Education is constantly evolving, and that can be a positive thing. It is important to keep up with new technology, find new innovative ways to inspire and engage students. However, there are also negative ways that education is changing. That’s evident by culture seeping into education. Are we morphing our students into our next generation leaders? Are we teaching them to critically think and problem solve? Or are we turning them into activists and getting them to comply blindly?

There are several ways that education is being influenced by culture. I will go into some of these below. But I will also highlight ways that we can combat this and this. I will also highlight examples of positive trends that highlight educational freedom and choice.

Teaching basic civics is a necessity. There is a new law passed by the Wisconsin legislature that would require a certain amount of civics credits for students to graduate. This is imperative to help students grow into productive students. It is more important than ever for people to get involved in the political process. Students for a long time haven’t been learning even the basics of government. I regularly discuss civics related topics with my students, such as the importance of voting, the value of the electoral college and the concern related to our national debt.

It is also crucial that students have the opportunity to discuss ‘big’ ideas and respectfully debate. Not only is healthy debate crucial for democracy, it teaches important life skills. Students should know that in life, they won’t always be with people they agree with, nor should they. I see firsthand that kids appreciate the ability to have free expression. Nobody gets cancelled in my classroom. Topics that may seem controversial are always welcome in my classroom, as long as we have a discussion that is always respectful.

One positive way to get students to critically think and grow is through reading ‘banned books’. Banned books is a term that refers to books that tackle tough issues and are deemed by some as controversial. Books like Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird paint a picture of what the south was like. These are lessons that we need to learn in such a divided age. Also, there are books like 1984 and Animal Farm which warn against the terror of big governments who restrict our freedoms. Many label those as encouraging dangerous and controversial ideas. These books are important more than ever.

Unfortunately, students are getting addicted to technology. Don’t get me wrong, there are several effective online teaching tools, many that I use. However, social media and other sites are encouraging students to get lazy and not think critically. Teaching Cursive is a great way to get students thinking and to stimulate different parts of their brain. A recent bill passed the Wisconsin legislature that would require the teaching of cursive.

More transparency for parents would also be beneficial. Parents need to be in the loop regarding their child’s education. They need to know what the students are learning. One way to involve parents is to post curriculum online, so parents are more in the loop. This is yet another common sense bill that passed the Wisconsin legislature. Having more involved parenting is a key to success in a child’s life and education.

Fostering creativity in students is essential. In a time when online social media platforms figuratively melt the brains of children, educators need to work on fostering creativity and problem solving. One way I do that is through assigning hands-on projects, and also encouraging time for students to ‘dream’ by jotting down their thoughts, hopes and dreams.

Saying the pledge of allegiance is also critical. We need students to realize how blessed they are to live in this country. We need to celebrate America for having the freedoms that we have. America hasn’t always been perfect, far from it, but we have to appreciate our history and our liberties. We also have to learn from our mistakes and not sugarcoat things.

It is important that educators encourage students to consider all options for their future. College is not for everyone, and the narrative that college is the only way to succeed is factually dishonest. All students have different abilities that we need to celebrate. College is a great avenue for some, some tech school, some military and some apprenticeships/job training. We need to realize that all career paths are important and it is imperative that some in the education community stop looking down on certain career paths.

In conclusion, education is the key to success. Our students are growing up in a pivotal age. And now more than ever, we need to give them the tools to succeed and become free thinkers and unique individuals. We can’t provide them an education that waters down learning, but needs learning that strengthens and encourages the individual. And now more than ever, we need bold educators who won’t simply bow down to mainstream culture.

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