There’s an article going around the internet posted by Huffington Post titled: Gates Says Fixing Education Toughest Challenge. In this article Gates is quoted as saying: "And the one thing we have a lot of in the United States is unmotivated students.”
Wow, this is not reality. We do not have UNMOTIVATED students we have students who have not been educated appropriately and therefore they have developed Learned Helplessness. I wrote an article on The Importance of Changing Learned Helplessness in Students with Disabilities and would love for Mr. & Mrs. Gates to understand the reality of why students are not being successful. I know of many very intelligent students who dropped out or failed out because of this Learned Helplessness experience. This article was very popular and I received a number of emails from people who wanted to tell me their story because this was exactly what they were/had experienced.
I later received emails and phone calls from parents who were frustrated because they took the Learned Helplessness article (or emailed it) to the school and the staff often disregarded the student developed learned helplessness and continued to blame it on being unmotivated and unwilling. This prompted me to write another article: Why We Should Help Studentswith Learning Disabilities.
We need to admit that we as a nation are doing it wrong when it comes to education. We are rewarding the wrong behaviors, setting kids up for consistent failures, and using an arbitrary grading system (Grades, ACT/SAT, and Standardized Tests). In a more recent article I address this topic: Students don’t Fail, the Education System is failing our Students!
So, what can we do about this? We can admit that it is uncomfortable to face reality. To look at ourselves in the mirror and see the naked truth. Our education system is the problem. If Mr. & Mrs. Gates want to make the world a better place than they need to put money into education research. We need to educate our children and stop letting so many of them fall through the cracks as if these kids don’t matter. Mr. & Mrs. Gates could help financially support programs that are evidence based such as making sure all schools have systematic, explicit, and phonic based reading approaches/programs. If a student is not progressing at grade level then this student is to receive one-to-one tutoring until they are at or above grade level. We need to stop allowing teachers to just pass a student on or fail these students.
We need to stop with the standardized testing and focus on educating these children. A teacher can tell if a student is behind in the areas of reading, writing, and math. We don’t need a standardized test to prove these students are behind. Teachers should be allowed to identify these students so they can receive individualized support and the school district should pay for each student who is behind an individualized tutor until the student is at or above grade level. Failure should NOT be an option. We need to stop waiting until the standardized test scores come out to finally decide to help some of these students. We need to stop waiting until the student is so far behind that it is almost impossible for them to catch up. The school system is squishing the self-esteem of many children and causing students to develop learned helplessness.
So here’s my final message to Mr. & Mrs. Gates. Stop being a part of the problem. Saying students are UNMOTIVATED is fueling the negative fire already in these children. They are not UNWILLING they are UNABLE! If I had the funds you have I would be making a difference in the way we educate our students, the way we motivate, and the way the culture & climates of the school are focused on competing against each other and not supporting each other for success. I’d spend money educating the educators on EMPATHY because Empathy is the Antidote to bullying! Honestly, education is not as challenging as Mr. & Mrs. Gates think, it will just take a while to see the positive changes once the discrimination stops.
Finally, if you want to know what discrimination does to a person watch: Dr. King &Lessons from A Class Divided. People with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are often discriminated against in the educational system. There are rumors that Bill Gates himself is dyslexic but I do not believe that it true. I believe if he was dyslexic then he would have empathy and stop blaming our children (here’s a great article by Pam Wright: The Blame Game! Are SchoolProblems the Kids’ Fault?). I do not believe that Mr. Gates knows what it is like to struggle or be discriminated against. If this opinion is not true, then Mr. Gates can enlighten me but in the meantime, I have no evidence to prove he understands what it is really like in the shoes of someone who struggles.
Here's a picture & quote from a child who experienced only a couple of days feeling bad about himself. Think about what our current education system is doing to children and then tell me that kids are UNMOTIVATED Mr. Gates!