They are all doing their best under often difficult circumstances. That's a given.
The problem is they're all doing a great job at a very flawed thing. At one time, the education system was an amazing development. Perhaps 200 or 300 years ago. As Sugata Mitra says, it's not "broken" it's just "obsolete." He explains this in the first few minutes of his award winning TED talk:
He gave that talk back in 2013, ten years ago as I write this. He goes on to describe his experiments in India. But let's jump forward to 2019, here in the US. Most adults don't remember most of what they were taught in school, and don't use much of what they do remember in daily life. This survey is just one example:
But there is a darker side, ... as a result of students having to sit through countless hours of classes, being taught information that they will largely never use (as the above study shows), it is this: Our education institutions hold themselves blameless when any problems arise.
Essentially, the school can "do no wrong" - so therefore, any failure must be "all the student's fault." The student failed to work hard enough. They didn't listen carefully enough in class. They didn't sit still. They didn't concentrate hard enough. The school *never* apologizes for any flaws in its role. It never admits that much of what the students are told to do is tedious, boring, and ultimately pointless. Sadly, the term that comes to my mind is that the system itself is narcissistic.
Even more damage is done when the education system turns learning into a "competitive sport." To me, there is no place in learning for letter grades, class standings, or any other trappings that imply to any student that, "Other people are smarter than I am." To even hint at this, I believe, is incredibly damaging, and sets the stage for bullying, and worse. Intelligence comes in many shapes and sizes. There simply is no single scale.
For the child who is not that compatible with how the system is run, as I was not, the result is often intense feelings of shame and humiliation. In this way, the school system bullies the child. And thus, already feeling defeated and "bad," students are often ripe for bullying from other students, or they act out by taking the offensive and bullying other students instead, in a vain attempt to feel better about themselves, or regain standing in the "social totem pole." This is the true cause of bullying that no "anti bullying" program in schools will ever do anything to truly remedy. Those programs are largely band aid approaches, because the central cause is not being addressed: The school itself is the original bully.
For the most part, students are powerless to change their environment. School is like a complex dictatorship, but without a central figure to blame. Instead, the conspiracy seems to be all over the place, like a cloud, with no identifiable source, where parents and school staff and officials are all in on the oppression together. We claim to teach civics in school, but as far as I'm concerned, you cannot learn democracy from a book, you must live it. But school systems are afraid to give students any real power, so there is no such opportunity.
Unfortunately, the education industry is gigantic, and thus very resistant to change. It has millions of employees who don't want to lose their jobs, both in schools, as well as in the companies who sell educational materials, and in the government agencies that are in charge of managing the whole enterprise.
One measure of the damage is the 1.7 trillion dollars of student debt. That debt, larger than any other except for home mortgages, is a bright red flashing warning light and siren that screams that something has gone terribly wrong on a fundamental level. The current attempts to "forgive" some of this debt is yet again just another band aid; it actually makes the problem worse in the long run, by not addressing the root problems that have caused it in the first place. Colleges take advantage of unsuspecting students by working them over with an incredible convincing sales job. And parents and public school personnel are in on the scam, without realizing the harm they're doing. College is an incredibly bad deal for many young people, at least if they are just coming out of high school. It's one of the most high risk investments anyone can make. If it turns out that college is not for you, then the college and society brand you as a "drop out" and you're dumped out on the street. You're stuck with a broken promise, poor employment options, and staggering debt.
But there is an even darker result. Ask yourself: Why do you think many mass shootings are targeted at schools? Why do a significant percentage of shooters attack the very school they attended? Why do they enter the very same classroom they themselves were students in, just a few years earlier? It's obvious to me that they are the ones for whom the humiliation, shame, and despair have reached such an intense level, that they finally go over the emotional edge and decide to commit one last violent suicidal act.
Each one of these people represents thousands of others who feel just as despondent, but would never think of harming anyone else. Instead, large numbers of them, under the burden of the education system, the economic imbalances, and the isolation of our current culture, just quietly kill themselves.
If you see anyone on the news or hear anyone say that we don't know how to stop this, then please, if at all possible, let them know that we do know the causes. We do have an opportunity to stop this, not only the mass shootings, but the increasing suicide and overdose rates. Claiming that nobody knows how to stop it is a tragic lie.
No, it's not easy. It's hard. It's going to take supporting alternatives to most of the institutions that we currently trust to manage our society. This is no small feat no matter how you look at it. But the time for "reforms" has past. The changes we need are so widely sweeping that no baby steps will suffice.
If we don't take a pro-active approach, then these institutions are bound to crumble anyway, into a chaotic mess. It's already happening with rancorous school committee meetings, teacher strikes, rapidly rising local budgets for education and special education, poorly maintained school buildings, and so forth. You've seen it all on the news by now. So please, put it all together. There is a major revolution going on. We have been supporting a dying, harmful system that abuses young people, with out-of-control costs. It is largely funded by an obsolete property tax system that leaves many in poorer areas with an even more deeply flawed education.
So, please, please. For the sake of the children whom we all say we love and care about. Please open your eyes and let's get to work! Look into the alternatives. Research how it's done in other countries (e.g. they eliminated homework in Finland and have better outcomes than we do, by far). Listen to the families that practice home based education, practice unschooling, or have the means to send their children to independent schools. We must learn to trust our young people, from a very young age, to make their own decisions about what to learn in life, how to learn it, and provide them opportunities to collaborate with others in the process.
We don't have to close all the schools at once. Indeed, some young people may want more structure and feel comfortable with or even encouraged by competition. But meanwhile, the time to prepare is now. Don't wait for the collapse and then try to work on alternatives.
We can do this. I say we must do this, or it will be done for us as the system devolves into chaos and bankruptcy (along with even more taxpayer revolts). Most of us will likely be very upset if that happens.