Peter Hilts, in his article “Is it time to blame the students?” addresses an issue that many educators feel uncomfortable expressing opinions on. In this “politically correct” time that we live in, everyone is afraid to step on toes. Responsibility is commonly shifted from one person to the next, so no-one has to feel too bad for too long. Hilts boldly looks at that the statement “all students are all good all the time” and critically evaluates it from the perspective of the teacher. If students are not just to acquire knowledge as they grow in years, but are also expected to “grow up“, shouldn’t they be taught to shoulder some responsibility for their learning?
“If attendance, effort, and integrity are part of the problem in education, it isn’t fair to hold teachers, parents, reformers, unions, politicians, or the tooth fairy responsible,” says Hilts. He is to be commended for making such a bold stand on a sensitive educational issue. “Students who give partial or no effort to classwork, exams and standardized tests are mostly or exclusively responsible for their behavior. When a student who can attend skips instead, that student is responsible.” Certainly any education system has some disinterested teachers, or teachers who simply hate the work they do but refuse to leave it. Every society has some parents who actively discourage the educational growth of their children, or who simply don’t care enough to encourage it. But is it always the teachers and the parents fault when children don’t succeed at school?
As Hilts so insightfully points out, “responsibility has two faces”, and this is as true in the classroom as it is anywhere else. When a teenage student is offered the opportunity to learn and CHOOSES not to, shouldn’t they be the ones to accept responsibility for that choice?