Chronic absenteeism is only the symptom

From the NY Times:

Nationally, an estimated 26 percent of public school students were considered chronically absent last school year, up from 15 percent before the pandemic, according to the most recent data, from 40 states and Washington, D.C., compiled by the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. Chronic absence is typically defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days, for any reason.

The increases have occurred in districts big and small, and across income and race. For districts in wealthier areas, chronic absenteeism rates have about doubled, to 19 percent in the 2022-23 school year from 10 percent before the pandemic, a New York Times analysis of the data found.

Poor communities, which started with elevated rates of student absenteeism, are facing an even bigger crisis: Around 32 percent of students in the poorest districts were chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year, up from 19 percent before the pandemic.

Source: ?Why School Absences Have ‘Exploded’ Almost Everywhere – The New York Times March 29, 2024

We’ve been “educating” children in America the same way, on the same schedule, since before the automobile, airplane, nuclear bomb and the internet.

And we wonder why schools are failing in so many ways?

Maybe we’re using the wrong metrics to measure our children’s intellectual and social growth? Perhaps, in an attention economy, we fail to give them the recognition and attention they are screaming for?

Standardized testing works great for those making widgets but fails to measure something as complex as an autonomous- intelligent life form? We’re so enamored with Artificial Intelligence right now, that we seem to have relegated developing real intelligence in our population to low paid, overworked civil servants (ie teachers) who are competing with technology built to engage and entertain non-stop. I’m guessing AI will eventually be entrusted to teach our children, since we don’t seem to value teachers or their products: an educated electorate. Will a robot teacher be a better solution, or just a cheaper one?

The need for critical thinking skills has only grown with the complexity of the information landscape. The ability to discern the important and authentic from distraction and disingenuous is more important than ever since a former leader created the misnomer “fake news” and destroyed the credibility of the Fourth Estate which provided a critical check and balance on our government. A government that relies on trust, in it- and even “in God we trust” to maintain a civil society.

If you wonder what the solution is to re-engage and re-connect with children, it’s to stop trying to manufacture mechanical cogs for an industrial society in the information age. Put more emphasis on arts, culture, athletics, collaboration and team work, and less on individual accomplishments in memorization and the regurgitation of rote learning.

Expand our school year and day- providing a safe, healthy environment to bond and socialize, allowing parents the ability to concentrate on the increasingly difficult job of providing for their families in a society where the wealth gap is expanding faster than ever before. Cut down the instruction hours per day and increase the time spent on things that interest children from making music to movies, or creating software or sewing sleepwear.

I made a video about 7 years ago that addressed this for my local school district, it fell on dead ears. “There Ain’t no “F” in Dayton”

And while absenteeism wasn’t the main issue I was addressing, it was part of the big picture.

America can’t continue to ignore this issue if it wants to survive. Democracy doesn’t work without an informed and educated electorate, trust me, I just lost a primary to a woman who thought a video of her holding a baby was a good reason to vote for her.

My 8.5 minute video “The Power of US” talking about solutions was “too long”

America needs a “Manhattan Project” to solve our educational systems failings now, not later. This may be the most critical test of our system of democracy in a day and age where instant gratification and attention has overtaken substance and successful outcomes.

It’s not just about being there, it’s about being present, engaged, and feeling that there is something bigger and more important to be a part of, instead of just being a participant on something we call social media- which is neither.

While we’re struggling to decide what to do with children who are failing to fit in and are disrupting the classrooms in Dayton- with talks of “alternative schools”- including a possible “military academy” we’re missing the message from this generation that is struggling to find a voice. They want desperately want to be a part of something, to feel empowered, without understanding what true empowerment is. Other than the Marines (the few, the proud) the other military branches are struggling to recruit. It all comes down to the same thing: What’s the point of showing up if it doesn’t mean anything anymore?

What part is there out there for them to play?

Solve that, and we’ll start to see a change.

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