Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Our Motto Should be to Maximize the Potential
It is obvious that people are not equal in potential, equal in brainpower, equal in physique and stamina, nor equal in opportunity. They are not equal in motivation, not equal in their learning environment and not equal in common sense, either.
With all of these inequalities, why is it that our schools attempt to teach to the less gifted while often leaving the talented students to fend for themselves? Why do they insist upon eradicating track systems in favor of a lumping together of all levels?
After their (ineffective) ministrations, why is it that Johnny can't read, write, spell, or do simple arithmetic? Why is it that Johnny doesn't know pea-turkey about the United States, its history, its geography and its famous heroes? Why is it that we allow Spanish as a main language in classes, when English is the primary language of America?
Why is it that we now have a curriculum composed of classes in subjects that are supposed to be taught at home? Sex education in schools followed by handout of condoms and pills is not a good move. It has apparently not worked, either, since the teenage birthrate has been very high, abortions very high, and single-parent homes have been outpacing normal marriage arrangements.
Why is it that our high school students score so abominably in international tests? Then, too, why do our universities have to resort to remedial instruction for students admitted despite supposedly high academic standards for acceptance?
Our schools have deteriorated to the point that true learning and true learning-to-learn is postponed until years after high school is over, and even until after some years in college, if ever.
This is a national disgrace. Not only is it a disgrace, it is a catastrophe for the future of our society. We are not producing educated citizens across the whole spectrum of inherent student capabilities, but rather, a lowest-common-denominator education that panders to the feel good, the ignorant, and the indifferent, while boring the intelligent and the gifted to distraction.
Why has this happened? Almost stealthily, the school down the road has turned into something my generation does not recognize. It appears to lack the discipline of former years, where yelling and running in the halls was a punishable offense. The classrooms seem not to be areas where the teacher is given the normal respect an adult should receive, but rather a challenge to authority from the start. Punishment is not easy to mete out. Too many parents have inserted themselves into the process, and have threatened lawsuits if they don't get their way.
The curriculum has been distorted , many of the books have been edited down or banned for reasons of not wanting to bruise sensitive souls, and a creeping belief seems to arise that all of this is not quite accidental--there seems to be a master plan for dumbing-down our schools. How else can it be when the same complaints are heard in every city and state in the nation?
Are there common origins for this dumbing down? Despite spending enormous sums each year by state and national governments on a per head basis, what we get for this taxation is more infrastructure, more administrators, and more studies, and not more learning. The educators cry for more and more money every year, yet no matter how much we spend, it is not enough. Teacher salaries have not kept pace, and many schools have terrible shortages in materials, books, and training aids. What is going on?
(to be continued)
Fellow Christian...called by God to teach. Here are some of my thoughts.
Your first three paragraphs are right on target. There are some issues I would like to raise, however, with the rest of your post...to be fair, not just yours, but critics of public ed in general.
My largest concern, and I say this to ALL critics of public education who happen to be fellow believers...you should not lump all schools together and all teachers together just as people who are not Christians should not lump every Christian as abortion clinic bombing, out of touch people who lay their faith on a mythical figure.
YES there are bad schools.
YES there are bad teachers.
YES...but I have news for you...the horse called. It said to stop beating it!!
Why is it that many critics always pose questions, but rarely offer viable suggestions? Why is it that many critics (and I am not saying this is you, please do not misread me) have often never spent time volunteering in a public school to see what it is really like from a teacher's standpoint, but yet seem to know "firsthand" how bad it is? Why is it many critics think ALL schools give condoms out like they were candy?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
I digress and I am not doing much good here, certainly not behaving like Christ. Let me refocus.
Paragraph #5: "Why is it that our high school students score so abominably in international tests?" This is going to sound like a cop out and passing of the buck, but I honestly do not think it is. Here is my answer: You are comparing apples to oranges. The public school system in the US is not at all like it is in other countries, which, YES, is part of the problem. You even answered part of your own question yourself in paragraph #2...we leave the most talented students to fend for themselves and teach to the lest gifted...other countries do the opposite. Hello?! Do you think that might have something to do with why we score so low?!
I know you said it would be continued, and you may get to this, but I am on a roll. The legistlation No Child Left Behind is only making matters worse. YES, I am a teacher of course I am going to say that, right? Look, as a Christian Repulican, I like President Bush. But, this legislation is not the answer. If people thought there was too much emphasis on standardized testing before, they have no idea now. You take an eighth gifted education student and compare them to an eighth grade severely learning disabled student and both are expected to perform "proficiently". The gifted ed student reads at a college level. The learning disabled at a 2nd grade level. Tell me how it is supposed to be done.
Did you know that in the NCLB, it only take ONE subgroup to not meet its annual yearly progress percent age set by the government to put an entire school on the watch list? My school, roughly 575 students, is on the watch list this year and because of a subgroup of about 20 sixth grade learning disbaled students who as a subgroup did not meet the AYP, put us on the watch list. Now, 20/575 is about 3% of the school population. If this happens again this year, we are called a SINA...school in need of assistance. Funding is taken away FOR OUR READING PROGRAMS...how much sense does that make?!?!?! and a state official comes in and takes over the curriculum...how when and what we teach.
Yes, educatiors cry for more money...for their students. And yes, spending is up and you are 100% right...it goes towards infastructure, adminstration and other things that do not make sense, not actual tools for leaning. My building had $30,000 "left over" after last year. Did we buy books? Technolgy? Updated materials? NO. We bought new caferteria tables, new furnature for the office and we put in central air...for the office. Then we turn around and BEG the community to help with fundraising for new textbooks.
You ask what is going on? Lots of stuff. Do I have the answers, no. If I did, I would be on the consultant train making thousands of dollars to tell schools what to do. I jsut know I am trying to do the best I can with my students with the resources I am given and I pray that it is good enough, but I know it is not.
I hate what my profession has become, but I love my kids. Why do you think I am still here?
The main thrust of your post is the "No One Left Behind" program, which I haven't delved into as yet. I take your comments as a good starting point for a critique. Several of my teacher friends have conplained about teaching to the test and not teaching critical independent thinking. Little did I suspect that they were being forced to do that, as opposed to working around it in a full bore presentation and teaching of the subject matter.
When trying to make an all inclusive argument, one typically strays into the problem that it really isn't all teachers, and not all schools that fall into the criticisms arena.
However, I read your frustrations even if you are in the superlative teacher grouping, you seem to be one who cares, and loves the students, and manifestly desires to do a superior job at all levels of the student population. Thank God for those of you who do feel that way!
Within walking distance from my house are two schools, one of which is superior, and the other which I found to be dismal. A short drive takes me to four other schools that are a mixed bag, running from excellent to dismal again. This is what sparked my original interest in getting to the root of why.
One factor that cannot be dismissed is the home life situation of the students. Where home is not a learning and pleasant environment, the student is not well prepared for school success. That is a fact that disturbs many people, because it has racial overtones. But the contrast between the students in most city schools here and the majority of suburban schools is dramatic and telling.
Thank you for your comments, and I am grateful that someone of your caliber agrees with most of my findings. I will post further on this subject.
Perhaps I was too subtle with my suggestion for tracking. There should be tracking for all manner of learning situations: the bright, the average, and the slow, as well as the learning disabled. To have learning disabled students in the classroom is to create a serious drag on progress for the majority, and an impossible discipline problem for the teacher, in my opinion.