Why Johnn(y|ie) can't read
"Is our children learning?" -- GW Bush
I can't speak to the situation in England, but apparently too many kids in Amurka are entering school totally unprepared to learn (i.e., don't know the alphabet, numbers, and other basics), so teachers have to "waste" time bringing the kids up to this minimal standard instead of doing real teaching. I don't know how we got to this particular "Point B" (Do parents not care about their kids' education? Are they stretched too thin from working two or three jobs to make the time to prepare their kids to learn?), only that we are here and if we want to stop swirling further down the bowl we need to solve this problem.
On the flip side, given how much "other" stuff teachers are expected to do (e.g., be surrogate parents, psychologists, referees, dispensers of meds, de facto agents of INS/ "la migra", extensions of Child Protective Services, and solvers of every other societal problem), I am surprised they can do any real teaching at all. But with all the standardized tests being administered (and therefore taught to, lest the school or district lose education funding), this might not be perceived as too great a loss.
Throw into this mix parents who are all- too- eager to sue school districts and/or get teachers fired for having the audacity to teach real sex education, acceptance of diversity, or anything that might by any far stretch be construed to infringe on the parents' "religious" beliefs, insultingly low pay (for a nation that so piously wrings its hands over the plight of The Children, we have a bizarre knee- jerk aversion to allocating the resources necessary to properly grow "our most precious resource"), and inadequate facilities (except in the millionaire districts, where schools have proper heating/ cooling, rest rooms that are not horrifying, and other such niceties), are we truly surprised that our nation's best and brightest tend to avoid teaching careers? (Spied on the outdoor announcement board of my neighborhood elementary school on the day of statewide testing: "Eat good. Sleep good. Achieve." It was up for at least eight hours before someone corrected it.)
But, one may ask, what's the point of teaching kids any kind of useful skills when most jobs more complicated than flipping burgers, cleaning toilets, or landscaping are going overseas? Unless one is aiming at high- level professional jobs that have a high probability of staying in- country (e.g., doctors, lawyers, professors ... although these might join the migration to Bangladore as technology advances), does the average kid see much reason to fill her/his brain with "book larnin'"?
Amidst all the systemic failure, video games are but a small part of the problem (and only for kids who spend all gosh- darned day playing them instead of varying their entertainment diet to include real reading, outdoor activity, sports, &c). However, since marketers and the companies who hire them tend to like their customers to be a little on the dim side, and since our Congress is generally 0wn3d by these companies, I don't foresee much positive change on the education front any time soon.
Such is the view from here. End rant.