Godspeed, and Good Luck
Teachers begin the school year.
I have several friends who are teachers. Although I’m not an academic (a teacher or scholar in a college or institute of higher education), I have spent time in front of a classroom teaching. My mother was a college professor, and my father was an administrator at a private college, and then a community college. He also served as superintendent of two school systems in Ohio.
I have a private-sector mindset, but I grew up in an academic atmosphere.
Because of my parents’ experience as academic professionals, even as a child, I knew the academic world was nowhere near perfect. For years, my mother taught five classes a semester as an adjunct (the academic slave trade), and my father struggled often with the fallout of politically charged decision-making.
My mother retired from teaching, but my father eventually abandoned academia altogether. Neither of them left the field with good feelings. I’m sure this background of my upbringing set the standard for my feelings about academia today.
I love my teacher friends. I do. But if I had children, they would never attend public school - because I know how my teacher friends are struggling still.
Public education institutions are incredibly out of touch with the needs of students, families, and the world. (For example, in 2022, GSU, historically a “teacher’s college,” gave Mitch Carmichael an honorary degree. An honorary degree to the man who said in 2018 that striking teachers were being “disrespectful to the legislative process.)
Oh, the irony.
And the WV Board of Governors just extended WVU president Gordon Gee’s contract another $800,000 year, in the midst of a $45 million dollar budget. Following, WVU leaders recommended doing away with 32 of its majors and 169 faculty jobs.
Alderson Broaddus University lost state approval to grant degrees due to heavy debt and was ordered to wind down its operations and not enroll new students. Alderson Broaddus sent an email to students Aug. 3 confirming it would shut down about 18 days before classes were due to begin.
More and more K-12 schools are deleting their libraries — and then wondering why their students aren’t prepared for college. For more than two decades, college debt has been a national issue, and yet higher education seems completely unprepared for the drop in enrollment that began before the pandemic, and hit crisis levels following.
West Virginia has been disrespecting teachers and faculty in their systems for years. The pandemic simply showed those in the classrooms that administrators didn’t care if they were safe, healthy, and protected.
And yet, teachers returned to their classrooms, prepared to face another year of going through the motions. Educating the students has become secondary to survival. Now, required continuing education classes for teachers cover how to administer Narcan and survive school shootings.
A few days prior to the return to the classrooms, I spoke to my teacher friend on the phone. There was a time when she was excited and happy to be with her students again. Not so much in the last few years…
“Well, Godspeed and good luck,” I said. What else is there to say? The countdown to the end of the school year has begun.
Meanwhile, the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that total enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools fell by more than 1.2 million students at the onset of the pandemic and the federal government expects an overall decline to continue. Since enrollment is tied to their funding, schools can expect to be tightening their belts another notch or two in the coming years.
Nearly 2.6 million kids have switched from traditional school to homeschooling since the start of the pandemic, placing the total number of homeschooled kids at about five million — around 11% of all U.S. households. A similar survey conducted by Q for Quinn found in addition to 11% of parents currently homeschooling their children, an additional 15% said they plan to transition to homeschooling in the near future.
Public schools, like American media, have lost the trust of the people. Parents don’t believe their children are safe (up to 35%), or protected from bullying, violence, prejudices. They don’t trust the schools to follow a troubled student’s IEP, to prepare their child for the workforce of today, to treat their child with care and respect.
Meanwhile, other parents just assume schools are there to help their children succeed. We can no longer make that assumption.
Public education has passed the tipping point. The system has stopped serving its purpose, is abusing its faculty, disappointing parents, and failing the students. We have traveled beyond the concept that a “one size fits all” education system works. The myth that a college degree provides an advantage in the job market has been busted. College debt is no longer worth the investment.
So what are parents and students to do? Begin by reframing your concept that public schools are the only option, and understand that your child’s post-high school goal will not necessarily be college. Be prepared for the emergence of micro-degrees and certificates, consider trade schools, and supplement your child’s public education with courses and lessons that provide practical skills, like managing emotions, setting goals, budgeting, adaptability, and problem-solving.
And what are teachers to do? They are caught in a system that no longer allows them to educate well. To address the teacher shortage, instead of providing raises, our legislature implemented programs to recruit new teachers, many of whom are underqualified. Teachers are not respected by our legislators, much less by the administration or students. Those who can are leaving the profession in droves.
For those who still hope to teach… Thank you. Students need you, to be the light of their education experience.
Godspeed and good luck.