Have Teachers Failed?

I was raised during the Depression and World War II which meant the reality of poverty prevailed in our daily lives. Family members were all over the world in the fight to end tyranny so where they were and what they were doing could not escape the attention of any young person. Today, a majority of those who are in school have scant connection with world events, and the concept of a daily newspaper read by the entire family has long since disappeared. Thus, it is clear there are new challenges confronting teachers in an era in which social media are major sources of what constitutes “the news of the day.” This is definitely a new era for those who teach youth about the world they are in and the world outside.

During the past few years I have taught freshmen in a St. Louis area community college. Spend one day with this group and it is clear they have absolutely no idea concerning the location of Iraq or Afghanistan, plus they have scant personal connection with Americans fighting in these locations. Given all this, questions do remain as to what they are being taught. It is doubtful if one in twenty has any grasp concerning the distribution of wealth in America-surely, a topic that should have interest to them since they are the ones who suffer from rising tuition rates at college along with falling income tax rates for the wealthy. The Affordable Care Act is a mystery of them even though it directly impacts their lives.

Ask any student how much wealth in society is owned by the top 5% and it produces a blank look. Point out to students that we only tax the initial $106,000 for Social Security and the remainder is not taxes and they declare this is not fair. Question: why haven’t students been taught this information in high school?

Students lack basic information that concerns their own lives! This information should have been taught in high school, but it is not. I asked fifteen students to develop a monthly budget and they were lost even though this is basic information for survival. At which points do American social studies teachers assume some responsibility for this mass ignorance??

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