It seems like at least once a day I hear a teacher or other adult say something that amounts to, or implies, “School was a lot better (or kids were a lot better) in the 60s/70s/80s/90s.”
We all know that we have a tendency to idealize the past. I was a student in the 80s and 90s, and I know schools had problems then. I know teachers worked hard, put in long hours, and were underpaid. Classes were large–there were 29 in my 5th grade class. Many kids had serious behavior and learning issues, even in my wealthy, high-performing suburban school system. School 20 years ago was NOT paradise.
But American public schools in 2011 are widely deemed to be failing. According to a lot of people I hear from, kids today aren’t ready for college or the job market. They can’t speak properly or write well. They have no self-contol, no sense of responsibility. All they care about is video games (or rap, or drugs, or gangs, or whatever). To hear many adults talk, most of America’s children are far inferior to the children of decades past, and the problem keeps getting worse.
Here’s my question, for people who have been around longer than I have: what is the cause of this decline? Assuming for the sake of argument that schools and kids were better “back in the day,” what changed? Is it NCLB? The recession? Budget cuts? Teacher or parent laziness? The internet? Cell phones? Divorce/single parent families? Alien force fields?
I sound sarcastic but I’m actually serious. If our schools really are in large part abject failures, more so than before–and many people think this is the case–what is the primary problem here?