Op-ed: Public schools – institutions in turmoil | News, Sports, Jobs

I was a product of the public school system. It was a positive experience that I will always cherish. But times have changed dramatically since my school days.

In recent decades, I have observed the decline of educational progress in our public-school systems. The decrease in test scores and the rise of school discipline problems is quite evident across the nation. I believe there are various reasons. Allow me to share my thoughts as a former K12 educator.

TEACHERS EDUCATORS

First, I want you to think about the qualifications of university educators in other professions. In the medical field, the higher-education teachers are practitioners: RNs, DPTs, NPs, PAs, MDs, and DOs. Colleges of law consist of practicing paralegals, prosecuting and criminal defense attorneys, and retired judges. Dental school instructors include dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants.

On the other hand, education professors have little practical experience regarding the K-12 classroom setting. Many of them acquire a bachelor’s degree, immediately followed by procuring a master’s degree. After that, they earn their PhD or EdD. And finally, they secure teaching positions at institutions of higher learning.

Yes, these educational professors definitely have very limited knowledge of K-12 classroom situations that practitioners have to face. Thus, they have filled their students’ minds with educational theory based on sterile, controlled research, not on real-life scenarios regarding the K-12 environment.

Furthermore, teacher-educators lack background experiences on how to deal with the myriad of discipline problems that public school teachers have to contend with in the classroom on a daily basis.

They rarely (if ever) stress that student-learning cannot take place without classroom control or discipline. Without question, classroom control is the foundation for knowledge to be disseminated in the K-12 arena. Ask any public school “master tutor.”

Thus, our young teachers are ill-prepared to deal with student discipline problems. So, what can they do? Well, they either figure out on their own how to handle their students or they leave the profession frustrated and traumatized with feelings of failure.

To be quite honest, I was one such naive teacher upon graduation. And I received my “Baptism of Fire” in an inner-city school. After just two weeks of attempting to utilize the “educational theories” I was taught as an undergraduate, I realized the approaches were useless in the K-12 domain. Fortunately, I had the fortitude to change strategies.

The Monday of that third week I turned on “about face.” I morphed into a stern K-12 educator, stressing that the classroom is run by the teacher, not the students. At that point, I developed the following philosophy: Be firm, be fair, and be consistent. Beliefs I adhered to the rest of my teaching career.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I always listened intently to my graduate school professors when they shared their knowledge regarding my field of study. However, as soon as they started telling the class how to teach, that’s when I closed my notebook.

THE LIBERAL AGENDA

In my 40 years as an educator, I witnessed the infiltration of the liberal agenda in the K-12 environment. Gradually, changes were made. Corporal punishment has practically been eliminated because the liberal powers-that-be perceived it as an inappropriate discipline tactic in our schools.

During my early years as a teacher, I observed discipline problems being immediately resolved when CP was administered. Today, school psychologists spend months attempting to allay the various behavior problems of disruptive students. Even then, many of these students have continued to cause mayhem in the classroom.

Yes, our public schools are truly in dire straits. Discipline problems are at an all time high. Students are dealing drugs in the hallways of schools. Others are in possession of weapons. And far worse, we have witnessed fatal atrocities that have recently occurred in our schools.

Secondly, the liberal element scored another victory: the elimination of school prayer. It was a morally empty victory. Prayer hurts no one and actually promotes positive human values. Love’s a big one.

Anyone who says that the liberal agenda has created a wholesome and safe school environment conducive to optimum student learning must live in Wonderland.

STATE TEST SCORES

Over the years, students’ state test scores in the core subjects (English, mathematics, science and reading) have gradually decreased. I could state statistics that would fill many pages. All you need to do is surf the internet. Then you’ll become an avid believer.

Some educational theorists have suggested that Covid is the culprit behind poor test scores. But as I previously mentioned, this downhill trend started way before the Covid outbreak. And I firmly believe that the lack of classroom control or discipline is a major cause of lower test scores.

We did, however, learn something regarding the pandemic. Without a doubt “remote learning” doesn’t work. Just ask any K-12 educator.

In closing, I suspect I’m in the minority regarding the preceding thoughts. Still, I felt obligated to express my opinions based on decades of practical teaching experiences.

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Bill Welker, EdD, has taught at every grade level during his K-12 career, included teaching in Pittsburgh, as well as other public and private schools during his 40-year teaching tenure. He was an adjunct instructor at the university level. Welker has published more than 20 scholarly papers in various educational journals. He also published The Literacy Handbook, which was distributed to schools in eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia. Welker was selected “Teacher of the Year” by the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce. He was also awarded the “Jasper N Deahl Award” by West Virginia University for his accomplishments as a certified reading specialist.

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