Monday, May 21, 2012

Education Armageddon?

I had been planning to write another personal post, and here it is.  I have noted that people simply LOVE to hear personal stories and as a person who loves to share to the point of oversharing, I will provide!

Originally, my post was going to detail only my latest in yet another public school run-in, followed by a blog post on what I believe is wrong in public schools today.  I have decided to merge these two activities here for the most part, however (although I will include a later post on what is wrong with public schools to include some diagrams upon which I have been working).

Let me begin with the personal story...As many of you know, I have had a crazy time of first grade with my son Samuel.  Last week, Sam brought home paper after paper on the rainforest.  I didn't pay much attention to any of them frankly.  To me, a child in first grade who can't do his addition or subtraction math facts to mastery but is studying the rainforest seemed too stupid a situation to even confront.  Then, it started happening...."Mom, did you know the rainforests are being destroyed all over the world?"  "Mom, did you know there won't be any sloths by the time I grow up?"  Hmmmmm....

Teachers who attempt to teach biology (especially Rainforest Ecology) to the child of a woman with a Master's degree in Biology who actually went all the way to Costa Rica for a Rainforest Ecology class and who saw rainforest first hand (and there is a whole lot of it in Costa Rica), should probably walk softly.  But oh no...

Of course I had to put Sam in the White Family Re-Education camp for that week and answer the constant questions arising from his overwrought, environmentalist, indoctrination with comments such as, 
"Yes, Sam, some rainforests are being cut down and the land used so people don't have to live in poverty.  We don't believe God gave the world rainforests to simply sit and look at.  If people have no other jobs, but have land, they should use it wisely and make a living for themselves and their families rather than rely on the government or churches to support them."
"Yes Sam, sloths die and they do reproduce slowly, but there is LOTS of rainforest out there in the great big world God gave us (all around the equator) and many countries manage sections of their rainforests to preserve it for future generations.  Sloths will be around for you to see, it is fairly certain." 
I even helped him study words like "Kapok Tree", "toucan", "protect" and "habitat" for his spelling test, though he can't spell "huge" or "very" - words I would think should pull a bit more weight in the English language.

Thursday Sam brought home a math paper that had him adding 2, 3-digit numbers in column form.  Hmmmm...

I decided I'd had enough.  On this homework paper, I placed a lined sticky note with the following comments,
Dear Mrs. Smith,  Sam will not be doing this homework as he's spent most of the week learning how to spell Kapok Tree and still is unable to recount most of his basic math facts.  I don't feel he needs to be further confused.  Here are four pages of basic math facts that I had him pull out of some math practice books I keep at home.  You may count them for homework, or give Sam a zero - whatever you think is best.  Thank you, Jenni White."
Now, Mrs. Smith has been absent for the past several days, so I have no idea if she will count them or not, but between 2 days a week of art classes, computer class, and classroom days spent on activities such as field day and the Jog-a-Thon (- to raise money for the computer lab.  Once, as a member of PTA last year, I suggested we didn't need a computer lab in elementary school.  This was not at all a popular thought.  Suffice it to say, I am no longer a PTA member.), when exactly is Sam supposed to master ANYTHING that matters?

Which brings me to the second portion of my post.  Today, I read an article called, "Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste". It was written by a man who extolled his time in public education after World War II and what an excellent education it was.  He then went on to make comments on public education today - insisting that the thorough failure we are seeing is a result of lack of investment and inattention to the detail of those poverty-stricken students who just can not get on track.

After my experiences in public education, I felt absolutely OBLIGED to respond to this sad, utterly misinformed, geriatric individual with the following post;
This is where I get sad and cry for the Greatest Generation.  Eli, why in the WORLD, after admitting that you graduated with an excellent education following WWII, do you believe that our education system is suffering due to a LACK of anything other than, well, EDUCATION?  You of ALL people should realize the great inroads in all industry after WWII which were made on the backs of those who earned an excellent BASIC education in sometimes one room school houses - without computers and online training and special accommodations.

I regret to admit that I believe it is your generation, Eli, who have let my children down by pandering to an outmoded, selfish belief that your children MUST possess more than did you yourself.  Frankly, what our children - and our bloated, over-priced, over-spending school systems - need is the swift kick in the pants of NOT needing - of simplicity and thrift - all those things provided your generation from which my (and my children's) generation have been robbed by the very souls that benefited most from those practices.

The propensity to look toward other countries as a way to educate Americans is not only spurious - as our system was NEVER meant to educate Communists or Socialists - but also disingenuous as well when you state that our educational system is inadequate to educate children of poverty.  Poverty is defined in a completely different way today than it was in your day.  People with cell phones and big screen TV's are considered destitute enough to qualify for enough free federal government programs to grant them access to better resources than even those NOT on public assistance! 

Not only that, but your comparisons to education in other countries doesn't include that America's poverty rate (the number of children actually unable to eat with both parents working) is a bare fraction of theirs.  And you also do not mention that other countries do not provide PUBLIC education in the same manner as the US.

I take umbrage to the incongruent parallels you, and others who insist that America's PUBLIC education system only needs MORE - more money, more computers, more STUFF.

My first grader can not add 7+7, but by God he knows that rainforests are being destroyed before his eyes.  My 4th grader can not write a coherent, perfectly spelled paragraph, but she understands that American Indians were murdered by non-natives and that Global Warming is a fact.

Return schools to the oneness of parental control, schools boards and districts, teach the basics as you were taught, and not all the other GARBAGE and I would absolute bet GOOD money we'd see the results you had as a lad.

Less is more Eli.  Face it and a hearty dose of REALITY as well.
More on the absolute cognitive dissonance that is what we call today, "Educational Choice", later.