The Realities and Responsibilities of Education
Schools today face significantly different issues than they did twenty or thirty years ago. 1 Curriculum demands have shifted dramatically, sometimes in diametrically opposed ways. Resources are more constrained and expectations for performance are much higher than in the past, at least rhetorically. Strong family structures have deteriorated, with the result that today's children are very different in the amount of discipline they receive, which shows in their values, their attention spans, and their knowledge base. In effect, many children today may be less prepared to learn than they were in the past. Communities have become less cohesive through interrelated processes of suburbanization, inner-city decay, and busy, stressful lives. Television and other broadcast media now play more prominent roles in most people's lives than in earlier eras, resulting in more isolation and, for many, less community involvement. 2
"Society" 3 has tended in the past fifty years to dump many of its problems on the schools, as if hoping thereby to avoid dealing with them through costly or difficult public policy decisions. The truth is, however, that most teachers and school administrators are ill prepared and in some cases rightly unwilling to tackle all the problems that society wishes to dump upon them. Yet to this point they have had few alternatives but to tackle those problems or live with the consequences of not doing so.
Many educators have the attitude that they know best about education, though they may understand relatively little of the work world or the realities of their students' lives. The result of these attitudes is that barriers are erected between what goes on in the outside world and what goes on