Quality of education remains dismal


In my tenure working as a NYC Teaching Fellow in the South Bronx, I have seen plenty of humbling and discouraging school experiences.

I have survived many things in the past two years along with the worst enemy to new teachers, my own doubt, but my patience and tolerance run thinner the longer I teach.

I suppose my real question is, "Where is the educational reform?" We seem to invest heavily on military, failed banks, failed auto manufacturers and health care reform, but what about education? Why does it always seem to earn a backseat or no seat in the arena of domestic policy issues?

Granted, I work in an area of extreme need, but the reality is that there are areas in America that the educational quality and rigor is worse than in the South Bronx. In many discussions I have had with close friends and relatives, I often compare the failures and pitfalls of the health care industry to the educational system in New York City. One of the reasons why both systems encounter failure is because they've lost sight of their historical origins. The historical foundation of both medicine and education used to be built on community-centered practices.

Both disciplines relied upon community recruitment to promote better practices and propagate better living conditions, whether through improved health or through higher educational attainment. These acted as mutual and common goals that everybody benefited from. But today, both education and health care have become business ventures or services industries that operate for profit motives, political leverage or as elaborate daycare systems. Essentially, parents and patients have become consumers of pharmaceutical products or customers of educational services instead of being active participants in maintaining their health or educating their own children.

Another similar pitfall is the illusion of accountability that exists in both systems. In health care, liability lawsuits create the illusion of medical accountability in terms of attacking doctors for unforeseeable medical outcomes. The same is true of educators, who are held accountable for everything that students cannot, have not, will not or refuse to learn, in which case the ultimate punishment is the school receives a "failing grade" and closes.

What I find interesting is that the community has lost their voice in making decisions on educational issues, yet recent reformation movements have grown violently vocal on health care issues. As a disillusioned educator, I can only hope that once the health care system changes for the better that the focus will shift toward education. Otherwise I may succumb to my own doubts.

Stephen Lee is a Rutgers College alumnus from the class of 2007. He is a New York City biology teacher.


Stephen Lee

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