It’s a generational issue that’s existed since the dawn of civilization, but I have some issues with how older generations criticize the younger generations.
I’m not necessarily talking about my generation, the millennials (although it is pretty ridiculous you are blaming people my age for the loss of Applebee’s – and, really, is that a loss in the end?). I’m focused more on how people criticize the generation younger than mine, the young ones. There’s an overwhelming rise of anxiety, stress, and depression among the students in my classes today. I understand why. In even the few short years since I attended classes in middle and high school, there has been an incredible shift in how we treat students.
We put an incredible amount of pressure on students early on. This post is largely one for people who are unaware or misinformed about the structure of the education system and how it’s changed over the last ten years or so. Kids are under a ton of pressure, and it’s everywhere.
On testing: I don’t know if you remember your first standardized test as a child, but I remember mine being at least middle school or beyond. Granted, I moved a lot – in and out of the country – so my experience may be a little unreliable, but certainly I did not have high-stakes, anxiety-inducing tests in third grade. And that’s when standardized tests begin in Arizona now. Third frickin’ grade. That’s what you think is going to help student growth? That’s what you think is going to help students learn, and think critically, and enjoy education? Making kids hate school at the third grade level is not, not, NOT helpful.
On bell to bell teaching: Nonstop, continuous work, for seven hours a day, with only five minute breaks in between? You’re joking. They’re kids. Even adults get more break time than that, and even when they don’t, those adults make their own break time by not focusing. Because the human brain does not function that way, without rest, for hours on end. (Seriously, when is the education profession going to get neurologists and psychologists running education theory?)
Social media’s influence: While students are pressured to perfection in every aspect of their academic lives, students now have to deal with the influence of social media and the anxieties which arise with them. For people who have grown up without social media sites, this may be difficult to understand, but for kids who are introduced to the world with a cell phone in hand, their lives are inextricably linked with an online ecosystem. Their social lives in this online world are just as critical as their social lives in the physical world, and to make that even more intense, nobody teaches them how to navigate that world. Adults aren’t having conversations with kids about the online world, or, if they are, they don’t understand how to transfer the implications of your actions online. This is a very different coming-of-age experience than what others have dealt with in the past, and it can be much more intense than what adults may understand.
Technology’s influence: I separate this from social media because technology can be related to anything digital – the ability to google, youtube videos, video games, apps, etc. – and not just social media sites like Facebook. There is such a decreased attention span among kids who have grown up under technology’s influence. There is a sense of immediacy that kids are given when they use technology from a very early age, and that sense of immediacy makes traditional school much more difficult.
Let’s not forget the traditional pressures. How families’ issues affect kids in their personal and academic lives. How bullying is ever present, and increasing, among students. How difficult, painful, and awkward, even interactions with friends can be. How emotionally exhausting it can feel on an average day. How the intense, insane level of hormones can affect daily behavior and interactions. How confusing and difficult it can feel to grow into yourself and learn the type of person you are and want to be.
Again, again, again…. They’re just kids. Shouldn’t our greater focus be on creating good, critically thinking people, not better data?