I'm trying to keep this blog strictly focused on the things that I'm feeling and issues I need to deal with because this is a "therapeutic" process (so I'm told) that will help me in the long run. I'm also doing it as a way to judge my writing and what's interesting to others. Sure, only my brain would take something simple as writing in a journal and put it online for the world to see and try to analyze popularity and subject trends based on visit counts and comments. I told ya' they're a busy bunch up there!
But today I have to get on my ranting box about public education. I am a product of public education, but I couldn't believe something I saw online. This morning, I read the article "'If Fred Got Two Beatings Per Day...' Homework Asks" (http://news.yahoo.com/fred-got-two-beatings-per-day-homework-asks-230717586--abc-news.html) and was just gobsmacked. The state of the nation's public schools are already in trouble -- let's just increase that by pretending that the "social studies and math combination" is anywhere near appropriate.
When Youngest Son was in elementary school, he wanted to attend the summer school program one year because they were offering classes not only for remedial students but also for those who wanted to take additional classes they normally couldn't provide during the school year due to their limited budget and staffing. One morning the teacher for his class left the room unattended while she took her daughter to the kindergarten classroom and visited with her teacher. During this unsupervised time, it's still debated whether or not Youngest Son either said something rude to a female classmate or pinched her. I certainly object to whatever it was and if he did something like that and she'd hauled-off and slapped him, I would have said it was well-deserved. However, I was only aware that something had happened when he returned home after lunch with large red marks around his neck. I asked what had happened and he told me that the female classmate had attacked him and was choking him until another student got the teacher from across the hall to come and break it up.
A little backstory here to help you understand a few things. This happened in the school district where not only Paternal Grandfather, Biological Father and Mother taught, but I had also attended school there as a small child and had even been long-term substitute teaching during the school year prior to this event. It's a small town where everyone knows everyone else and I was always greeted as "Miss Jackie" by children and adults alike because of my "status." For some strange reason we were considered by many to be of some made-up "upper level" because my family had been teachers and I had returned to that town after many, many years and was by my birthright continuing our honorary legacy. Even Husband was often referred to as "Mr. Husband" and occasionally people would ignore him until when they asked to whom he was married and he mentioned my name they'd squeal, "Oh! You're Little Jackie's husband! How wonderful! What can we do for you, Sir?" I knew most of the teachers at the school because either they were a teacher of mine or my parents/grandfather worked with them.
So, I immediately contacted the school regarding the incident between Youngest Son and his classmate. I was told that something had happened between the two and the little girl had grabbed him and was holding him down on a desk by the throat when the other teacher arrived and pulled her off of him. I asked if the student was going to be disciplined. I was told that they couldn't tell me. I asked if the teacher who had left young elementary school students unsupervised would be reprimanded. I was told that they couldn't tell me. I asked what the school planned to do because Youngest Son and his classmate would still be in the same classes and was told that they couldn't tell me. As you can imagine, I was furious. Husband and I contacted the chief of police because he happened to be a school board member and asked what could be done. He said that he was aware of the classmate's family because they lived across the railroad tracks from where we lived and that although his officers were familiar with that area and the type of events that went on there, he could do nothing because it happened at school and couldn't discuss it. Husband even scheduled an appointment with the Superintendent and Youngest Son's school principal to try to get some answers. While both admitted that what had happened to Youngest Son was uncalled for but they weren't allowed to discuss what may or may not happen to the classmate, the teacher who left the students unsupervised, or if any measures would be put in place to ensure something like this didn't happen to other children. They stated it was all because of the privacy clauses and when Husband said, "Well, what am I doing here if you're not going to help us?" the Superintendent replied, "We were wondering that, too."
We have since moved away from that area but for two years we kept him out of the public school and homeschooled him. We used a program provided by the State which allowed for interaction with other homeschooled students and a teacher via the Internet and he blossomed in his education. There were so many things they required of him that students in the brick-and-mortar schools would never be expected to do, such as write a report or complete advanced science experiments in the fourth and fifth grades. When we moved to our current location, Husband and I researched the local school districts and found that they ranked highly in curriculum and staffing. Youngest Son said he wanted to go back to public school so he could make new friends. He's still doing very well, is in advanced classes, and we warn his teachers at the start of every year that he is very intelligent and therefore prone to boredom if not challenged enough. Already this school year he hasn't gotten in trouble to the point of receiving a detention or being sent to the principal's office, but we've heard plenty of stories of things he's done and/or requested to do because what they're doing in his 8th grade class was something he did while homeschooled and he's bored to tears. He wants to be in the district's gifted program, but because he wasn't here during elementary school when they gave the tests, they won't let him in because all of the other students have been together for so long and it wouldn't be fair to them. I know....my mouth dropped at that explanation, too.
So when I read the article posted above this morning I was astonished! Public schools already have bad reputations for teaching only to the tests to ensure that their funding continues and hang the consequence if the students don't really learn anything. Children are shuffled from grade-to-grade in order to get them out of the system so that the school can boast about graduation percentages, regardless of the fact that many of the students still can't read above a second-grade level and the academic performance of over half of those graduates would barely be considered passing. Teachers are tired of being restricted by curriculums that only allow them to teach certain topics because that's what the kids will be tested on at the end of the year when there are many supporting and complimenting topics that would help ensure the students have a complete understanding of the concepts being presented, not just regurgitating answers.
I recently heard about an Assistant Superintendent in a regional school district who told all of the English teachers that they were no longer allowed to teach Shakespeare because "it's old and no longer has any relevance on today's children's lives." This person also has a doctorate in education and students currently in the public school system. Makes me wonder if the edict was given because (1) of a true belief that Shakespeare and other "old" examples of literature are outdated or (2) the students pressured their parent to get rid of subjects they didn't understand so they could make higher grades.
My Oldest Niece was homeschooled. She's currently in college and doing very, very well. She's got a great future in front of her and I know that she'll be able to accomplish anything she puts her mind to because she's already had to do that. Through her homeschooling she wasn't limited by a teacher who had to make sure everyone learned on the same level and that the slowest child set the pace for the progression of lessons. She's advanced in so many ways, not just academically but also socially because she had to get out and participate in her community as part of her lessons along with her desire to help others and continue to learn more. And people say homeschooled children are socially awkward and can't relate with others. That's certainly not true and when she was nominated as the Student to Watch in her geographic district instead of the local high school quarterback or head cheerleader. It shows that homeschooling, when done properly, beats-out public education in many ways.
Any teacher or curriculum supervisor that believes the questions asked on the worksheet in the article were appropriate needs to have their license revoked (in my opinion). I don't think we should ever gloss-over any part of our history because, as is always said, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Jim Crow Laws were never more alive than in that small town where Youngest Son was assaulted. And trying to excuse away something like that is, well, inexcusable. What's next? Will we start asking questions such as, "As the Indians traveled 300 miles per day and were given smallpox-ridden blankets by the U.S. Calvary on average of two per family, how far could a tribe of 1000 plan to journey towards the next reservation before they succumbed to disease or mistreatment along the way?" Or, "If 3000 Japanese internees are relocated from California to Arkansas and placed near the Italian and German POW camps, how long will it take for each camp (assuming the same number of internees in each) to dig tunnels and meet-up so that Americans in the late 20th Century are forced to purchase higher-grade electronics and vehicles from the descendants of these internees?"
Yes, the questions I posed above are absurd and shouldn't be allowed -- but how many of you needed to check to see if any of the actual facts included were correct? Thank your public education for that.
My favorite response to the article was this: Q: "You have 10 oranges. Your neighbor comes over and takes 2. What does that leave you?" A: "A dead neighbor and all 10 oranges."