Breeding mediocrity

Posted by in Parenting on August 31, 2012 0 comments

Our school systems and sports clubs are doing their best to tell our children that they are doing a ‘great job’ in whatever they are doing. Most teachers or sports coaches don’t know the true ability of most the children that they are dealing with until half way through the school year or sports season, and don’t understand if they are truly trying and making an effort, or just ‘going with the flow.’ But they continue to praise them with pats on the back, telling them ‘well done,’ ‘great effort’ and seeing any positive in their efforts, even if they had a rough day, failed a test or their behaviour was questionable, to make our children feel good about themselves.

Why do they do this? Is it only here in Australia that they do this? I think so. As I speak to many parents who have immigrated from Europe, the US and even Asia about how children are treated in their countries, and there is an overwhelming agreement that children get banished for not having a great game, failing a test or having unquestionable behaviour. Coaches come down hard on them to make them perform better in the next game. My son was in a losing hockey game yesterday, one of the only games this team has actually lost all season, and they were praised for losing as the coach said that they can only learn from a loss and it makes them better for next time. Then the coach, out of ears way of the children, praised the efforts of one child who wasn’t there to play, blaming the fact that all their eggs are in one basket with this absent child, and that’s why they lost. Why couldn’t he have said something to the children about how much they rely on the absent child, and that they can’t afford to be complacent when he’s not there? That they need to pick up their own game and fight harder knowing that they can’t rely on him? It’s so frustrating…

Parents in other countries ground their children or take away a favourite toy if their marks are sub-standard to ensure that they study and get better. Teachers assign more homework if they fail tests. And adults, either teachers, parents or sports coaches will express their utter disappointment if their behaviour is not acceptable.

However, this attempt in mediocrity is coming from a higher power… the Australian government, who standardises school reports with large shaded areas on graphs indicating the level that each child for that year should be at, and tiny little dots showing them what level they are currently achieving. The wording in the reports are standardised so not to upset the parent into any legal suit and only draw on the positives of the child, not any problems that they are seeing. And this all filters through to the teaching, then the parents are less harsh on their children for not achieving a higher standard or being better. Why aren’t the teachers teaching our children to be ‘better?’

Australian school levels are quickly dropping to that of our international counterparts. Only five years ago, or maths standard was considered 5th in the world, now it is 15th. Our reading and writing levels are dropping even further as more children forego traditional reading and writing methods, and use text slang and other shortcuts to express their written word, and the standard of children’s literature is appalling. There is no clear narrative, children get lost in the toilet humour, funny made up names like ‘Captain Underpants,’ and books like Andy Griffith’s ‘Just Disgusting’ – authors who put more illustrations in their books than words, yet appeal to the 7-12 year old reader who is developing their reading skills. What happened to the adventures that Enid Blyton wrote? Why don’t they assign classic novels to children in 5th grade, like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, so that they understand the proper construction of a story so children can identify characters, narrative, plot, scenery, thoughts and dialogue, and give them a history lesson at the same time?  But no, in Australia, they want children to learn at their own level on their own individual learning programs… but not even that’s working, because as you know, I have a son who has learning difficulties, and if they were giving him his own ‘individual learning program’ they would have by now pulled him out of the classroom, given him a blank room to learn in with no audible distractions so he can have a chance to learn at his best. But they don’t.

I understand that Australian teachers are not paid well compared with other countries, and that the governments are literally wasting money on education that doesn’t filter down into the classroom, like over-analysing situations to create reports that don’t mean anything. Schools get funding for buildings that have been a blatant waste of money because the person who was assigned to manage the building project had no idea of the real costs in constructing a building, so the quotes were well over the ‘real cost’ of actually building it, and the builders walk out with healthy profits. The emphasis of money being spent in our education systems are overwhelming put on the wrong syllable, as it is in many government organisations. There is too much over-regulation, too much concern for insurance payouts and legal issues, and not enough emphasis on building strong, capable children who strive to be the best in anything that they do… and our society will pay for it in 10-15 years time, when our children don’t know how to look after themselves, because they have been molly-collied into their existence.