How a high school graduation changed my perception of America’s educational system

Troy Marshall

May 14, 2015

4 Min Read
How a high school graduation changed my perception of America’s educational system

A few things have made me philosophical or reflective about what has occurred in my own life the last several weeks. It all started with the revelation that my kids are growing up at an alarming rate. 

First, my daughter has a date, and walks out for the prom looking like a beautiful young lady, instead of daddy’s little girl. Then, all of a sudden, I realized that my oldest son is graduating from high school and is going to enter into a new and exciting time in his life. It made me not only confront my own mortality, but the fact that as a parent, I was largely clueless throughout the whole process, leaving me to trust strongly on prayer and hope that I have done an adequate enough job to prepare them for future. It makes me wonder why we aren’t given more instruction on how to be parents and whether or not our education system is geared to do what it is intended to do.

high school graduation

American education continues to decline relative to the rest of the world, and we spend billions every year trying to rectify the problem. Yet, when I talk to teachers, they say the greatest problem they see is not from what is happening at school, but rather from home. America’s education system cannot serve the role the American family traditionally has served—teaching morals, work ethic and emphasizing the value and importance of education

Anytime I hear successful people talk about what enabled them to succeed, it is a combination of motivation, work ethic, morals, problem-solving ability, goal setting and desire. It always bothered me, looking back at my schooling, that extra-curricular activities were unquestionably the most important parts of my education. There were some good things in the class room, but much of my success can largely be attributed to those out-of-classroom experiences. 

I no longer question why our country places so much emphasis on sports in school; it is one of the places where we learn not only about ourselves, but learn to apply life lessons that will shape us and our future. I suspect that many of us can recount a special teacher or mentor who made a difference in our lives and made us excited about learning, or we will talk about 4-H, FFA, judging teams, drama, or the debate team. But very few will talk about the value of physics or chemistry to our everyday life. Yet, in their own way, those subjects are just as important in our overall educational experience.

All of the really important things—motivation, work ethic, morals, problem-solving ability, communication skills, teamwork, goal setting, desire, and the ability to learn, are left to parents or outside experiences to instill. Our system worked reasonably well until the breakdown of the American family, the advent of two-income households, urbanization, and the removing of the Judeo-Christian ethos that has characterized our country.

I was fortunate. I had great parents and so did my wife, so we had some very good examples to follow. Until I became a parent, I never understood why parents were so willing to sacrifice for their children, or how hard a job it is to be a parent. I have no idea how my kids have done as well as they have; they were blessed with a great mom, and they have overcome the vast majority of my mistakes. 

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It does make me wonder, though, why we don’t spend time formally teaching parents to be good parents, or why we rely on extra-curricular experiences to teach the important things kids need to know to succeed. I’m a big believer in reading, writing and arithmetic, but they are like the walls and roof of building—their value is only realized if they are put on a solid foundation. Until we address the crumbling or faulty foundation, all the patches and changes to the facade will matter little. 


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