Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s World
What will it be like?
“SCHOOLCHILDREN ADMITTED STRICTLY ONE AT A TIME.” This sign was on the door of a sweetshop in England. The children stole so much that the shopkeeper had to watch each one. The press release continued:
“From the surrounding schools, which are entirely typical, there emerges each day one of the most loutish, selfish and coarse breed of children ever produced, pushing and shoving their way on to buses, shouting obscenities across the road, and regarding pilfering as praiseworthy if they can get away with it.”
A teacher at one of England’s progressive “open classrooms” schools denounced the headmaster, saying:
“You have substituted a free-for-all atmosphere of total self-indulgence, self-pleasing do-what-you-want-for-the-moment. Chaos and anarchy are in possession. Discipline is frowned on as old-fashioned. Children are being seduced to behave in ways which are detrimental to them, both in their progress in learning anything and in producing antisocial behaviour. They are growing up ignorant, selfish, rude . . . lazy, effete.”
Those reports date back three and four years. A report this year shows no change. Under the heading “Britain’s Battered Schools,” it says the lack of academic achievements is frightening. Students “have not acquired a minimum acceptable standard in the fundamental skills of reading, writing, arithmetic, and communication.” It calls the progressive method with its clutter of ‘trendy’ subjects an “educational junkyard.”
In Canada the story of the schools is told in newspaper headlines: “Student reading skills are declining.” “Nobody fails now, high school diplomas called meaningless.” “If you want them to like you, pass them.” “Teachers tell of low morale, students’ lack of values.” “School vandals and violence stymie board.”
Reports from Australia: Discipline is a problem. Because of it teachers are leaving the profession. Incoming teachers are of poorer quality. Permissiveness and emphasis on individual rights, regardless of society’s needs, come first. Peer pressure, violent at times, forces hundreds of students to accept liquor and drugs.
Schools in the Soviet Union reveal partiality. The quality of schooling differs greatly—poor in the rurals, good in the cities. But everywhere the system produces cynics: “A typical high-school kid doesn’t believe in anything.” Bribes get students into the most coveted schools, and there is a thriving black market for books.
China seems remarkable. Visitors are impressed by the polite, disciplined behavior of the children. Students welcome visitors to their classes with a song and a dance. Recitations are impressive. Apparently there are no problems with drugs. However, the tours seem well planned and are carefully guarded. One reporter strayed from the tour route and found a gathering of children in the bathroom. One boy approached boldly, stood in front of him and urinated. All the others faced him and did likewise. After this, of the tours he concluded that “certain things are designed specifically for display.”
In Japan teachers complain that scholastic achievement is low. Violence and vandalism are widespread. One example: Thirty students, most of them second graders, five of them girls, beat six teachers with wooden bars and bamboo poles and smashed school windows and glass doors. But the outstanding element in Japanese schools is examinations. Public schools require students to take stiff ones to enter high schools and universities—and the quality school you get into depends on your grade. To get into quality private schools, examinations start with entering kindergarten. The examination to enter university takes days, is called “exam hell,” and results in several suicides every spring.
The most amazing university examinations occur in India. Indian students claim it is their birthright to copy and cheat. Last July, examinations at the University of Meerut resulted in riots. One press release said:
“Yesterday two students were killed and 40—including 30 policemen—injured as students and police fought pitched battles in the streets of Meerut and in adjacent college towns when armed police were deployed in examination halls to help invigilators [supervisors] to prevent cheating. Enraged at the deprivation of their ‘birthright’ the students went on a rampage.
“The present troubled examinations are a sequel to those in February which were declared invalid because of copying and cheating on a gigantic scale. At that time invigilators were threatened with knives and daggers while students copied from books and notes. Others took their question papers and answer books to nearby houses and restaurants where obliging friends were ready with answers. Outside the examination hall answers to questions were read out over the public address system at dictation speed.”
As a result, degrees from most universities are worthless, ignored by employers and institutions of higher learning. Literally illiterate graduates swell the ranks of the unemployed.
A survey in some 20 countries, involving 9,700 schools and 250,000 students, revealed a tremendous difference in achievement between students in industrial nations and those in less developed lands. As bad as reading and writing and arithmetic are in the industrial nations, they are worse in the less developed lands. In the latter places illiteracy is high and half the children who enter school drop out by the third year.
With many of today’s children as they are, what kind of adults will they become? Run by such adults, what will tomorrow’s world be like?
Think about that as you read the following—a report about what is going on in the schools of one of the world’s most prominent nations.