LettersOpinion

Critical challenges face education system

Dear Editor,

A woman is asked at a cocktail party, “How are you doing?” to which she replies cheerfully, “I’m dying of cancer.” The person asking the question quips, “Oh, that’s fabulous!”

They both laugh together. Isn’t our educational system one grand cocktail party?

In my politics class several years ago, the late professor Felix Bethel said, “This is a bad place!”

His words act as a reminder that the current track of education in the country would appear to any sound person to be in a state of doom!

Certainly, things can change and education officials would like to be optimistic about where the system is headed. Why would any of these officials preach doom anyway?

Why place their status of privilege at risk by calling attention to the degenerative state our public education system is in. To be frank, this might be an error of poor calculation and teachers, as they always have been, are terribly afraid to stage a serious protest for change. Instead, they are comfortable with just checking out and bluffing their way through as best they could. But what must this mean about the future of education?

“If you don’t like it, then leave!”

Any honest teacher would admit that there are gross issues in our education system no one seems to want to address and this is leading to institutional decay. Teachers who are woke enough to realize these issues are often called disgruntled and admonished to leave. Indeed, teachers can leave, but does it mean these issues will just vanish? And are these grievances legitimate enough to be seen more objectively for what they are?

For those who work in education, particularly those in charge, it isn’t that they cannot see what state the system is in. Perhaps, it is that they are in their little “Christian bubble” and would like to be pious about it.

It can also be that they are not in the classroom anymore (or never was) so they do experience the brunt of these issues. They aren’t directly affected by anything and would like to exonerate themselves by saying something idiotic and frivolous like, “There are problems in every system and we are all seeking to address them.”

In fact, it would be better to say, “We are obsolete and highly paid, but don’t know the answers.”

But a more direct question would be: “Are education officials blind to the rapid pace at which our decaying educational institutions are churning out poorly socialized citizens and how the lack of teacher incentive is directly tied to this?”

I was reminded of this upon finishing the ritual all teachers experience every August, the one where we all seem to be blamed for the massive number of student failures. I heard one of my coworkers say, “COVID has widened the gap between the haves and the have nots.”

Of course, he seemed to have taken into account a rather important variable of student failures in the past school year.

Yet, in all my few years on this job, these grave numbers are nothing new. I am sure those who have spent 40, much to the detriment of their health, financial gain or lack thereof, can say the same.

Since the primary mode of operation for education officials is to find new and creative ways of policing teachers, and increasing their workload each year, the one mindset they all seem to share is, “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.”

More acute is to say it is impossible to address a situation one doesn’t even know exists. If they are aware, they are in either a conflicted position where there is much red tape or in a state of denial. Bottom line: it doesn’t affect me, so why should I care?

Be pragmatic with me as I too shall indirectly accuse my fellow teachers.

I have a theory that goes beyond the typical excuses for student failure which we love to attribute to a lack of material resources in the home environment and cognitive disorders which merely account for only a part of the problem.

Instead, has it ever been considered that teachers are burnt out, poorly incentivized and simply do not care anymore?

Are these scores of student failure reflecting teacher attrition and burnout? Education is the single most important institution to ensure small island development but the current prospects are dismal.

I have come across countless teachers, some who have spent more years in the system than I was alive, who are disgruntled and with legitimate reason.

Of the rest, who try so desperately to get promoted out of the classroom, only to be rewarded for taking on grueling work quotas merely five years before they are due to retire, are what can be called “useful idiots”.

They easily sell the falsehood that they “love their job” and are not frustrated. The sheer pretentiousness of these teachers should be commended for its deception. I’d wager that they’ve become hip to maneuvering their suffering and know how to best make the system work for them.

The burning question is: Why do they stay?

After coming to this realization that the job is harming their health and its demands each year require flesh and blood, they are, say, 20 years in or more.

Where are they to go at this point to obtain the salary they’ve taken many years to obtain? I’m certain this creates a state of fear in leaving. After all, they’ve already amassed a mortgage and other responsibilities; they choose to swallow the bitter pill and put up with it. Commendable is the fact that they have entered the system wanting to make a difference.

But an even more direct question would be: Does it ever occur to education officials that widespread dissatisfaction among teachers might affect the quality of instruction, and if they shall agree, how should it be addressed?

This issue is further made worse by the excessively bureaucratic nature of the system itself.

There are too many bosses and too many lines of communication which compound this frustration.

That brings me to the other side of the coin. You see, the bosses would still travel to Scandinavia on the taxpayer’s dollar to observe those educational systems’ best practices.

They’d come back, try to implement everything except those models of incentive for teachers. For those who’ve experienced nervous exhaustion, and have been shoved in a cubicle at the Ministry of Education, they are one of two things: computer illiterate or have a phobia with answering telephones.

These days I particularly see black male underachievement as the goal of the educational system. Surely, if it doesn’t benefit white oligarchs, it certainly serves prospective government officials, who take the product of the latter and use it to their advantage.

It grants them the luck of political grandstanding to an otherwise unlearned electorate. They say, to the effect of, “He promised to combat crime, but did nothing in five years.”

Is the educational system really designed to teach black people to think critically, or merely equip us to work as servants in tourist paradise? Where’s our paradise? Is teacher frustration a part of this conspiracy?

I leave this question for the reader: What would become of that demographic of students, unable to think critically or barely even read? I daresay that our education system is creating an even wider demographic of the electorate whose votes are contingent on a $20 bill, or a bag of groceries.

Disgruntled (young) teacher

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