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Since the start of the twentieth century, and even more so in the past thirty years, American students have fallen behind the rest of the civilized world in regards to education However, in the recent years, beginning with the influence of such publications as Nation At Risk in 1983 and the SCANS report by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1991, American school systems are being pushed to become more effective in educating the future leaders of tomorrow. The book entitled Nation at Risk opened the eyes of community leaders on the need for a higher standard in education in order to better prepare students for the working world. Until this time, the American Government had slowly let the standards for education slip, and as the public became more and more aware of this lack of progress, they deemed it necessary to remediate this deficit in the educational system. These recent changes in education have included higher graduation requirements, stricter college entrance prerequisites, and ultimately more demands put on students and teachers. Parents of these students have become troubled as they see the stress that their children are facing. Both students and their parents feel that the teachers of today are demanding much more work from the students in their classes than in the past. As the students of today are being pushed at a radical pace, it is no wonder that the effects on students and parents, as well as the teachers, have become so stressful. The work, according to Elizabeth Angell, has become “simply too much” in recent years. Homework used to be a “minor annoyance” thirty years ago where most students could complete their assignments on the bus.(Time, 56) Now, some fifth graders are clocking in up to five or six hours a night and many more outside endeavors such as jobs, sports, and extracurricular activities have played a major role on the stress of students. Furthermore, many of the teachers teaching in schools today grew up far behind the material they are teaching and their lack of expertise has added more frustrations to their pupils as they cannot explain everything they teach. The main problem that children are facing is the sheer quantity of the work. The amount of homework assigned each night has increased 400% since 1981 for 7-11 year olds and nearly 475% for 6-9 year olds.(Time, 56) Not only does is this amount of work add unnecessary stress to students, but, in some cases, severe medical problems as well. One girl got pneumonia because she continually had to stay up late finishing homework resulting in a missed half of her first semester.(Time, 59) One student quotes, “With less work, I feel we could learn what we are learning now. The work is too overwhelming.”(Time, 56) Molly is not the only student who feels this way, according to Laura Mandel Ph.D., “90% of students feel that they are assigned too much homework. [As a doctor in the field,] I don’t think that more homework will result in a more successful adult.” A survey in the November 2, 1998 Newsweek showed that homework also has such severe negative effects that many experts agree that it should either be banned or optional. Kids are having less time to be kids. Homework, and the struggle to be in the top second or third percentile, has removed the childhood from the children of today. Teachers are feeling the effects of the educational revolution just as much, if notmore, than anyone. Most teachers, especially those in public schools, notice that, as the work becomes harder and more massive, only a fraction of students do their homework. The result: 20% of public high school teachers stopped assigning work,(Time, 59) electing instead to try and make up for the educational deficit inside the classroom. Kay Nielson Ph.D. says, “Teachers are caught in the middle, they feel they need to assign more work in order to progress faster, but feel frustrated and discouraged when a student gives up in response to the added pressure.” The question remains: Are the teachers of today expecting too much? Most experts are quick to agree that the answer is “yes”. Dr. Huntstinger, a foremost authority on the educational crisis at hand, says, “All experts agree that weighing down students with hours and hours of homework each night is pointless and ultimately damaging to their self-esteem and desire to learn.” Yet, as the age of technology grinds onward and information becomes much more readily available, students are having to learn easily as much as “ten times the amount given in the past.”(Nielson) It becomes a struggle for the student as they try their best to “stay on top” of their schoolwork as well as find time to relax and enjoy life once in a while. Most adults remember their high-school years as some of the best, if not the best years, of their life. However, the students today seem not so optimistic, in fact some appear downright depressed about the current situation. The responses range from being up all night doing homework all the way to the extremes, suicide. One student, Pacey, in response to the changes taking place in education, quotes, “If I ever begin referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself.” This seems rather harsh and overstated but, in a survey of teen suicide, studies show that not only is the rate increasing, but one of the leading causes for teen suicide today is the amount of pressure put on the student by both the teachers and the student’s parents to do well in school. Although most students do not feel the stress strongly enough to contemplate killing themselves, they all agree that there is always added stress to some extent. Many students have not been able to complete all their assignments and an increased number have been simply giving up. Time Magazine stated in their January 25, 1999 edition, “American kids don’t care anymore, they’re too tired.” Many parents don’t blame them. As one parents quoted “It hurts me so bad to see my children so stressed out at this young of an age. When I was their age, I was running, playing and climbing trees, certainly not slaving over homework until ten or eleven at night. It’s not right” Not only are the pupils too tired, but as Etta Kravolec discovered in her 1993 survey of one hundred and eighty high-school dropouts, but they have many more outside endeavors. Etta’s survey concluded that in all students who dropped out, their lack of ability to keep up with homework due to outside endeavors played a very important role in their decision to drop out. Kralovec says, “Homework is done in radically different environments and is biased against poorer kids who can’t afford the luxury of having time off work to complete their schoolwork.” Students like Bodley, who were raised in a low-income household, barely have enough time outside of school to support their families, let alone complete more work for school. She quotes, referring to schoolwork, “I just don’t do it, I have higher priorities… like keeping food on the table.” It is a sad situation, but the cold hard truth. Many schools offer a study hall after school for those who have trouble completing the work at home, but this in no way can change the fact that someone somewhere has to be at work until eleven just to help pay the rent on their family’s apartment. Many other students have after school commitments that keep them away from their schoolwork. Some children play sports, some have religious events, others have band practice, doctor appointments or any other number of activities which are inflexible to the schoolwork a child must accomplish each and every night. Children thirty years ago went over to each other’s houses, saw movies, hung out and were free to do just about anything they could choose to do, even on a school-night. Homework had never really been an issue, just a few extra things to look over, maybe to study for a test, but most students would admit that they could get by without too much of either. It may seem that students are catching all the stress from these changes, and, in many ways, they are. However, the effects are felt by many, many more. The parents of today’s students may have as much to deal with as their children in terms of education. One parent named Christina cried out in Time Magazine saying, “The problems would be so hard that I would leave them for my husband to solve when he came home from work late. Those were not happy times.” She recalls, ” It made all our time together negative and was painful for all of us.” Is it right for parents to help their children by completing their work for them? Of course it is not right, nor is it fair. However, most parents are not reluctant to jump in and help their children with their work. “So much of this is about parents wanting their kids to look good.”(Wingert, 64) Adults had much more free time as children than the children of today.(Time 56) As a result, parents are upset with the amount of work that is given to their children and, because of their lack in education (the reason for this revolution), it becomes more difficult for parents to help their children with work. “I didn’t feel stressed until I was in my thirties,” Libby states in Time, “It hurts my feelings that my daughter feels that way at eleven.” As everything continues to pile up, students who normally make good grades on projects and homework due to their parent’s interaction are falling behind in standardized testing while those students who do not perform as well on homework are topping the charts of the standardized tests. One third-grade student came home to his mother nearly crying one day after school. When his mother asked him what was wrong, he replied that there was no way his science project could compare to another student’s in his class. The students were instructed to create a contraption using everyday objects. The boy’s idea was to create a better mousetrap using strings and other devices, his classmates idea however, was an alarm clock designed to spray water on the sleeper when it went off.(Time, 63) Apparently this contraption was not the work of a third-grader and it wouldn’t be surprising if it took his father many hours in a workshop long after his child had gone to sleep. Like the example, work done for students by their parents is unfair to the entire class because the teacher will be comparing the other students’ work to that of a grown-up.

Like the parents of the children of today, most of the teachers teaching those children grew up during the time that America’s educational was lowest, causing many problems in the classroom today. 84% of public school teachers will admit to teaching at least some material they do not understand fully themselves.(Wingert, 60) Teachers at public schools need very little credentials to teach these classes to compensate for the low salary. Fewer people are willing to teach than in the past. Teaching is becoming more of a job and less of a passion. With teachers who do not love their work, students find themselves overcrowded with busy-work which has only a little more importance than writing “I will not call out in class ever again” two hundred times on the chalkboard. Busywork, it is one of the sole purposes kids dread school. School used to be fun, teachers used to care, and work used to promote critical thinking. In today’s society it has become easier for teachers to pull sheets from a workbook at the beginning of class, photocopy thirty of them, and tell them to get to work while the teacher sits in their chair reading the latest trashy love novel on the bestseller list. Students have started asking questions that their teachers can’t answer. It is no wonder that we are facing such a large problem in education today, when students outsmart their teachers, it is only a matter of time before the government will begin hiring their own students to teach classes. Although the need for discipline has decreased in recent years, violence in public schools reached it’s peak only four years ago.(Nielson) Many students now bring weapons to school for protection and metal detectors have had to be installed inside many schools. What kind of education can we expect at a school where students shoot at each other in the hallways? A few disruptive students in one classroom can cause an entire hour to be wasted on discipline, taking away from the education of the students, the real problem. The lack of education in everyone has been jeopardized by the disrespect of the few. Disciplining one student ultimately disciplines and affects everyone in the room by depriving them of knowledge. Especially unfair is it to the students with high auditory distractibility, where even a couple of students whispering back and forth can shift their mind from their schoolwork. As teachers become more and more aware of these particular disorders, the less they want to accept them. As one teacher said in Generation A+, “And, of course, I will accommodate her, wondering all the while whether she is genuinely disabled… or whether hers is just a neat game of self-excupulation that she can play for her ultimate advantage as adeptly as any poker player.”(Britt, 32) Until recently, teachers have not been aware of nor able to cater to the special needs of each individual student. With more research available in the field, psychologists and medical doctors have discovered many new learning disabilities and other neurological disorders in the last thirty years including: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Tourette’s Syndrome (TS). “Although these disabilities have been medically researched and documented, many teachers today have trouble accepting them.” Kay Nielson, Ph.D. says, “They think that students just told their psychologist exactly what he wanted to hear and asked him to write a note allowing for extra time on tests. It’s sad to think that there is that lack of credibility in schools today but, it’s out there and you just have to accept it.” Another recent neurological finding was the discovery of the different learning styles. An auditory learner could sit and watch a teacher draw diagrams on the whiteboard all day without learning a thing and, on the same token, a visual learner could listen to hundreds of “How-to-Speak-Spanish” tapes without learning a simple sentence. Teachers of today need to be aware of the different learning styles and then teach in a way as to incorporate all three (auditory, visual, and motor) learning styles of the individual students. The teachers’ lack of belief in learning disabilities and styles as a whole has caused many problems for students. When a teacher asks an auditory student for a 10-15 page typed paper, it puts much more stress on the student than a 10-15 minute oral presentation with the same facts would. Many of the teachers considered to be “truly great” have geared their teaching toward all three of the main learning styles. As more research is done on learning styles, It is possible that “someone will invent the one and only best method to teach reading, rendering all other methods hopelessly obsolete.” As one of the most controversial subjects in educational discussions today, teaching children the best, and only best, way to read would be an exciting discovery in education as we know it. As the problem grows larger and broader as time goes on, many teachers ask, “What can we do to make the children of today learn as much as possible with as little stress?”. There is no right or wrong answer but, many people would agree that “making learning fun again”(Nielson) would not be a bad way to start. In a school system where the teachers reign above the students in some sort of hierarchy, students feel more oppressed and pressured to do their work. Would it be such a bad idea to occasionally have optional homework, a “no homework night” or possibly even a free weekend where kids can let go, relax, and not have to worry, even if for only a day or two, about their schoolwork? Most teachers seem to think so, backing up their cases with such claims as “if a student does not do homework on the weekend, they are much less likely to understand the material from the previous week come Monday.”(Wingert, 63) In summary, as the public tries to rapidly make up for the educational deficit in the United States today, the effects that the work put on students by their schools are overwhelming. Many students are simply giving up or dropping out in response to the harder and much more massive quantities of work. Unlike in the past, the students of today are playing prominent roles in the family by providing money for support at ages as young as fifteen. To these students, schoolwork takes the back burner. Even now, as schools nationwide are feeling the “educational blues” students are very much the same as they have always been in that they are still dating, talking on the phone and hanging out in malls, it’s just a shame that they don’t have enough time to do more of it.


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