Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fundamentalism

As I mentally walk through my elementary school of the late 50’s and early 60’s then on to high school I can comfortably relate those days to today’s schools. Bells ring, school lunches are the same, desks are very similar, certainly the textbooks are just a newer (only slightly in some cases) version, blackboards are now white but still with the same function, busses are still yellow without seat-belts, principals, assistant principals, teachers, really not much has changed.

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Parents come and parents go. They’re involved for a while early on, then perhaps get fixated on one thing their child participates in, then once graduated they’re gone. Most parents quit going to school around 6th and 7th grade, their involvement is over.
School boards are more often than not just a small political office for some, a way to spread influence for others, free lunch for the rest. They know less about the educational process than a first year teacher, yet make decisions that influence the education system in their county for many years.
In our country there are things that are privileges and therefore easily taken away or denied such as a driver’s license, and then there are things that are rights such as the right to vote and the right to a free education. The issue here is not the fact that we have this right — it is the right to this education does not stipulate the type of education. Originally it was believed (and still is today) that school needs to provide the fundaments for kids to be successful. The reading, writing, arithmetic fundamental structure of the 40’s is not too far off from today’s curriculum in many schools. It’s so comforting to hear the music from the musical “Grease” coming from the band room and auditorium. Going back to “the old school” and seeing friends. School colors, school song, school sports; some people never outgrow this time and place in their lives — it’s almost mystical.

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While the educational structure has been stuck in the mud, young people have been changing. The idea of coming to school too learn something new has been replace by going to school to go back in time. If this were a business trying to produce the best and the brightest we would be looking for ergonomically engineered chairs and tables, technology and its’ structure to keep up with the changing demand, a dynamic curriculum, and educators helping students along the path of self-education. Sports would be played through a municipality not tied to and anchoring down the education system: School exists for educational purposes not athletic events.
Decide America, what is it you want out of your school and your children? Do you want for them the same thing you had? All those school spirit Pep Rally’s, the smell of corn dogs cooking, the long walk to the administration office, hiding your cell phone, laughing at the teacher because they can’t get on-line for today’s lesson — ah, yes, school days. Or perhaps you want your son to graduate high school with an employable skill he can use right away! Not possible? Oh yes it is possible if you change your attitude toward school and education itself. We can build a school system designed to educate and/or train students for further academic life or employment or we can continue the use of this fundamentalist school structure and fall further and further behind.
By the way these schools do exist today. Many of them are very successful and challenging Charter and public schools. You will never change the format, the organization of your school system, unless you destroy the school board structure that keeps the school organization and function back in the 50’s and replace it with a PLC style organization of school leaders.

Ridiculed

Getting ready to head out the door this morning when an observation made by one of the morning anchors on a national news station caught my interest; she suggested that in the story on Georgia teachers having a “pizza party” while changing testing data, that they should have used that time to “teach the children” implying that the time used for the party would have increase the students’ scores. It always amazes me how non–educators are so quick to ridicule and belittle teachers and the educational establishment, yet are often the people never seen in school by their children’s teachers, and never accept their responsibility in this process.
I am in no way defending the antics of these bozos in Georgia who, pressured by the focus on testing and their administration, falsified testing documentation. They were spineless: They knew the truth yet ignored it. Get rid of them and move on – quickly.
This casual reference to education, as if this 45 minutes worth of pizza time could magically change children, is just ignorant. Ignorant yet prevalent. It is like when meeting a person for the first time and they hear I served in the Air Force for 27 years they’ll ask, “My cousin Ed was in the military, you must know him” — the space required to fill that person’s brain with information enough so that they could have either rephrased the question or dropped it, is just infinite. Some things you have to live to understand.
Teaching is an art form; a delicate balance between serving up the right amount of data balanced with an understanding of the psychology and maturation of the students in their class. How to work through an item of historical significance is vastly different in the class with 4th grade students and with 8th grade students. Their social maturity, so vastly different, has turned the 4th graders questions about “how?” to the 8th grader’s question “why?”.
So back to the newsroom; I know how difficult it is to be on the air, on live television, where your response to a situation sometimes just blurts out, but this pizza party slap across the face of teachers, is just too insulting to allow it to pass. So to this anchorwoman I say, walk a mile in their shoes before making another absurd observation about the ease of the educational process. Because the process of educating children is much more complex and dynamic than most people ever realize.