everything is connected

oldbooks..
The trouble with life is it’s too dang complicated. Very little is clear cut. I mean, sure, there is good and bad, black and white. But issues are rarely isolated — everything is connected.

Take my last post, for example. I took a swing at an excuse-laden lazy society. I encouraged people to move. But what if you have selfless obligations that keep you from moving? Or what if you’re injured? Or what if the weather is bad? Or what if you’re too poor to afford a gym membership (like me)?

People come at topics from all different angles.

Another example is education. I’ve seen a number of articles recently that address the decline of the American education system. “The American education system is failing miserably,” the authors say. To prove it, they compare old and current middle school reading lists. “A hundred years ago students were reading the classics; today, they’re skimming Twilight.” “It’s no wonder the United States is falling behind other nations in Math, Reading, and Science,” they moan. “Look at what they’re reading!” A quote by the late Joseph Sabron is often then shared. “In a hundred years, we’ve gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college,” Sabron said. “So sad and so true!” the authors lament.

So sad and so true; so sad and so true. Yes sad, and yes true. But, but . . . My question is: Is anyone asking what’s responsible for this decline?

The trouble with statistics is that they can’t possibly examine all of the probable contributing factors to a problem. Isolating factors doesn’t do us any good, either. Take the above education crisis, for example. Based on the authors’ comments above, one might easily assume American students are to blame. “Kids are lazy these days!” “Twilight? Bah!” After all, it’s our children who are taking these tests. If we look a little harder, though, we realize perhaps it isn’t our students’ fault at all. And maybe not our teachers’. And maybe not even our government’s. Perhaps the issue is much larger than that.

On any given day American students are likely to hear stories about, witness, and/or be subjected to racism, illegal immigration, gangs, gun wars, drug wars, government corruption, cultural clashes, school shootings, natural disasters, violence, murder, and more — much more. Education starts at home, and unfortunately not all children have a home to come home to. I witnessed this firsthand while working at an elementary school last year. Acknowledging this, I believe it’s safe to say: Certain places in the States (and everywhere) might be more sheltered than others, but no child, school, system, or government is immune to the various connected issues of man.

For a few related articles, look here:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/12/03/248329823/u-s-high-school-students-slide-in-math-reading-science

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32608772

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/02/02/u-s-students-improving-slowly-in-math-and-science-but-still-lagging-internationally/

16 thoughts

  1. You’re probably going to catch some flack for that stance (though I’m sure you’re aware of that). And I’ll probably catch hell for mine, too.

    I think, contributing the problem is the fact that we’ve become a society of whining, crying, entitled babies: rather than dealing with racism (for example), we sue. Instead of teaching that freedom’s a delicate responsibility that needs to be treasured and jealously guarded, we’re screaming for laws… and every law erodes freedom, gives more power to those who would subjugate us, and takes us further away from being proud to be part of something like a melting pot.

    • Yeah, I’m aware of that. In fact, I’m dead tired and probably shouldn’t have posted this post while tired. I edited it just now because I really don’t want to say that I believe we’d be better off homogenous. I don’t believe that at all. I just think it’s an interesting paradox.

      I agree with a lot of what you say about a whining, crying society. The entitled attitude I find in a lot of society really bothers me.

      • I figured you didn’t mean it the way it came out. :) I think a relatively homogenous mindset is what we could use. And currently, there is nothing of the sort; it’s all these disparate, petty factions that undermine our society.

        It bothers me too…

        Hope you get some good rest!

  2. Many factors are to blame, starting with the breakdown in home life. Many kids are getting the attention and affection they need in their first years, which often came from siblings, too. They’re not getting the let’s-play-in-the-dirt time, either, that encourages first-hand engagement in the world. And television takes a huge toll, as my generation demonstrates.
    Somehow, your choice of artwork is telling. I’m struck by the care taken in the spines of those hardback volumes. Is there anything like that today? Or is writing across the board devalued?

    • I wholeheartedly agree, Jnana. I witnessed this in my years as a teacher. Last year in particular, when I worked in a 1st grade public school classroom, I saw just how difficult some kids’ home lives can be and how that affects them academically and socially. When a child does not feel safe or cared for at home, it affects all parts of their lives. I also agree with your ideas on television and the Internet. As I said in my post on October 11, the Internet and smart phones, etc. are all too pervasive these days, and I don’t think that’s a good thing.

      I share your questions about the value of writing in today’s society. It is becoming less and less common to hear of a child being a “book worm.” Instead, children have iPhones and iPads and TV to take up their time. Spelling is getting worse because everything is short-handed, and it’s worrisome (in my opinion) because, no matter what technology geeks like to say, writing is fundamental to life. Society cannot function without the written word, and it seems to me we’re moving backwards instead of forwards that way.

  3. “People come at topics from all different angles.” That is so true. And when I read that sentence, I thought, “We can’t please everyone”. Different generations come and go, and with each generation is different. Each society is and will be structured in their own unique way. But that’s not to say we can’t learn or at the very least acknowledge lessons from the past. In Australia it seems to be the same too – kids are falling behind maths and science at school compared to a few decades ago. Is it a matter of different interests these days? Or is this generation lazier than the others? It really does depend how you look at it and all the factors that are connected to us these days.

    Home. That is a nice thought and I often wonder what that really is :)

    • Yes, yes. Background, who our parents are, culture, finances, language, education — all of these things play into the way we see life. You’re right that some of it is generational. Much of it has to do with location. Education, for example, looks a lot different in inner cities or poor communities than it does in the countryside or at ivy league schools. The articles I looked at frustrated me because they stated obvious facts (that our educational standard is declining) but left them hanging: there was no resolution, nor even an attempt to address potential causes for the decline. I felt the lack of response odd, and, hence, decided to follow up on it myself.

      I understand what you mean about home. It’s a more stark feeling for you, I know, considering your background, but even now I wonder what “home” is. It isn’t Sonoma County, where I now live, and yet my apartment is in Sonoma County. I sometimes feel home is wherever we are, so long as we are comfortable with ourselves.

      • That is such a great point. We all see problems being pointed out but often no solutions…and that begs the question: do we really want to do anything? And if we do, how much of an impact can we really make? Your guess is as good as mine.

  4. As two teachers (though I’m no longer one for a few reasons) Jess, I can completely empathize with your questions, your concerns, your exhaustion(?), and your desire to see it all at least move in an upward trend. The causes of the issues are likely just as complicated as their solutions; as you mention, everyone, every single brain and the senses that feed that brain information, are all processed slightly differently (according to one’s subjective circumstances & experience) than the other 7.4+ billion on this planet. LOL However, as a highly evolved species, it is indeed our collaborations together, and genetically designed NEED to be humanly engaged together, that has brought us to this point. Right?

    In my own tiny vision and understanding of our (U.S.?) current status, one theme, one answer to one question stands out to me: What is the truest most precise definition of a good, happy quality of life/standard of living?

    Can all Americans answer that honestly? I mean BRUTALLY honestly? How much does a Homo sapien really need to exist well on this planet? :)

  5. What an great point! Poverty, obesity, decline in education, etc., all involve so much more than just one thing, or one person to blame. On the flip-side, I think the same is true for success. There are many factors involved, because as you say, everything is connected!

    I loved this post, Jessica!

    • Thanks, Amy. You are so sweet. Everything is connected everywhere. There are no real lines, if you think about it. Hope you had a great weekend! Looking forward to reading more of your posts soon! :)

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