Adapted from something I posted on Facebook (several teacher friends chimed in there, if you go to my profile you can read the whole discussion):
There is something very, very wrong with a world in which a ten-year-old child has more hours of homework to do each week than a full-time honors science major does. The common excuse given for this sorry state of affairs is that it "prepares them for college", which might be some sort of justification if it were true... which it is not.
Children coming out of the public school system today are less prepared for college than they have ever been in the past, and this isn't the fault of the teachers. It's the fault of a system that is so defective that from where I stand there is no redemption but to gut it entirely and rebuilt from the ground up, in a way that allows the educators themselves, people who have devoted their own educations and lives to understanding how to educate others, to make the calls and teach the children.
Why we EVER thought a one-size-fits-all approach would work in public education is absolutely beyond me. Here we have all these highly-educated teachers - people with Masters degrees who continue to attain higher levels of education annually - and for some reason, we decided that wasting their intelligence and expertise by requiring them to teach to the test and not to the child was a good idea. Are we freaking serious? What are we thinking?
This system is analogous to going to the doctor and requiring them to diagnose us based on looking things up on the internet. We have literally created a system in which highly trained professionals aren't ALLOWED to use their knowledge of education to teach our children. We are completely insane. We are churning out kids who can obey authority and take a test but have poor critical thinking skills and are afraid to use their inherent creativity, skills that are vital for college and for any fulfilling career, as well as for any nation's future success as a creator of innovation.
This link is old, but it's a sentiment I've heard echoed over and over again from public school teachers, and its flip side, the frustrating level of unpreparedness of recent high school graduates, from my college professors. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/02/09/a-warning-to-college-profs-from-a-high-school-teacher/
What I see, both as a parent of teenagers and as a college student sharing a classroom with the first wave of No Child Left Behind public school graduates, are people who have been trained to take tests. They may be angry, and they're right to be as their time and childhoods are being squandered, but they're obedient. They are also radically unprepared for a college environment. They want to know what's going to be on the test; they have been trained to memorize what's going to be on the test, not to understand and relate learning materials to their lives. The enormous, unrealistic amounts of homework - mostly pointless, grinding repetition - schoolchildren are expected to do in addition to being in a classroom for seven hours a day are also simply preposterous and bear zero relationship to what they can expect in college.
It's absurd. We've got all these educators, and we've rendered a system that effectively prevents them from educating.
Children literally have a biological imperative to learn; it's what they're designed to do. Somehow we have managed to invent a system that trains it out of them, and we call it "education". It's terrible. Worse, we all seem to have sort of agreed that even though it's terrible, it's necessary, so we keep on sending our kids to these terrible, ineffective schools to have a really unpleasant time for most of their waking hours, because we're convinced that if they don't, they won't learn. We are convinced that it's "better than nothing" even though study after study shows evidence that leaving a child up to their own devices, especially in this era when information is readily available over the internet, will usually result in a more comprehensive and deeper education.
I will post more tomorrow, along with some lecture links.