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.

A new week, a new theory about what ails America’s educational system.

America’s education system is broken. Haven’t you heard? If you haven’t, it was on the cover of Time Magazine a few weeks back. It seems teachers win tenure too fast in this country, and the unions are more interested in protecting its membership than educating America’s children with high-quality teachers. Who knew?

But hold on. I thought the problem was high-stakes testing? I thought that NCLB and the testing regime it cultivated across the country produced a high-stress student culture in elementary and secondary schools, crushing any enthusiasm for authentic learning, injecting layer upon layer of needless monotony, and treating teachers like edu-bots. And so…common core is here to save the day. Yes, it is the remedy we all seek, an absolute unquestioned panacea du jour. Let’s think critically. Let’s write analytically. Let’s annotate the text and annotate it some more.

Everyone seems to have a theory that seems to make a lot of sense.

KIPP created longer school days and a culture of empowerment. Teach for America wants to match the crème de la crème of college graduates with underprivileged youth who need the best teachers.

The school calendar is oriented around an agrarian economy that hasn’t existed for one-hundred years. Bring on year-round school. The teenage brain wakes up too slowly…let’s start the school day later. Other nations attend school for two-hundred plus days a year—we only attend one-hundred and eighty. Bring on Saturday School!

Schools are too big. No, classes are too big. No, the educational bureaucracy is big.

There’s not enough science. Not enough math. Where is student knowledge of American history and the basics of finance?

Billionaires know best. Just ask the Walton Family and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations. We need more school choice. We need more charter schools. We need to privatize schools in order to create a culture of competition to incentivize teaching excellence.

Let’s duplicate Finland. Let’s duplicate South Korea. Why do our students do so poorly on the PISA exams, anyhow? Click To Tweet

Our teachers need to be in lock step with one another. No, our teachers need to be unique and find their own teacher voice. Somehow…find a way to do both!

Let’s get our students ready for the labor market of the 21st century. We’ve got to make sure they can focus, adapt to new situations, and be conscientious in the home and in the workplace. Let’s get our students ready for the strenuous demands of active citizenship in a democratic society. We’ve got to ensure they have the right social values of tolerance, empathy, and diversity. Oh, and while we are at it, what about the ethics that make a person valuable not as a “worker” or as a “voter,” but as a human being? Let’s inculcate a stentorian sense of honesty, fair play, and temperance. Let’s make sure loyalty isn’t lost, love is explored, and friendship strongly considered. Give them determination. Give them grit. Give them more grit.

Read Shakespeare and Tolstoy. Learn a second language. Click To Tweet

Let’s make sure students have the high cognitive ability; let’s also make sure they have the right character traits to succeed in college, the workplace, and beyond.

And the acronyms…know your acronyms, fellow educators. If you don’t know them how can you successfully be a member of a PLC in which you talk about CST, SBAC, and HSEE scores? How can you converse about 504 plans, intervention strategies, and behavior modification? How can teachers discuss the finer points of NCLB and the way in which AP, ESL, and SPED populations have been affected?

And in case this isn’t enough, teachers should be sensitive to the things a school can’t immediately affect but that immediately affect a school: be sensitive to the challenges of extreme poverty, understand that many students come from nutrition deficient households, realize that a large chunk of the underclass live in volatile and unstable households with a single income and a culture where drugs, violence, and predatory sexuality are frequently the norm.

But remember most of all fellow teachers: NO EXCUSES! Everyone knows how to solve education. Everyone has a theory, an idea, or is doing cutting-edge research. Just ask them.

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