The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Is Depression What Students Learn at School?

on January 6, 2018

Since writing about the dark feelings expressed by many young people a few days ago I have been thinking about how I would present my own view about what is hurting them most and what should be done about it. To a great extent what I write today will repeat some things I’ve written before. That’s because bad practices continue in public education in new forms and with more complicated excuses for their failure.

In reading a recent article in The Oregonian I was not persuaded that the extreme depression of many teenage students was solely the result of family poverty and/or the harshness of much social media. As a retired educator who continues to follow what has been happening in public education over the past several years, I believe that the federal takeover of our schools has done nothing more than create a nightmare for students, parents, teachers, principals, and state education authorities. And, as one might expect, it is the students who are most severely frightened and damaged.

In a nutshell, what has happened is that many powerful politicians, believing that international test scores scores revealed the weakness of American public schools, persuaded their comrades that the federal government should take over public education and make it a more demanding for students and teachers.

Ironically, as school expectations and practices have changed over the past several years, they haven’t succeeded in raising test scores, lowering student absenteeism, or improving graduation rates.  The only numbers that have increased are early teacher retirements and student drop-outs.

There have also been many negative effects for students at the same time. In general, schools are places where kids are pushed relentlessly to raise their test scores and castigated for not learning things quickly enough and to a higher level. The only things some schools have been able to do to help students survive is to come up with special programs aimed at making them more resistant to failure and more persistent in their efforts to improve. As I see them, those programs are merely band-aids slapped onto serious wounds.

In writing this piece I recognize that I have been more harsh about today’s public education than usual.  I think that is because I am truly frightened about the terrible feelings some students expressed, and I suspect that others also had such feelings but didn’t want to let anyone know.  If that is what schools are doing to students, it must stop here and now!








One response to “Is Depression What Students Learn at School?

  1. Don Bellairs says:

    It is unfair to equate federal accountability standards that hold teachers and administrators with mandates that create excessive harshness. Kids are not being depressed by a federal takeover–such language parrots conspiracy theorists fretting about a deep state. Kids are depressed because, among myriad social pressures, their schools attract and retain mediocre employees who are not expected to meet any standards. Poorly-trained, uninspired teachers harm kids. Inequities harm kids. Boredom and futility harm kids.


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