10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago

About Jeremy S. Adams

Jeremy S. Adams is the author of two books on teaching: The Secrets of Timeless Teachers (2016) & Full Classrooms, Empty Selves (2012). He is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and teaches Political Science at both Bakersfield High School and California State University, Bakersfield. He is the recipient of numerous teaching and writing honors including the 2014 California Teacher of the Year Award (Daughters of the American Revolution), was named the 2012 Kern County Teacher of the Year, was a semi-finalist in 2013 for the California Department of Education’s Teachers of the Year Program, and was a finalist in 2014 for the prestigious Carlston Family Foundation National Teacher Award. The California State Senate recently sponsored a resolution in recognition of his achievements in education. He is a 2018 CSUB (California State University, Bakersfield) Hall of Fame inductee.

Something is wrong—very, very wrong. Teachers across the country at all grade levels, in all subjects, teaching a wide variety of student populations, can sense it. There is a pulse of dysfunction, a steady palpitation of doom that the path we are on is not properly oriented.

There is a raw and amorphous anxiety creeping into the psyche of the corps of American teachers.

We may have trouble pinpointing the exact moment when something in our schools and broader culture went wildly astray, leaving in its wake teachers sapped of optimism and weighted with enervate comprehension. The following is a small sampling—this list could easily have been twice as long if my conversations with fellow teachers are any indication—of problems that teachers were not facing ten years ago.

There is a raw and amorphous anxiety creeping into the psyche of the corps of American teachers. Click To Tweet

Every failure of civil society—institutional rot, political cynicism and polarization, tattered family and other filial relations, depressed expectations of student behavior, a preening and non-apologetic narcissism, extravagant self-regard, anti-intellectualism in our minds and moral relativism in our hearts—manifests itself in our schools. The result is a weight of responsibility, an anvil of obligation, now pushing against the outer periphery of what schools can realistically achieve given their inherent limitations. It is no headline to announce that schools mirror the dysfunction of society writ large. With this in mind, I offer the following list of ten things teachers did not have to deal with just a decade ago.

#1: The Inability to Punish Students: This is a story in modern education that is big and is about to get much bigger. A hodge-podge of policies and euphemisms—restorative justice, social-emotional learning, banning punitive actions for defiant and vulgar students—has resulted in a toxic situation where many teachers feel they are no longer in control of their own classrooms and schools. While many of these policies are instituted with just and well-meaning motivations such as trying to end the tragedy of the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon and ensuring poor students are not disproportionately disciplined, as is often the case, the consequence has been a loss of control on many campuses across the country. While suspension and expulsion should never be the first or even second option for discipline, there absolutely must be consequences to destructive student behaviors if for no better reason than to protect the vast majority of students who are well behaved and want to learn.

#2: Cell Phone Addiction: The constant need for “dopamine baths,” to quote Andrew Sullivan, has produced a generation of endorphin junkies populating the modern American classroom. The statistics are jarring by any account: teens are on their phones, on average, for nine hours a day and the heaviest cell phone addicts swipe, touch, or use their phones up to 5,427 times a day. The correlation between cell phone addiction and youth levels of depression, isolation, anxiety and low academic performance is beyond question.

#3: Online Bullying: When I was a child, weekends and nighttime served as reprieves from the school bully and the general drama of school itself. Nowadays there is no escape and the effects are daunting. One in three children have been threatened online and most distressing of all, half of all children who are bullied fail to tell any adults about it. It is not hyperbole or embellishment to state that young people live much of their lives in a cyberspace unregulated by adults. We would never let our children play and wander in unfamiliar parts of town and yet that is precisely what they do when they engage in a cyberspace that is foreign to their own parents. We cannot protect children if we do not know where they are being harmed.

#4: Pep Rallies for Standardized Testing: The era of high-stakes testing has done very little to improve student performance. It has spawned cuts in the arts, less recess time for elementary school children, more rote memorization, and perpetuated the illusion that test-taking prowess is synonymous with academic achievement, not to mention the long-term effect of discouraging the brightest and most ambitious young people from entering the education profession. On a deeper level, schools are told they must be held accountable, which requires analysis of student performance, which perpetuates an endless stream of gimmicks, cynical incentives, and activities to motivate students to do well on standardized tests. Schools who do pep rallies are not at fault—the policies that make such activities necessary and even beneficial are the culprits of this new feature of the teaching landscape.

#5:  Constant Student Anxiety: Over 20% of modern teenage students experience a form of acute anxiety leading to disengagement, more absenteeism, and isolation. A frank discussion with modern teens often uncovers a more disturbing and grim reality, that anxiety has a number of harmful offshoots such as eating disorders, self-harm, and frequent fainting in classes. Instead of seeking counseling, taking a walk, or spending time with friends or family, the modern teen often finds solace in an online world that perpetuates this cycle of anxiety and isolation.

#6: Fear of School Shootings and Lock-Downs: It is true that Columbine was nineteen years ago, but it is also true that the frequency of school shootings are accelerating. In the corner of my classroom sits a bucket with a shower curtain stuffed inside in case we are on lockdown and a student is forced to use the bathroom in front of his/her peers. This is the sad and tragic reality of what might happen nowadays. Four of the deadliest five school shootings have happened in the past half decade and there is no reason to think this gust of school violence will abate any time soon.      

 #7:  Heroin, Opioid Epidemics: In 2015 alone more than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. More Americans have overdosed than were killed in the entirety of the Vietnam War. A school superintendent from western Maryland was succinct in the harms this crisis can produce: “In establishing contacts with some of our families, some of the principals learned that we had an increasing number of parents who were addicted to opioids and were using opioids. They noticed that the chronic attendance issues were linked to parents’ use of opioids: parents were not able to get up in the morning and get the kids ready, to get them on the bus, and to bring them to school. It was not just absenteeism. It was also the rise in tardiness—kids who were brought in well after the school day had started.”

#8: Politicized Schools: Like it or not, schools have become epicenters of hot-button political issues. From transgender bathrooms to guns and second amendment discussions, schools are now at the intersection of division and discord. American education has always been a “political issue,” but that is a qualitatively different status than being the place where schisms about the culture manifest themselves.

#9: Era of “feelings” where students are never wrong: It has happened to almost all of us recently. A student will “feel” like a test is unfair, will “feel” like a fact is not true, will “feel” like a teacher who is simply trying to modify a behavior is being “disrespectful” to them. In an era that no longer views reason and fact as tribunals of truth, it can be difficult to explain to students that they have a right to feel anyway they want but their feelings does not excuse behavior that is disruptive or harmful to themselves or those around them.

#10: Naked Utilitarianism in Education: Policy-makers absolutely never talk about education through any lens except as an exercise in early-job training. While education does prepare one for the workplace, it should also prepare students on a deeper and more human level. Our students will be more than workers in the future—they will be citizens, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, friends and confidants. They must be able to think, communicate, cooperate, and be reflective about the many conundrums of being a human being in the world, figuring out how to live what scholar Leon Kass labels the ability to lead “a worthy life.” Their lives will not begin when they go to work and end when they go home every evening. A true and edifying education recognizes that what students learn intimately affects who they are.

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About the Author:

Jeremy S. Adams is the author of two books on teaching: The Secrets of Timeless Teachers (2016) & Full Classrooms, Empty Selves (2012). He is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and teaches Political Science at both Bakersfield High School and California State University, Bakersfield. He is the recipient of numerous teaching and writing honors including the 2014 California Teacher of the Year Award (Daughters of the American Revolution), was named the 2012 Kern County Teacher of the Year, was a semi-finalist in 2013 for the California Department of Education’s Teachers of the Year Program, and was a finalist in 2014 for the prestigious Carlston Family Foundation National Teacher Award. The California State Senate recently sponsored a resolution in recognition of his achievements in education. He is a 2018 CSUB (California State University, Bakersfield) Hall of Fame inductee.


  1. Maggie April 16, 2018 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Thank you that exactly how it seems these days… I will share your article with my colleagues.
    Maggie C

    • Jeremy Adams April 16, 2018 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the kind words … yes, please share!!!!!

  2. Amy April 17, 2018 at 6:53 am - Reply

    Great piece overall!
    Would you be open to constructive feedback? In point number one the word punish errantly appears in discipline’s place. For the goal of educators should never be to punish; but rather to discipline in such a way as to teach self discipline as students mature.

    • Jeremy April 17, 2018 at 11:56 am - Reply

      That’s a great point … thank you for the feedback!!!

      • Dean April 17, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

        I’d recommend keeping the word “punish”, without which disciplining a student or any wrongdoer is not possible. Therein lies the problem. You can train students to obey rules of social and civil manners and propriety, but without actual punishment the consequences do naught but reinforce the value of disobedience.

        noun: discipline

        1. the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.

        • Skip K April 17, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

          That is just ONE of several definitions of “discipline.” Probably the least useful one. Educating and training to be a disciple……quality instruction, demonstration of character and integrity.

          • jill April 24, 2018 at 5:17 pm

            We need to establish “disciplined actions” for kids to carry out at school and home establishing self- discipline. How to care for oneself, treat one another, finish a task, learn to play an instrument, etc.

    • Shirley Gibb April 27, 2018 at 1:03 pm - Reply

      Whatever happened to the concept of “consequences” ?

      • David Keeney April 29, 2018 at 1:39 pm - Reply

        That’s easy. Militant, unreasonable parents.
        A loudmouth, persistent, bullying parent (who thinks their child can do no wrong) almost ALWAYS gets their way. They start in on a nontenured teacher, where a couple parent complaints, no matter how lame, might mean losing their job. Then they’ll work on a busy principal, who doesn’t have to live with consequences of coddling bad behavior. In the rare case teacher & principal enforce rules & face nasty consequences for it, the parent runs to a law-suit adverse School Board. I’ve seen it happen many, many times, Society has made it far to costly for schools to do the right thing anymore.

  3. Lee April 17, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Heroine epidemics might be a good thing! (Sorry, I know that’s just a typo.) Parents, too of course, are dealing with things our parents could no imagine.

  4. Lee April 17, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

    See, a typo of my own. . .”could not imagine.”

    • Jeremy April 17, 2018 at 11:57 am - Reply

      Absolutely fair and thoughtful point. THANKS!!!

  5. Mari Inshaw April 17, 2018 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    “#8: Politicized Schools:”
    Before the bathrooms there was English only arguments. Before that there was prayer in schools. Before that there was desegregation and busing, which got really nasty. My high school in the 70s had fights (riots is too strong, more like mini riots) along racial lines. And before that there was teaching of evolution. So there is always something.

    “#10. Naked Utilitarianism in Education” With fewer people having fewer children, there are more and more people who may not have any relationship with public education once they reach adulthood. So you have to make an argument to taxpayers who are childless or non-custodial or are done with raising kids. Because technology helps us disconnect from our real life communities and be adults addicted to our phones, more people will be less in touch with the public education in their neighborhood or community. If they are not connected, why should they support public education beyond, there should be public education.

  6. Steverino April 17, 2018 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    School shootings are declining, not accelerating, and the number of schools affected by shootings is miniscule. You are more in danger of being struck by lightning than being shot in school. Splash some water on your face and sober up.

    Perhaps schools would not be politicized if teachers were not politicized and did not belong to the politicized NEA.

    • Jenny Harris April 17, 2018 at 4:44 pm - Reply

      Well stated, Steverino.

    • Berniez40 April 19, 2018 at 8:10 pm - Reply

      Actually, in Texas, it is illegal to belong to any Teacher’s Union.Sadly that doesnt stop “ignorant” people (because they don’t know any better), or “stupid” politicians (because they know better but lie about it anyways) from claiming that we all belong to some Evil National Union whenever it fits their narrative and/or agenda. Conspiracy theories always play well with those who don’t care to face the facts.

      • Robin April 20, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

        It’s the same in Virginia.

    • Linda April 21, 2018 at 12:07 am - Reply

      I know no teacher who is a member of the NEA and I have been teaching 35 years. I have taught with 100s of teachers in those years and none belonged to the NEA. Please do not lump all of us with that group.

    • Joe April 25, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

      Wow that’s a cold outlook. Every school is affected by school shootings. Just because there isn’t a shooting in your school doesn’t mean staff and students don’t feel the effect.

  7. Aaron Weingrad April 17, 2018 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    A further elaboration about the utilitarianism of point ten is an outgrowth of point eight. Too many teachers think that typically left of center political engagement is the same thing as creating citizens and adults. Politics is a subset of a full moral and ethical development. When politics are routinely seen as synonymous with morals, ethics, epistemology and some form of a religious viewpoint it leaves a huge cultural and personal void for students and the culture. Too often teachers see there is a void and just push politics harder under the assumption that politics are the same thing as values.

  8. Eddie April 17, 2018 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    As a current teacher, I am wholly, steadfastly in agreement with 8 of these. The two where I would argue is that

    — At least in the schools I’ve taught at, the “everyone should go to college” mentality is far more destructive than an overemphasis on job skills. We tell kids of modest ability that only losers skip college, then send them off in search of a four-year degree instead of practical skills. When they come back two years later having dropped out with 60 credits and $15,000 in student loans, we tell ourselves that we did our job, and the kid or the college screwed up.

    — While panic over school shootings is a real issue, actual school shootings are extremely rare, and decreasing instead of increasing. Students are much, much more likely to be injured or killed on the bus ride home. If you keep a bucket in the classroom in fear of a lockdown … well, whatever. If you’re actually telling them why it’s there, you’re doing more harm than good.

  9. Neo April 17, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    #10: Naked Utilitarianism in Education

    This makes me laugh. It wasn’t too long ago that we were treated to the story about the #OccupyWallStreet protestor who had taken out student loans to go back to school for a Masters in puppetry.

    Methinks that there has been a complete loss of any form of utilitarianism in education, so I can see how it’s very mention would send some folks into a cataleptic state.

    • Lea April 26, 2018 at 6:42 am - Reply

      You are confusing “non-utilitarian” with “worthless”. We are talking about history, literature, philosophy, and so on. All things that were taught before, that have been dropped and whose lack has resulted in kids who just cannot think anymore for themselves, let alone have a proper understanding of the world they live in. They don’t even have the tools to begin with!
      The US population is one of the most ignorant on Earth, which translates into intellectual mediocrity even at the highest levels of society. You only have to take a look at the luminaries of your Congress to see the what I am talking about.
      You want brains, you teach history and literature. There is no way around that.

  10. Sid April 17, 2018 at 4:13 pm - Reply

    I was mostly nodding somewhat until #10.

    If you truly, actually believe that is a function of #10…. then shouldn’t we be screening teachers for some sort of values? In Knoxville about 10 years ago, the vogue curriculum was “Character Counts”. We had public school teachers attempting to teach as moral development as if it was an academic topic. As the many undergraduates and student interns observed, we had questionable adults attempting to lead young students.

    Yvette Felarca is the poster child of “Should not be teaching”.

  11. Mike April 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Interesting. #9 is almost entirely due to parents/guardians being overly sympathetic to the feelings of students, and I agree it’s a big problem. I’m in my 50’s and if I would have come home complaining about something seeming unfair or that I felt a teacher was picking on me, my parents would never have done anything but back up the teacher. Since then (and my generation of parents shares much of the blame) a preponderance of parents side with the child, complain to the teacher, and if not satisfied, escalate things to the principal and administration. It’s an untenable situation for the school. And although I agree with the sentiment in #3 – you must be young because a generation or so ago, all we did as kids for the summer was “wander unfamiliar parts of town” and Mom had no idea where we were or what we were doing – just be back for dinner.

  12. mark abrams April 17, 2018 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    Public education doesn’t create citizens, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, friends and confidants.Parents would never entrust their offspring to anyone with the hubris to believe that they are capable of teaching how to think cooperate, and be reflective about the many conundrums of being a human being in the world, or figuring out how to live what scholar Leon Kass labels the ability to lead “a worthy life.” Educators have indeed been such pompous, deluded egomaniacs as to try to do this and have, as a consequence,failed in their actual job, which is to teach reading, history, logic, mathematics, the basic hard sciences -biology, chemistry and physics, some practical economics and law, a foreign language or two, music and self-defense. All things that are WORK for pupil and teacher alike which is why teachers have failed to educate for decades instead serving as a baby sitting service and peddling social “science” and other marxist pablum

    • Librarian April 18, 2018 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Dear Mark, Reading this comment made me sad for you. Teachers are not egomaniacs. We do not provide a baby sitting service (or else we would make so much more!), and we do not “peddle…marxist pablum”. What we do is have your children for the best part of their day, and make it our task to teach them classical learning- love of reading, mathematics, sciences, and touch on physical education and fine arts. What we also teach is kindness. We teach them to rise above what they see around them, to learn out to communicate with other people. Students may be coming from environments that are not conducive to nurturing a healthy person. We cannot necessarily change their environment, but what we can do is love them. Love them every single day. Get them a warm coat when they don’t have one, provide a hug when they’ve had a rough day, and listen when they need an ear. If that is social science and marxist pablum, then I would argue we need more of it. It sounds like you are trying to express an experience you had that was not good. Maybe you had a teacher you didn’t get along with, or you were bullied at school, or you were abused at home. And that is your story- it makes me want to have a conversation with you about your educational experiences, and how that influenced your beliefs today. Since we can’t do that, I am sending prayers and love your way.

      • Lori April 22, 2018 at 9:44 am - Reply

        Thank you for sending an authentic teacher response to Mark. Choose kind, choose love-that is what the world and Mark need.

    • Sarah April 22, 2018 at 9:36 am - Reply

      If my students arrived at school ready to learn, I wouldn’t need to spend a portion of each day teaching them how to interact appropriately with each other. If I were able to just TEACH, my students would be learning so much more. However, a large percentage of my first grade class arrives at school traumatized over some event that happened at home or in the community and are in no position to learn. Is that my fault as their teacher? If I don’t take the time to make them feel safe and accepted, to learn how to deal with things that they shouldn’t have to be dealing with at the age of six, then I’d be irresponsible as a person and as a teacher. When I refer a student for mental health services, the hoops to be jumped through are so incredible that they rarely receive services at all. Getting Child Protective Services to step in when there is abuse or neglect is nearly impossible, because they are similarly overwhelmed. As long as we continue cutting funding for education and mental health services for our youngest citizens, we can expect classrooms to bear the brunt of it. Really, does anyone think teachers go into this profession hoping to never teach math or reading? You can’t teach someone who is in fight-or-flight mode, nor can you teach anyone in the room with them.

    • Audrey A April 25, 2018 at 11:49 am - Reply

      Oh Mark, the problem is that so many students come to school unable to sit, listen, and learn. Instead too many are barely civilized–I knew a kindergartner who couldn’t write his name much less recite the alphabet, but he could (and did) laboriously print out the F-word. Teachers are left to do this job because until the child has been taught basic morality and some manners, he so she can’t be taught anything else.

      • Franchesca Warren April 25, 2018 at 8:41 pm - Reply

        “civilized” that’s not a good word to refer to kids.

  13. Michael W. Perry April 17, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Welcome to the misery, teachers. Parents have been complaining about most of the items on this list—and a few others—since at least the 1980s.

    You also left an important one out. In the midst of all this chaos, they’re not being taught much, as this video done on a state university campus illustrates.


    And would the results to those questions be much better is education school professors or teachers were questioned? I doubt it. They’re not teaching history because they don’t know it and they don’t know it because ed schools teach fads not knowledge.

    You also made a terrible blunder when you discussed discipline. This is simply not true, “While many of these policies are instituted with just and well-meaning motivations…” No, the motivations weren’t just or well-intentioned. They were dogmas contrived to feed racial enmity and make heavily black schools do even more poorly. It’s a part of the Democratic party’s Detroit Strategy. Make society more like Detroit, impoverished, unemployed, and poorly educated, and the country will become more like Detroit, a city that hasn’t elected a Republican mayor since 1962, over a half century ago.

    Quite ascribing good motivations where there are none.

  14. Ronal Reynier April 17, 2018 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    You have not listed two very important why our schools are going to a stage where
    there can be no correction.

    More and more parents no longer have ‘children’ but have ‘friends’. This creates a
    non-responsibility feeling in the parents and the placement on the teachers. People
    a teacher is not a secondary parent or a babysitter. The responsibility of your child’s
    studies (homework) is up to you to control. Teachers now not only have the task of
    their subjects, they must provide your child with social skills.

    Our schools are now ‘State Schools’. Every district has a School Board but their hands
    are more or less tied by what the ‘State’ rules. The decisions made by our local school
    boards only reflect social items to the local areas.

  15. Leading Edge Boomer April 17, 2018 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    At one time primary and secondary education had two main goals:
    1. Teach students to be as literate and numerate as possible.
    2. Teach students about shared responsibilities and benefits of a democratic society.

    In other words, create self-supporting citizens who were more alike than different. Tertiary education and/or life experiences were available for young people to differentiate among themselves.

    We are far from that today. Secondary education now offers a multitude of optional courses and experiences so that there might be almost no overlap between the education of any two students. That lack of societal “glue” expresses itself in many negative ways: apathy towards our political processes, loss of “we’re all in this together,” social isolation of too many of our youth, etc. Those in turn can engender real problems: tribalism, anti-intellectualism, and other ills so obvious today.

  16. adexter April 17, 2018 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    We have the best education system in the World when you control for child poverty. We also have by far the highest child poverty levels of the OECD; almost 25% a couple of years ago. That poverty means that teachers do not have the social network , or “village” that might have existed in the imaginary “Leave it to Beaver” era. You have not heard a single politician speak ab out child poverty have you?

  17. Milwaukee April 17, 2018 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    Not long ago I was a teacher. The principal demonstrated clear animosity towards me at the start of school staff meeting for what would have been my second year. He eventually fired me a few months later. Among the complaints was that the students “felt like they didn’t understand” the math. They admitted they could work the problems, but just didn’t feel like they understood. One bright student asked me every day to explain a problem from the previous day homework. I asked, did she work all the problems? Yes. Did she get them all correct? Yes. Which problem did she have questions on? None in particular. She just wanted a problem worked. Whatever. Another, a 9th grade boy, frequently needed to use the restroom during the class period right after lunch. I asked, Didn’t you go during lunch? No, didn’t need to then.When was the last time used the restroom? 7.30 AM. So you think you can go from 7.30 to 3 without going to the restroom? No. but didn’t see the need to go during lunch. Never mind the fact that this class of “Algebra I” students weren’t proficient at the multiplication facts for single digit numbers. Now I suggest we decriminalize school truancy.

  18. John April 17, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    Trying to educate students without taking IQ or basic intelligence into consideration would be like trying to assemble a high school football team without taking speed, size, and coordination into consideration. Yes, they might try their best and we would all be proud of them but they would not win a game the entire season. There is only so much you can do with someone who’s IQ is 80. Test rigorously and set appropriate goals and don’t blame students if they cannot run the 100 yard dash in under 12 seconds. or do advanced calculus.

  19. OED April 18, 2018 at 12:25 am - Reply

    It’s the teachers — or the teachers’ unions, without any pushback from the individual teachers — who have politicized the schoolsl

  20. Realist April 18, 2018 at 3:34 am - Reply

    All great points. But the situation has been around at least 30 years.

  21. Robert Bruce Lewis April 18, 2018 at 9:02 am - Reply

    Is it just me, or doesn’t anyone else get the impression from this thread that teachers are not well esteemed in America? Who would want to be a teacher in the United States of America after reading all this caviling against what this gentleman has written? After 20+ years in the same profession as his, I think he’s absolutely correct on all his points.

  22. Linden Arden April 18, 2018 at 9:32 am - Reply

    Changing demographics should probably be number 11 on your list. In my own experience in a large town in the Northeast, many of the dysfunctions you describe come down to the breakdown of social cohesion and lack of cultural similarities. The lowered expectations you reference are a result of the realignment of the demographic in the classroom, cultural attitudes about what to expect from school and from the child himself are much different than what we experienced among the typical American student of yesteryear. This is the new reality we have to come to terms with, it will only descend from this point and no amount of money or new flashy program can stop the decline. Prediction: We will see an ever expanding segregation in education, middle class white exodus to private/parochial schools and homeschooling to escalate, poorer whites and minorities are left to a spiraling out of control lower tier of education.

  23. Steve Naidamast April 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    As one who has been following this trend in US education I cannot disagree with any of the points the author writes on.

    As a senior software engineer (retired), I have written quite a few technical articles on the dangerous sociology of mobile devices and their egregious destructive capabilities on the sociology of a society. Yet, such devices are as addictive as heroine if not more so making it impossible for youths to break out of the cycle of their daily use. Such devices should be banned from the planet as they are also causing major environmental issues with the constant pressure by the vendors to throw out perfectly good working equipment to upgrade to the latest piece of “junk technology”.

    The only thing I would add is that the opioid crises is directly linked to the US pharmaceutical industry and its deprivations against the US population. That being said I am not sure as to how so many parents are becoming so addicted to basically what are prescription drugs. I mean who in their right mind wants to continuously take these dangerous products that the US pharmaceutical industry keeps on bandying about to the public at large. Most of these drugs have very dangerous side effects and practically none of them are vetted properly through proper peer-reviews as all the drug trials done are at the behest of the drug manufacturers.

    One point I would like to recommend is the creation of state-funded military academies where troublesome students can be sent to where they would be able to not only receive an education but counseling and compassion as well both of which will be under the auspices of military discipline. Here such youths can be evaluated as to whether they could pursue a successful university education or would be better served by pursuing technical skills in the trades. Some of these youths would be well served by entering the military.

    The reason for this idea is that many of these troubled young people come from dysfunctional families where poor role models are the norm for their most formative years. As a result, simply expelling such students does nothing for anyone, especially the expelled student. He or she is forced to get a job without the benefit of looking forward to a better working life while also having to continue dealing with the dysfunctional family they come from. In the end, this cycle of dysfunctional living only gets worse over time creating people who are hardly the models of good citizens. Well designed military schools can offset this to a significant degree as such similar institutions have proven top be invaluable in turning around such young people. Unfortunately, these models are far and few in-between.

  24. Denis Ian April 19, 2018 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Not exactly accurate.

    I retired just over a decade ago …, and we faced drug issues, anxiety, the inability to properly discipline kids, politicized schools, and a student era of extreme self-esteem.

    • Susan April 30, 2018 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      I am probably close to the age you are and we were part of those issues. But today’s issues I believe are much darker than in the era we experienced them. It is accurate that the ‘correlation between cell phone addiction and youth levels of depression, isolation, anxiety and low academic performance is beyond question’ as mentioned by Jeremy. So much of what we did was casual compared to what it happening today. While we questioned what we were doing and what we had to do, we didn’t lose ourselves like these kids are today. So much of what we did has taken a very dark turn in today’s world.

  25. Ellen K April 20, 2018 at 11:52 am - Reply

    This is all so true.
    The turning point was 2011. At that point more than half of high school kids had cell phones and with it the ability to contact others 24/7. The UK now recognizes phone addiction as a problem and it’s seeping into the workplace. My son is a manager of a high end bike store with an international clientele. He walked on the sales floor seeing customers being ignored by 20 somethings staring at their phones. He’s opening a new store and trying to find younger workers who want and need high paying entry level jobs, but the youngest person he’s been able to hire who didn’t look at their phone during the interview (!!!) was over 40. My superintendent mandated a policy of bring your own technology-thinking to avoid the outlay for devices. Instead we have almost constant distractions in the classroom and halls as students drift through their day accompanied by their own soundtracks. As Joe Krauss said in his very eloquent and interesting video on this phenomenon titled “Slow Tech” (you can find it on YouTube…) “we are creating ADHD people.” I’ve been teaching for 20 years. When I look at work from the same level class just five years ago and compare them to my current classes, the results are startling and sad. Our kids by and large are shallow, impatient and incapable of problem solving on their own. They want examples and to be led rather than to seek their own path. I see counselors and college recruiters pushing kids who can barely read to sign up for FAFSA and student loans based on their gender, race or the desires of the college to appear diverse over the abilities and needs of the students. They run out their eligibility and then end up with thousands in student debt that will often never be repaid. Who gets stuck with the bill? Guess.

  26. Bonnie April 20, 2018 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    I’ve been teaching since 1993, with a couple of years off during that time. I taught high school the first 14 years, then middle school the last 7. I just returned to high school this year, and I am shocked at the difference from just 8 years ago. Seniors now can’t handle the same coursework that freshman did for me. The cell phones are out of control. The school refusal phenomenon is something I’d never heard of before. (I have a senior that has missed over 50 days of my class because she won’t come to class – yet she and her family are expecting me to find a way to help her graduate.) I’m astounded, and demoralized. I loved the middle school, but hated the endless meetings I was required to attend each week in a vain effort to “save them all”. At the high school level,I can barely see other teachers of my own topic because they don’t have time to meet. We are all trying to figure out the next best way to be more interesting than whatever just popped up on Snapchat…

  27. C April 21, 2018 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    True, so true… I would add the belief that teachers are “picking on” students when discipline issues arise. To the point where when a principal calls Mom to say that little Johnny is receiving detention, in school suspension, etc because he said something sexually inappropriate to a young girl, the principal must have “other witnesses” besides the teacher who heard it with her own ears…. ridiculous.

  28. Liz April 22, 2018 at 1:27 am - Reply

    “pinpointing the exact moment when something in our schools and broader culture went wildly astray…” :
    Well, that point was when Bush established “No Child Left Behind” as Law.
    This allowed brother Jeb to get financial gains from charter schools, and brother Neil to get financial gains from testing.
    Both, conveniently blessed by the new law.
    And the American people have been fleeced big time since then. And our children have been pawns and victims in this game of “steal the education tax money”.

  29. william Tryon April 23, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I have taught for 25 years, most in middle school, and most of that in the worst school in my county. So the subject is of interest to me. I read about this article on a political blog, and the following comment struck a nerve. We used to call this the “Proximity Factor” when the administration took away advanced (read pale-face) classes and melded all the students into heterogenious classes

    From the blog
    “Translation: the percentage of white American students is now too low to maintain the pretense. There is no longer a “school community”, or even a “town community” thanks to the post-1965 immigration. Sure, all the educational fads and new management philosophies don’t help, but none of those things would have made much of a difference in your average 1950s or even 1980s suburban high school.

    This isn’t really debatable. The busing battles of the 1970s and 1980s was fundamentally based on the idea that blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities can’t be successfully educated without being surrounded by a sufficient number of whites, which is insultingly racist! So, what are they going to do now that they are running short on white students?”

  30. Jen April 23, 2018 at 10:45 pm - Reply

    I teach high school. So many of them are addicted to their phones. I’ll tell them to put it up, they put it in their bag and in seconds have it back out and don’t even realize it. It’s so sad.

  31. Mrs. April 24, 2018 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Happy to have retired in 2013.

  32. Strnj1 April 25, 2018 at 9:54 am - Reply

    …and if you’re a teacher and they don’t show up, don’t do their assignments, etc., It’s YOUR fault…

    But, you’re expected to keep that School’s “Average GPA” above 2.0 even if you have to pass the screw ups, otherwise, the school loses access to Government funding or, in higher education, Student Loans…

  33. Amanda April 27, 2018 at 11:52 pm - Reply


    My husband and I just spent the evening discussing (ranting?) about this very thing. I am an elementary school principal, he teaches at college.

    HOW do we turn this around??

    The optimist/futurist/problem solver in me would like to believe that there is a course of action we can and should take, which will involve educators, parents, policy makers, academics and researchers, businesses, medical professionals, media and society in general.

    Is anyone else up for the challenge?

  34. Susan April 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I honestly have no idea how teachers do what they do when having to deal with all these growing dark issues of so many students these days. I am at an age now that when I came home from school, threw down my books and ran outside to play in my yard with other neighbor kids. That was our way of de-stressing. Kids these days come home from school, head to their rooms and keep their heads buried in their cell phones. They are exposed to the world through their cellphone usage and their young minds cannot handle what they see and are led to believe. Gradually, I believe their identities are withered away by not knowing who they are or what they are to be. What was normal is no longer normal to them. We were so proud, as parents to give our young ones their first phone yet had absolutely no idea of what we were setting ourselves up for let alone what our children would be exposed to. We didn’t grow up with this; how were we to know how to handle our young ones lives slipping away into another world that we don’t understand. Yet, we as parents suddenly have to know how to handle the tremendous stresses of anxiety, depression, not knowing who they are beyond the normal realms of being a teenager. Personally, my life as a parent has been affected by this and it will take a long time to release the torment I carry because I have been led to believe that I was a bad parent because I tried my best to guide and encourage yet have been made to believe that it is my fault because they are depressed and sad in the way that they are.

  35. Jamison May 4, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    Public schools have an inherent struggle and will always struggle to enjoy success. Why? It is obvious that schools are funded by the government we support with tax money. The U.S. public is so diverse. How can we ever agree on education goals? Who determines these goals? If you want to control what children’s education, choose a private school with goals you agree with or choose homeschooling where you can choose the goals and the curriculum and the materials, too. I have been a public and private school teacher for nearly 40 years, as well as a homeschool teacher. I have seen many pendulum swings in what and how to teach through the years. Teachers in public school have lost much control over what to teach and how to teach. They are being treated like automatons today under the guise of “research-based” practices. Some parents are controlling education by complaining constantly to teachers and administration about anything they think doesn’t help their child have good feelings about themselves. They don’t have time to see that their child does homework. They want their child to receive passing grades, but they don’t seek the help for their child that is needed. Lack of good parenting is a HUGE ISSUE for today’s teachers and schools. I am semi-retired, not in a school now. I feel sorry for the future of our public education system and society in general. I know it will only go downhill until our social fiber is strengthened. Teachers, do all you can to educate parents!

  36. Ben August 28, 2018 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Pretty much nailed it. There is one that you sort of danced around that is missing, and that is students unadulterated sense of entitlement. Related closely to the lack of discipline and the “feeling” ones, but more so with the incompetent, spineless administrators who are terrified of parents and school boards. No battles are worth fighting because of the fact that nobody is going to support your assertions that the students are responsible for their own success.

  37. David August 28, 2018 at 11:48 pm - Reply

    Author nailed it. Numbers 1 (admin with no backbone) & 2 (cell phone use) accurately sum up the problem 100%. Regarding cell phones, here is how to solve the problem of students using their cell phones in class for personal use while class is in session–first offense: verbal warning; second offense: written reprimand, with copy to student’s record and to home, including a sternly written warning of consequences (as described under third offense) if there is a third offense; third offense: student must surrender cell phone to teacher (or to the sub) each time when entering that class, for the rest of the school year. Student’s cell phone is returned to student at end of class. But first, the school admin (and school district) must have a firm written policy regarding cell phone use by students, plus the backbone and the will to enforce the policy.

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