Acceptance of mediocrity: a big problem in the Land of Enchantment

I found this article from today’s Albuquerque Journal fascinating. It was written by 32-year educator Del Hansen. It would seem to me that Mr. Hansen and his ilk are a big part of the problem in New Mexico education.

Hansen spends more than 800 words complaining about parents and our society and how it molds students into what they are. In Hansen’s world, schools have little to no impact over the 12 (or more) years of schooling because if parents don’t do the job, teachers and schools are doomed to fail. Ben Chavis, who I blogged about yesterday, is just one prominent example of an educator who, regardless of society and parents, pushed his students to succeed. I’m not blaming teachers for not always succeeding, but until we have a school system that is designed with success in mind, mediocrity will be the norm.

Speaking of mediocrity, I found the comments of Houston Texans running back (and Albuquerque native) Arian Foster very interesting. An article about him appeared in the paper as well.

Said Foster: “Looking back, it’s easy to see why so many Albuquerque kids fail. It’s the attitude out here, and that’s terrible,” says Foster, who says he still visits at least three times a year and is in the process of creating programs to help straighten out troubled teens. “I will do anything to help the kids there. But there’s just kind of this attitude where people accept mediocrity.

Strong stuff, especially to tell your home-town newspaper, but I find his statement compelling and accurate. Until our schools demand excellence and our government’s policies reward (rather than discourage) hard work and individual initiative, New Mexico and its citizens will be achieving far less than they should.

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6 Replies to “Acceptance of mediocrity: a big problem in the Land of Enchantment”

  1. I think Mr. Hansen has a good point, that too many parents are uninvolved and expect the school system to educate their children without their involvement. He also points out the rudeness and lack of discipline that has become part of our society. How can parents who can’t discipline themselves discipline their own children. This attitude has carried over into our school system to the point that schools can’t discipline either. Thus our public schools have too many undisciplined distractors which are nothing but a burden to our teachers and school system.

    Although not part of the article, I will agree that school unions are a problem, protecting mediocre teachers and impeding classroom innovations. Great teachers are passionate about their subject and are able to infuse that enthusiasm into their students. We need to reward those who perform and remove those that don’t.

    I have an asian wife. In her country, parental involvement is part of the culture as is student discipline. Not only do the parents put great expectations on their children, they also put great expectations on the teachers. As a result, mediocre teachers are shunned if they don’t perform. In asian countries driven by Confucianism, like Japan, Korea and China, educating requires discipline and sacrifice by all parties. So what happens when those families move to America. They excel even with poor teachers and/or poor school systems. One doesn’t have to look hard to see positive results as they lead school stats.

  2. Interesting article. I will not disagree with anything he says. My only gripe is that he comes off as parents being the ONLY reason that our schools are failing.

    There are lots of reasons that New Mexico schools are performing so poorly. Parent/child interaction is certainly one of them. I do not mean to minimize the importance of that relationship, but good schooling can succeed even when parents fail. I have first hand experience with such a household.

    My understanding in talking to local educators is that bureaucracy and politics (they really go hand in hand) is the biggest contributer to our failing economic system. This does not surprise me at all. I began college just a decade ago with a major in Elementary Education at SCSU in Minnesota. By all standards of testing, Minnesota has pretty enviable results. Still, a few years into my schooling I transferred my major over to the business school. I had done more reading and interacting with teachers and realized that I would have little patience in dealing with the bureaucracy in the system. Talking to local educators, it sounds even worse here.

    I still have a passion for education. Even in my own life I continue to read “textbooks” on a daily basis. I am considering running for the local school board in February. I figure that if I want my future children to attend schools I believe in, I better start making changes now. The best thing we could do is let the teachers do their job and get rid of the ones who cannot, but the union, nor the establishment, has very little interest in making that happen.

    “When school children start paying union dues,
    that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” -Albert Shanker (former president of the American Federation of Teachers and the United Federation of Teachers)

  3. You left out the context of Foster’s remarks where it was clear that he was talking about football.

    Also, he went to California from Valley High School, so I guess that means that we should strive to be more like California?

  4. I get so tired of the whining by teachers blaming society for their failures. My parents were not very involved in my education growing up, but I had some teachers who really inspired and motivated me to learn. I also had plenty who just went through the motions. When you have a child in your care for 6.5 hours a day 180 days a year, you have the opportunity to be a major influence in a young life. If they are not able to motivate the unmotivated and interest the bored in the subject they’re teaching they are in the wrong profession.

  5. My main gripe with teachers are their unions. My main gripe with their unions is their politics. My main gripe with education politics is the stated NEA goal of indoctrinating our youth rather than educating them.
    My next biggest gripe (detect a trend here?) is the disproportionate amount of money spent on education for an ever decreasing return.
    When in situ test scores as well as higher educational institutes’ reports of a growing inability of matriculating students to perform basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills is blamed on parents, my gripe meter pegs!
    We do not accept shoddy workmanship or defective products when we have a choice. It is market-driven forces that dictate quality. Our taxes pay for our children’s education. We are the consumers and should be able to influence market forces in primary education. We do so in secondary education by choosing a college which suits our budget and our children’s needs.

    Take a quick look at news reports about charter schools, private schools, and home schooling. They are uniformly negative although statistically their students perform well above those in public education. The AFT and NEA unions absolutely detest these institutions and constantly denigrate their demonstrated efficacy seeking to place restraints on their use.


    No unions! No centralized bureaucracy dictating a one-size-fits-all curriculum heavy on social re-engineering and political correctness.

    As an experiment… drive through some of the smaller, economically struggling New Mexico towns (is there any other kind?) and look for the newest, biggest, most expensive buildings. Ten to one they are either schools or government-based buildings.

    Abolish the Department of Education, which was a sop given by Carter for union support of his election in the ’70’s. Curriculum should have a base with true American and world history as well as civics as requisite courses. Control of curriculum should be local first with limited State oversight.

    We do not need Washington-driven oversight for local education!

    Gripe on!

  6. For a long time we were told that it was lack of money and political support that was to blame…now that school funding is at all time national highs.. it is the fault of parents that schools continue to fail.

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