We old-fashioned types are pretty shocked when we hear crazy collectivist talk spewing out of what is at least in theory a mainstream media outlet. We shake our heads and shake our fists and cry out in despair and confusion, “What the hell is going on here? What is wrong with you people?”
It’s hard. It’s hard to understand what has happened to our country. How have we managed to elect and reelect a man demonstrably uncomfortable with the constraints of our Constitution? How have we devolved from the land of opportunity to the land of entitlement?
The scary results before us now are the fruition of many years of individual abdication. We, as individuals, keep relinquishing our responsibilities. Young adults wandering the streets today are the grandchildren of a culture that demands both rights and blamelessness.
Nobody wants to take responsibility anymore. We could list examples all day long, but that doesn’t really help us to understand how we got here.
The devil’s in the details.
Even the smallest decision can resonate far beyond its initial design.
Older son learned to read early. We naively expected schools to take this skill into account, but by the final year of his brick-and-mortar experience, we knew that would never happen. In third grade, the slow and thorough application of “reading strategies” to standardized (and therefore lame) material was not only the norm but mandatory, regardless of a child’s reading level.
They have to go through this process, I was told. Even if they can mechanically read the words, they won’t be able to comprehend the meaning unless we use these strategies to teach them, I was told by Educators Who Are Well Meaning But Shall Remain Nameless.
I might have bought this premise, too, were it not for my own experience. I was a child once, and a good reader. My 1st grade teacher noticed. She told me one day, go to the 2nd grade classroom during reading time.
While my classmates recited aloud the latest 1st grade adventures of Dick and Jane, I went upstairs and into a strange 2nd grade classroom. The teacher there informed me that her class was at P.E., and I was to read all the “readers” at my own pace. The shelf of readers extended the length of one wall.
No one ever asked me to apply a reading strategy. No one ascertained whether I was really reading, or just messing about and taking advantage of the situation. By the end of the year, I had ingested every reader shelved on that wall.
Fast forward thirty years. I proposed the same arrangement to a very kind and capable teacher, and she looked at me as if lobsters were coming out of my ears. You can’t do that, she protested. The schedule won’t allow it.
Right. The schedule won’t allow it.
In other words, its not her responsibility.
Thirty years ago, an underpaid urban public school teacher didn’t think twice about taking responsibility for the needs of an early reading student. The arrangement was probably concocted in the teacher’s lounge. They probably didn’t even run the idea by the principal first.
Did this arrangement substantially improve my education?
I don’t know.
It sure feels significant, though. It sure feels like proof that the individual used to matter.
But not anymore.