Why is it people think that a teacher can tell them whether the curriculum has been "dumbed" down? Why is it, if you are a teacher, you are suddenly, and magically, aware of the whys and wherefores of the curriculum? Why do people give you that knowing look, like, "it was harder in school when I was young, and by god, we got spankings when we screwed up!" "These kids are soft these days!" Well, let me tell you people a few things. ( and don't get all butt hurt, because it was not anyone who reads my blog, I am just blowing some steam. And forgive me if the thought stream is disjointed, I tend to digress.)
I became a teacher because I trully love history. I think it is the best pastime anyone could take up. However, once I got out into the schools, I found that I genuinely like the kids, too. Yes, almost all of them. The kids are mirrors of their parents, though. The ones that are assholes in the classroom usually go home to spend time with assholes at night. You can usually tell what kind of home life they have and, further, you can tell what value they place on education.
I have been placed in a position of trust. The district trusts me to do what is right for the kids. The kids won't automatically trust a new teacher, they are going to sound him out. Is he tough? Funny? Weird? Going to let me get away with murder? Once the teacher has passed the test of at least some of the kids, they are willing to take from the word of others that this teacher is decent and worthy of trust. Mind you the kids are an easy lot to please, so someone that numerous kids don't care for, is probably not wonderful. (Still, everyone has had a teacher they could not stand)
I trust the kids to do as they are told. I trust them to answer to my authority, which is just this thin strand of reason that has magiclly been draped over them...it could break at any moment. I am not their prents. If they misbehave, I am not going to beat them. In fact, there is little I can do. Well, nothing. So, the way I get things done is by using the hegemony that has been set up, by making them want to do things, and using their need to please against them. Closing options when possible to make my preferred option seem the best path, things like that. It is a game of social display, psychology, and public relations.
It is difficult, but the kids are, at heart, good. There are usually 20 kids that are vying for attention or recognition of either me or their peers. Every class is different. Every kid is different. Each and every one of them is operating under some need that they want fulfilled right now. Hopefully they want to please you and some learning accidentally happens, but that is not the norm. I am amazed, even watching the most experienced teachers, how ANY learning gets done at times. It's a slow process. Teachers have their hands tied, but fortunately, the kids I have run into are pretty good.
I did not get the majority of my history knowledge from school. I got it after I left school. I got the majority of my values of liberty and education from college, though. My history knowledge came from home. I read. It's important to want it, yourself. If I had a book, like a science fiction book to read for fun, I also had a history book that I also read for fun.
So, are the kids dumber today? Maybe they don't know dates by rote, but they can use a cell phone and it's many options...could you have done that back in 1983? Me neither. They can also look up an answer in a pinch. They are not bad kids. They are not stupid kids. They are simply different kids under different conditions. So, kindly, don't ask me about what's wrong with the kids these days. I like 'em.