Schools Fail Because We Ask Them To Do Too Much

The little quotation following comes from the weekly education column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel written by Alan Borsuk. It is about the pros and cons of re-opening schools this fall and who may succeed and who may fail…at both the school level…and the student level. The article is here but it is behind the pay wall. It is interesting in its entirety, but this is what I am most concerned about:

For children with special education needs, with mental health needs, or with no home, the benefits of quality five-day-a-week schooling are especially important.

This one sentence alone is proof of why our public schools fail. They are tasked with educating all of our children.

But we don’t give them the resources to provide for the needs of all of our special education students. We just don’t. And that needs to be addressed. And it shouldn’t all be on the shoulders of the school systems…special education support should include other community services to support students in and out of the classroom. We can’t lay this all on teachers and schools.

And students with mental health needs…here again we can’t expect our teachers to be experts in providing mental health services for students. They can certainly be provided with coping mechanisms and strategies to help students succeed in the classroom…but actual mental health care needs to be addressed elsewhere. It needs to be part of a public health care system and it needs outside support and resources to succeed. Again, the school system is part of that support…but we shouldn’t expect it to be the main source for mental health support.

And homelessness…this is a national crisis of epic proportions. And between the pandemic recession and the growing financial inequality nationally, it is going to continue to get worse. Homelessness has to be mitigated in the public space. It is going to take money and planning and a rethinking of how we build cities and cultures and businesses. Schools need to be aware of the problems faced by students who are experiencing homelessness…and possibly report it to resources who can help…but we can’t expect schools to solve the problem.

The social safety net in the United States is broken. It needs to be fixed and resources allocated to our societal problems. But we can’t expect the public schools to solve these problems…and we can’t expect them to succeed in educating young people if society doesn’t solve our other problems first.


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