A few weeks ago, while reading the comments on a story about our broken educational system, I came upon a response that basically said, well, all that parents care about are cupcakes and that's the real problem. I suppose what was to be interpreted from that line is that parents aren't really interested in the educating of their children because they are too interested in no longer being able to serve cupcakes at school parties, or ever actually. After all, cupcakes have nothing to do with a good education. Or do they?
My own history of my own education is a much different history than my children are creating. Growing up in the '70's and '80's my education was much more rounded. Not only could we freely have cupcakes, once a week our treat was a bottle of grape pop. We had recess and gym every single day. Not a single person complained about celebrating any holiday. Nobody cared if the school had displayed a Merry Christmas sign or a Seasons Greetings sign. All of the classic school subjects were taught every day, and not eliminated or enhanced based on any tests. There was no common core and not a soul was labeled as having a behavior problem for forgetting their pencil. We got to talk during lunch and run at recess. Every kid did not make the team. We won some and we lost some. Rarely was any child obese ( despite all of those cupcakes ). I walked home from school every day, just like most of my friends, in sun, rain, wind, and snow, and one time a thunderstorm. Our teachers were not worn thin by paperwork. They were able to just teach in their own style. We had good teachers and bad ones and mean ones and nice ones. There was no edline or livegrades so that our parents could constantly be watching us. My parents never had to sign a paper for the classes I chose to take in high school. I was responsible for every assignment, and 95% of the time my parents knew nothing about them.
The difference between then and now is then our educational system allowed us to learn instead of forcing us know. As a child then, it was my choices that had the most effect on my education. The current educational system forces almost everthing. There is little room for free-thinking, for making a mistake. Parents have forced the issue of needing to know every detail. Children have little room to have their own secrets and problems, and because of that, lack the skills to solve their own problems. Children are hovered over and watched right down to what they eat and how they play. There is no time or tolerance for simple socialization with their peers. There is little downtime in an eight-hour day for our children. While ADD and ADHD were unheard of in my time, they now seem prevalent. Or is it the fact that downtime for our kids has all but disappeared, leaving children who need to be active and moving locked to more and more desk time?
You see, the cupcakes have a lot more to do with how we are failing our kids than you might think. They represent a knit picky system that would bring up banning cupcakes to begin with. It represents a system that finds more harm in serving a cupcake or a can of Coke than it does teaching around a test or never allowing kids to be kids. That cupcake has become more important than lack of recess and stifled movement of young bodies. And while something as silly as a cupcake overrides other major issues in our schools, nobody seems to care. The majority of kids lack the same life skills that I had at the same age, because they have never had the opportunity to live them. The time that was once used for individual development has been replaced with more and more class time. Our teachers are tired and our kids are tired and we parents are tired.
Where did things go wrong? That's easy. We stopped focusing on the basics. We want to teach all of these great plays, but we forgot to teach how to dribble. The basics of our educational system that started back in the one-room school house are gone. Instead of our first graders taking naps and having lots of social and playtime, they're doing 3rd grade math. We need to slow down. Our kids need to slow down. And we need to start focusing on the fact that a well-rounded education is one that focuses on learning many different things along with just school subjects. There should be interactive dialogue and thinking outside of the box. And it should be understood that half of the learning process of these young minds happens during interactions at lunch and at play. This kind of learning is equally as important as learning math.
The disappearance of cupcakes is a symptom of a much deeper problem in our schools. They symbolize the disappearance of the basics in our schools, the things that keep our kids engaged, happy, and eager to learn.