In a recent seminar on Adolescent Development, I was asked to provide a summary of what I see as the greatest challenges in education and our education system today. Below is my response to the question at that seminar.
Our education system in the United States is in trouble and there are many, many challenges. As I think of the greatest challenges we face right now, three things come to mind.
First, our education system has become about something other than kids. Chap Clark calls this systemic abandonment, the phenomenon that our adolescents (and children) face with many systems today. These systems, including education are meant to be focused on kids and what is best for kids, but have become about something other than kids. Our education system in the United States used to be about educating children, teaching them skills and helping them find their place in society. The education system is often forced to ignore development, the needs of children and what is best for children. This is not the fault of teachers and administrators; it is system problem. Education has become about standardized tests: measuring our kids, teachers and schools to death as well as other things that have nothing to do with what is best for our kids.
Second, decisions about education are being made by non-educators; and others not qualified to make decisions about what is best for kids. Most decisions regarding education today are being made by the state and federal government. Various departments, committees, legislators and over government officials are making decisions about school and teacher evaluation and effectiveness, curriculum, standards and tests.
Thirdly, the decisions made regarding education have become political decisions and are not focused on what is best for kids. With a system that has become about something other than children, and decisions being made by non-educators outside of the school communities serving our children, we have created an environment where decisions are no longer focused on education or children. Throughout the United States and in many states, especially Indiana, education decisions are focused entirely on politics and not what is best for kids.
While we face many challenges in education in the United States, these are the three biggest challenges we currently face in my opinion. The best thing we can do for our children and education is to change our focus to what is best for children developmentally, academically and socially.