In an interview several months ago, President Barack Obama said he doesn’t think American students spend enough time in school. Increasing the length of the school day and amount of school days per year are just the beginning of what is being proposed. More hours in the classroom will likely improve our children’s report card grades and standardized test scores, but will also be incredibly expensive and might drive the students insane.
Some adolescents are already heavily medicated on amphetamines and anti-depressants to moderate their excessively-complicated lives. Besides the unprecedented involvement of technology and exposure to mass media in their daily lives, they are involved with more clubs, sports and other extra-curricular activities than ever before.
If we are having trouble educating our children, it’s because our teaching methods are outdated and our teachers are often underqualified. But it’s not solely the fault of the teachers, as their profession is among the least appreciated, by pay and respect, in our country.
We need to learn to value quality over quantity. Schools don’t have to increase class hours if they are educating effectively. You can’t incubate a kid in a classroom for seven hours and expect he or she to emerge a genius. If school districts would stop paying their staff based solely on their level of education, they could hire less people who could do more to educate our youth.
After all, not everybody with a doctorate is a good teacher. Just as a competitive economy serves consumers better, teachers paid better for performance are more effective educators.
Furthermore, we can’t underestimate the value of lessons learned outside of the classroom. Whether it be extra-curricular or simply a family activity, non-academic experiences are equally effective at creating an educated American citizen. In other words, the contributions an individual makes to his or her community, at any age, are a result of both academic and non-academic socialization, neither of which is more significant than the other.
On a more tangible level, all citizens’ taxes pay for public education. Increasing classroom instructional hours would almost certainly raise property taxes in most communities around the country. Not only is that increase unnecessary, it’s unfair to families motivating their children to be good students and teaching them valuable life lessons outside of school.
Less is more – America needs better teachers and schools, not simply more of them.
John Andrew Willis is a sophomore environmental science major from Dallas.