Regardless of whether or not the methodology of this study is precise (it’s difficult, perhaps, to measure “engagement”)—the findings are nevertheless interesting to consider. This Gallup research poll suggests that students become more disengaged in school the older they get. It might be easy to explain this drop in interest as a problem with the teenage brain. Teenagers have other things to be engaged with besides school--their hormones, relationships, etc...
It can’t be reduced to just this. There's so much more to this problem than a changing brain. The lack of engament is a symptom, not a diagnosis, and one that suggests something is failing.
And on a day when we commemorated both, Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States of America, was sworn into office for a second term. I’m not broadcasting this as breaking news. I’m not making a sweeping affirmative statement about Obama and his politics. I’m broadcasting it because the concurrency of these events and figures on yesterday’s Inauguration Day is too great to ignore.
Just the other day I posed this simple question to my friend’s son, an 11th grader in a wealthy school district: “What book are you reading in your English class?” He replied, quizzically, by asking me a question back: “What do you mean?”
“What book are you reading,” I asked again.
“Like for fun? I don’t read for fun.”
School certainly isn’t the easiest place to learn the ol’ “Do Unto Others” golden rule. Much less is it a place to enact the “turn the other cheek” dictum. School is actually one of the hardest places for our children to practice acting morally or responsibly—in ways we all strive to act—or to receive positive outcomes that would further enhance those good actions.
In an effort to make bad behaviors feel “okay,” kids often pull others onto their side by encouraging them to pursue similar behaviors—whether it’s by pressuring friends to engage in drugs, or to cheat, or to bully other students. The transition from elementary school to middle school is an especially difficult one. This is when kids start to form personal identities and forming friends becomes a major focus. For that reason kids strive, first and foremost, to belong, even if belonging sometimes means doing unto others as you would never in your budding fragile little mind hope to have done unto you. Even (or especially), if an authority figure, like a teacher, tells you not to.