Current Events in Education

It’s Not the Teacher’s Fault: Where Our Education System Has It Wrong

I’m not a teacher and thank goodness for that because it is the hardest job in the world. As a School Counselor for many years in numerous settings, I have seen teachers blamed, criticized, micro-managed, and treated poorly by the various stakeholders in education. Since the Bush Administration implemented No Child Left Behind in the early 2000’s, much of the joy has been taken out of teaching, not to mention learning. High stakes testing, pay for performance, and constant implementation of questionable curriculums (see Common Core or Marzano’s Taxonomy) have made teaching a thankless job. More distressing than the issues listed above is the commonly spouted idea that somehow when a student does not perform well on a test, that the teacher is at fault.
Please stop me if you have heard any of this before. Fill-in-the-blank-student is struggling because fill-in-the-blank-teacher is not teaching well enough. Parents, administrators, and now an ever increasing number of students themselves are pointing the finger at the teacher when any/everything goes wrong. The teacher’s classroom management is poor, the teacher does not properly understand the educational standards and objectives, the teacher is not using the correct pedagogy when it comes to long division. While there is validity to some of the above complaints, rarely do we ever look outside the teacher and point the finger at a more likely culprit, ourselves. Sure, there is lip service paid to students from high poverty areas having worst test scores, and parents being accountable for student’s progress or lack thereof. Unfortunately, these explanations typically fall to the wayside rather quickly.
In 1954, Psychologist Julian Rotter came up with the concept of Locus of Control or the idea that the extent to which an individual has control over his/her life is based on an individual’s viewpoint. Those with external locus of control blame outside forces, while those with internal locus of control blame themselves and factors they can control (Rotter, 1954). A seminal 1971 study conducted by Nowicki & Strickland found that as students grew older their Internal Locus of Control, or the extent to which events were changeable due to their own actions, increased. One could extrapolate that if this continued to be the case that most individuals would begin to take responsibility for themselves and their failings upon reaching adulthood. Apparently, the idea of Locus of Control, and its correlation to personal efficacy (Nowicki & Strickland, 1971) has been taken out of the field of education (if it was ever there in the first place).
No longer do we subscribe to the idea that students, and by extension people in general, are responsible in any way for their success. Look no further than politicians and administrators who constantly harangue teachers without ever looking within and asking, “how am I contributing to the problem?” No matter the system (Common Core) or the legislation (No Child Left Behind, Race to The Top) the education system in the United States is severely lacking. In 2017, U.S. News and World Reported ranked the United States Education System seventh in the world, four spots lower than in 2016, and behind similar industrialized countries such as France (5th) and Canada (1st). While the reasons for the issues with the United States Education System are too numerous to count, one thing is for sure, until all of us stop blaming teachers and look inward regarding how our actions or inactions contribute to the larger scope of the problem, things are not going to get any better.

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