Where the responsibility lies

Junia Yearwood wrote in an OpEd piece in the Boston Globe this week that it takes a culture that values learning to educate a child. I couldn’t agree with this more. What is valued in our culture? I don’t believe it is intelligence and learning if pop culture is any indication.

What struck me as poignantly true was this quotation found in the middle of the piece:

Blaming us, the teachers, absolves all others of their complicity in the failure to educate our students and relieves them of all responsibility for solving the problem. It’s expedient. Yet until we accept collective responsibility for the problem and for finding a permanent solution, progress will remain an elusive phantom.

It is indeed easy to blame educators for our students’ failures. It makes closed minds feel much better because there is someone to blame for the failure of education. Even when the elephant in the room can no longer be ignored, politicians and leaders find it more to their liking to blame the practitioners and look for a quick fix. I am not saying that there aren’t areas where education and educators can improve. Of course education is not perfect and neither am I. Nonetheless, the truth is that it is far more easy to blame teachers for all the ills of education when the problems affecting student achievement are far more complicated.

How many times do we have to show our children that learning is for nerds and eggheads — even those terms are a pejorative. What stereotypical imagery do we employ when referring to females who go into mathematics? When our society as a whole changes from treating intelligence and high achievement in learning as something to be valued, we will have made a giant step toward a permanent fix.

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