By Dale Hoggat
I am a part of America’s public schools. Teaching for almost a quarter of a century provides insight to the changes that have taken place…and times have certainly changed.
We face tremendous challenges of generational poverty: methamphetamine production, under-age pregnancy, high school dropouts, and adult illiteracy. Violence, addiction to gambling and cheap drugs, and wrecked families are not terror-spawned acts of global proportion; they affect too many lives. When parents pawn personal properties and overuse credit devices, they misplace their trust. When family members seek quick fortune and instant gratification in lotteries or local casinos, they repeatedly fail. When children are exposed to entertainment previously considered as pornography and vulgarity, they are fundamentally imprinted with filthy conduct and attitudes. When such lifestyle decisions and parental negligence are passed through generations, they transform from chosen behaviors to accepted normalcy.
Children of such families are instilled with the belief that education and completion are unimportant. They fail to understand that personal hygiene is necessary for good physical and social health, and spiritual matters affect the soul. Frequently, chronic low-income results in children commonly and unknowingly passing the torch of depravity to their own offspring, and the cycle remains unbroken.
My students have witnessed many bizarre instances – violent, murderous acts at home, drug-addicted siblings, and alcoholic and suicidal parents. They have lost dads to divorce, moms to cancer, brothers to drunk driving accidents, and themselves to spiraling emotions. One boy tackled his own father from behind to protect his mother from being shot a second time. Another ran away from home to escape an abusive, alcoholic mother. Still another had to unload the gun that he found in his sleeping father’s mouth. Yet all of these, and countless others, still made their ways to school the next day. It is disheartening that school is the only sanctuary for some children as they crave genuine love, understanding, and security.
We have heard of parents spending more time teaching their children how to fill out welfare forms than instilling an appreciation for an education that might remove them from welfare rolls. We have heard of mothers telling daughters that the more children they have, whether in or out of wedlock, the more government money they will receive. Our government and our education system have, perhaps unwittingly, enabled and even encouraged such misguided attitudes.
Schools have been reactive in their stance on generational poverty. They always seem to be picking up the pieces, doing their best to provide temporary daily asylum to distraught children when ghastly things occur in their personal lives, providing countless “healthy” meals (as many as three a day) that get pitched in the garbage at the end of the mealtime. Frequently school buildings are utilized after hours to provide free or low-cost babysitting services for parents.
The system is often reactive on other issues as well, and as such, programs and “services” are rolled into the classroom. Neatly packaged multimedia programs are actively marketed to local districts and state school boards searching for anti-bullying and behavior modification solutions. Colorfully animated computer software programs, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, are sold to administrators who are constantly (and rightfully) seeking to accelerate academically underdeveloped students.
With all the reporting of mass shootings, teen suicides, gang activity, and continuing racial violence, educators are now trained in crisis prevention, student restraint procedures, and disaster response. Teachers now must juggle academic responsibilities with behavior intervention and student safety.
Undoubtedly, 21st century schools are different from the ones I experienced as a student. Less local control and more federal regulation means supplementary requirements have been thrust into our public schools. We often hear of the acceptance of curriculum that includes teaching of alternative lifestyles and multicultural traditions that would have had my own parents scratching their heads in disbelief. We watch as the media tells of another school that shuns Christian prayer but provides Islamic prayer rooms.
The bleak picture has been painted.
The responsibility lies with the community and individual voter. Few educators awaken in the morning with an agenda to systematically erode education with chaos, calamity, and catastrophe. Instead, most pursue the opposite, with the noble goal of positively affecting students, and indirectly all those with whom they contact, presently and in the future.
My coworkers agree. It is no surprise that they point to the ills of society and family dynamics as the source of crisis in education. They recognize a decline in fatherly leadership, a decrease of wifely submission, deficient discipline, and diminishing respect among today’s youth (all issues that are solved within the pages of God’s Word). Some may say my coworkers are passing the buck in blaming the failures on dysfunctional families and modern society, but that’s an unfair accusation: unquestionably, most educators struggle daily to develop solutions to those very concerns.
A few years back, in a discussion of these concerns, one school principal told me that family problems cannot be fixed in our classrooms. My response was to recognize that future families are in our classrooms today. Victims of poverty and moral decay can be turned into survivors of the same. Even if schools fail to positively address the alarming trends of generational attitudes of entitlement, individual teachers may succeed by directly implementing generational empowerment. I must believe my personal influence extends beyond the students in my classroom. As I teach, I advocate for future generations. Through the interest and relationships I cultivate with students today, I touch tomorrow.
From the Inside…
By Dale Hoggat