Community | Opinion

What's stressing our schools: 1st of a 6 part series

Policy and budget changes over the last few years in Michigan have left schools in a more stressful state than before. In this series I plan to lay out perspective of how these changes and other realities impact the quality of education for students. From outsourcing of staff, to unsustainable pay for new teachers, to the downside of school of choice, schools have become less community oriented and more driven by numbers. There can be much said for accountability and efficiency, but when it comes to the development of young minds the humanity of learning cannot be lost.

At the core of the discipline, a school creates an environment, an experience, and an opportunity for students to enrich their lives. The teacher student relationship may be the core of this creation, but the surrounding school environment impacts the way a student feels about the learning process. There are, of course, things in students’ lives that the school cannot control. But, the school campus should be a nurturing, caring, and productive place. For some students, it may be the only safe and caring environment they have in their lives. When an institution is stressed like being asked to do more with less, take mandated reductions in pay, or be asked to do something that is unclear, the environment becomes strained.

Education relies on the experience of learning, and in any learning experience there is an interaction with knowledge. The interaction is rated by the quality of environment where the experience takes place. This could be sitting in on a lecture, participating in a collaborative setting, being invited to answer questions, or staring into a computer screen. What makes for the best learning experience? It is not an easy question to answer, nor is it easy to prove a theorized solution. There is, as there has been, people and institutions dedicated to answering this question. Although there may not be one solution, we should be able to come to a more refined answer. The goal of an education system should be a process that recognizes learning has and will change over time. It molds to the personal and societal expectations filled with pragmatic and idealistic knowledge.

The purpose of this series is not to complain, but to be a clarification on the nature of schools. It is to draw in conversation so better solutions are found for a more progressive education system. It is an invitation to comment, share, and welcome experiences, thoughts, and perspectives. Education should involve many stakeholders such as parents, teachers, students, and politicians, but also businesses, colleges, and the concerned citizen. The school system should not be separated from the public sphere, which is why it is important for at least one perspective to surface from time to time.

There will be an addition to the series twice a month over the next three months, this being the first. It is planned to cover some of the issues mentioned in this post, but I am always open to topic selection and reader involvement.

Paul Ruth
Paul obtained a M.A. in English from Marygrove College and is a high school English teacher at East Detroit High School and adjunct college English instructor. He has been published in various places around the web, and seeks to write on topics that impact the greater community.