When I was in seventh grade, I took a full year of science and a full year of history. At my former primary school, middle schoolers now only take each for one semester. The teachers split their time between two grades, teaching each for one semester. Other schools have opted to remove subjects altogether: After cutting music and arts down to size, even history classes aren’t safe in many places.
This should make your skin crawl. No art or music education was pathetic enough, but now core academic subjects are also being cut? It’s horrifying to think that there are children not being exposed to science and history right when their minds are just starting to develop a taste for it. Especially during a time of widespread misinformation online, having a good basis on which to view the world is imperative.
And make no mistake, these cuts are not affecting United States schools across the board. Small towns are being hit hard. Poor neighborhoods are being hit hard. Public schools are being hit hard. Those students sequestered away in wealthy areas attending elite regional private schools get to experience art and music and history in as much depth as ever. The current state of the American school system is racist and classist, deepening the divides we see in our society today.
There are two reasons for these constraints we are seeing: There is not enough money in public school systems, and there are not enough teachers willing to teach under the existing conditions. Ultimately, the roots of these issues are the same.
In America, public schools are funded through local taxes and federal funding. The former is inequitable for a variety of reasons, but it is often the latter which decides what gets cut. Many grants and other funding avenues are tied to the school’s ability to reach progress benchmarks on standardized tests. The problem is, the scope of these standardized tests do not at all reflect the wide array of valuable information students learn in their primary education. Art and music weren’t needed for the tests, so they were cut. Science and especially history are not as important to the tests, so they are getting cut. There is a reason teachers shudder at the phrase Common Core. It constricts teachers, and it constricts school systems.
This is closely linked to the shortage of teachers nationwide. Especially in high-poverty schools, it is getting harder and harder to find anyone who wants to teach. It is yet more difficult to find quality teachers, those with experience and certifications. When looking at the state of teaching, though, is anyone surprised by this? Teachers are given very little freedom in content, often must buy their own supplies for their classroom and work long hours planning, grading and babysitting. Almost half of teachers give up on the profession within five years; of course we’re going to have trouble finding people to teach our children.
Both of these come down to a lack of respect. It’s evident in the rude attitude many parents and locals display toward teachers. More materially, our entire system for funding schools is fundamentally broken. Look at the way our current administration talks about public school systems. Better yet, look at the way our current administration cuts funding for schools time and time again.
The United States has no respect for teachers. It’s a terrible opinion to have, for sure, but it is the country we live in. I fear for the future adults in America, that they have to grow up with little preparation for the challenges they will face. When climate change, vast inequality and bigotry are at our door, we need now more than ever to invest in our children so they are equipped to deal with the world we are leaving them. Currently, we are not.
Greed and opulence are sucking our society dry in every way, and nowhere is this more evident than in education. There is no respect and no financial support for our primary and secondary schools. Unfortunately, we reap what we sow. America is facing a shortage of teachers and funding, and it has only itself to blame.
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Peter Fenteany is the associate opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.