Friday, July 5, 2019


The problem is that students alone still decide how much academic work will get done and how much learning will take place. 

Will Fitzhugh
The Concord Review
4 July 2019

There are many reasons for the success of the New England Patriots football team. Excellent players have come and gone—Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Adam Vinatieri, and many more—and others keep arriving, while the perennial, Tom Brady, approaches GOAT status in the minds of many fans.

Bill Belichik is universally admired for his strategy and tactics, and his seemingly endless creativity in preparing offensive plans that anticipate and frustrate what an opponent expects the team to do. His fellow coaches of course deserve huge credit as well, along with their player selection, team preparation and training, and so on.

But one motto seems to stand out and to stand for the overriding philosophy of the team for its players: DO YOUR JOB. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for some reason this provides an example of the attitudes cultivated which have made the team such a success, year after year, Super Bowl after Super Bowl. DO YOUR JOB.

This inspiring idea is, for the most part, missing in our approach to the students in our schools. It has been pointed out that we need students, they have a right to an education, and in addition, they can’t be fired, released, or traded to another team.

But all of the onus in our education theories, systems, and criticism is on the adults: teachers, administrators, curriculum coordinators, consultants, EduPundits and all the rest. The problem is that students alone still decide how much academic work will get done and how much learning will take place. As Shankara said: “Through our own eyes we learn what the moon looks like: how could we learn this through the eyes of others?”

No matter how well-educated, trained, paid, professionally-developed, etc., our teachers are, they simply cannot learn for the students. And yet we seem content with students spending 6 hours each day on social media, with scores of hours each week on sports or extracurricular activities, many hours on video games, and on and on. 

Mark Bauerlein cited “the U.S. Department of Education report entitled NAEP 2004 Trends in Academic Progress. Among other things, the report gathered data on study and reading time for thousands of 17-year -olds in 2004. When asked how many hours they’d spent on homework the day before, the tallies were meager. Fully 26 percent said that they didn’t have any homework to do, while 13 percent admitted that they didn’t do any of the homework they were supposed to [39%]. A little more than one-quarter (28 percent) spent less than an hour, and another 22 percent devoted one to two hours, leaving only 11 percent to pass the two-hour mark.”

He also cited “the University of Indiana High School Survey of Student Engagement. When asked how many hours they spent each week ‘Reading/studying for class,’ almost all of them, fully 90 percent, came in at a ridiculously low five hours or less, 55 percent at one hour or less.”

It seems clear that these efforts by students do not add up to doing their job. And what are the students’ jobs? To come to class on time, and listen to the teacher. To behave well, and do all the homework. To take their own education seriously as their primary job—their main responsibility.

We and they are paying a heavy price for our students not doing their jobs. The majority of our HS graduates read at the seventh grade level, and only 18% could pass the exam to become a United States citizen.

We may feel we are being compassionate and affectionate to allow students to spend as little time as they do on their primary job, but most of the consequences fall on them, no matter how wonderful our lack of pressure on them may make us feel. We are forcing them to be on a losing team, by failing, over and over and over again, to tell them: DO YOUR JOB.

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