Last night, while attending a high school graduation, I saw something that must surely exemplify one of the major problems in public education. An administrator followed protocol with no adaptation for individual settings. This mantra is precisely why our public education system is struggling so hard to meet the needs of our children today.
The situation was this: as typical in most graduations, a line of students waited to receive their diplomas (or mock-diplomas). The student's name was called, the family cheered, and then the student walked over, shook hands with the principal, hugged or shook hands with another teacher/administrator or two, then paused to have their picture taken. The system seemed perfect at first; the names were read quickly and in most cases clearly, and the students proceeded rapidly through the gauntlet of adults. The problem came, however, when the reached the photographer. Each student had to stand, smile, and wait for the fateful click. This took longer than it took to read each name, and so a line formed very quickly between the name-reading and the photo-snapping. Yet the despite the fact that several folks were cycled in to read names, none corrected for this problem, and so the bottleneck grew. Finally, a reader would stop calling names, and everyone would wait for a few minutes as the bottleneck dispersed. Thus, each reader followed the exact procedure given to them.
But how difficult would it be to make an adjustment? Rather than spitting out the names rapidly (and glaring at families who dared cheer longer than .05 seconds), the reader would have read-and-paused, read-and-paused. Not only would the bottleneck have never been created, parents would also be able to cheer a bit without drowning out the next student's name. And we wouldn't have had twenty kids milling around, waiting for their photo (and you should have seen what happened when the photographer needed new film!)
As I said, this problem is indicitive of the public education system today. While there are some excellent educators in the field today – and I have been fortunate enough to have been in several of those classrooms – there are also some who follow the line exactly and refuse to adjust despite the needs of the individual children. They refuse to adjust, to make changes, or to think for themselves. Others might be more like the group of administrators who sat behind the reader and just be too lazy (or frightened of change?) to make the suggestion.
Let me say again – there are many excellent teachers out there who sincerely care about their students and who are willing to change things up to benefit the members of their classroom. But there are also many who fall into the system and let it engulf their entire way of teaching, who refuse to adapt and adjust. The bottlenecks these people create will result in far worse than long silences at graduation.
They will result in silences in the minds of the graduates.