Shelly at Life of a Novice Writer is very kind to routinely leave comments on my blog, so I wanted to return the favor by spending some time to write my thoughts on a very loaded question she asked: What can we do to survive right now as a country and individuals? (At least that's my interpretation of the question.)
She sighted terrible schools, toxic/processed foods, unemployment, loss of insurance and 401K's, outsourcing of jobs, dependence on other countries, and more.
It took me a while to leave a comment - I generally try to leave shortish comments. So I kept typing and erasing. There's no way to answer that quickly. Not any part of that. So I thought I would state my opinion about these things over this Independence Day week.
I know times are bad right now. Every third person on my street is unemployed. But the future for my kids does not feel bleak at all.
My kids go to public schools. Our local schools have relatively high test scores, so one would consider it to be a good public school system. The elementary school my son just graduated from got an award this year for being in the top 7 in our state, top elementary school in the region. The teachers for K-4 are excellent. It goes down hill a bit after that, but the course offerings for the higher grades are outstanding, especially if the children are motivated. And if kids have special needs, they have really a lot of support. Even kids that just have low test scores are given extra help for free.
Orchestra and band start in 6th grade with the option to participate through 12th grade. The high school has something like 26 AP classes in a huge range of subjects. There is an engineering program at the high school level and a seriously good Fine Arts program. The options are overwhelming. My daughter had to take gym in summer school to be able to fit everything in next year. The students are also required to do 75 hours of community service and give a presentation on what they learned from doing service before they graduate.
They definitely have flaws - the staff in general are among the most disorganized people I have ever met. They don't know how to fully use the technology the taxpayers have purchased for them. Even with these flaws, I don't see how this can be seen as failure of the school by any measure.
Individuals certainly fail in this kind of high pressure high school scenario. There are plenty of pregnant high school and junior high students, lots of kids doing and dealing drugs, teens with unimaginable home life situations, teens cutting themselves and bullying each other, children spending time in mental hospitals or alternative schools or house arrest. The social aspect is ridiculously difficult.
My kids see it every day. It is right in front of their faces. This social chaos profoundly affects kids that are not in trouble. In this respect schools fail. They fail because individual students cannot take full advantage of opportunities at school with all the social issues. It doesn't matter how good the teachers are, how many classes are offered, or how high the test scores are. The social chaos is in our kids' faces.
My ex and I have both remarried. My older kids have four adult parent-type people that love them. I have faith my kids will survive this and will grow from this because they have a 4x support system. We as parents have to listen to them. It's not all about the coursework or the grades. It's how our children handle these challenges - seeing their friends in trouble and coping with it - that sets our kids up for success or failure in life. I don't mean monetary success. I mean success at whatever gives them satisfaction.
For my kids personally, I don't think the future is bleak at all even though it is very difficult being a teen or pre-teen right now. I am very excited to see where life takes them when they grow up. I think they will see success, whatever that means to them.