Engineering and Technology. Even Science was important when designing elevations of roads, bridges, conditions of rain or snow and other environmental impacts. I still love to hear questions from students on, “Why do I have to learn this?” or “When will I use this in life?”. I recently showed a student why logarithms were important in the financial world and even in statistics. I helped a student with a physics problem by talking about science and mathematics. I had to help students find the answers to those internet searches (where they claim they couldn’t find the information) by using math and logic searches. I love explaining how there is a connection between mathematics and music, and how some people believe that Stonehenge relates to the circular patterns of the planets rotating around the sun. I think the key in education is really not STEM, even though it is important, but how our subjects are interrelated to each other. It is through cross-curriculum education that is the key to get our students to become more successful. We as teachers, need to teach and show students that it is all interrelated in life and that all of their subjects can be related. Life is like that. I didn’t say it would be easy, but in my world, I believe that is how we can fix the problem with educating our youth today. Improve the support from our student’s families; teach them to use technology, and know that their subjects are important because they do relate to each other.