With a nod to Van Halen – this is sort of a ” Part 2″ of my “Rock Solid’ post the other day. One thing I did not mention in that post was that at least one of those brothers I discussed got to the 10th grade without knowing how to read or write. I commented to my blogger friend SkyDDsDrake that I was horrified by that, and found it unconscionable. While she is not an educator per se – she’s a MH professional working in the educational system – I asked her for her thoughts as to why this happens and here’s what she said in part:
“Accessibility is key. When there are so many parents who simply don’t care, and so many educators overwhelmed with the number of students they have to serve, for some students its really just a matter of knowing where to start.” “Because not all teachers are created equal. Some are burned out, some only took the job to get summers off, and some are flat out racist, homophobic or possessing of some other -ism that keeps them from caring about their students actually achieving. Once a student gains a reputation as a ‘problem child’ its a rare soul who tries to help them out. There’s also the matter of overcrowding and whatnot. And its really not just an issue in MA. I’ve seen and heard tell of it in many places across the US.”
I would have to agree with this, and submit to you all that we need to continue strongly advocating and lobbying for sensible education reform in this country. Hubert Humphrey said in his remarks at the dedication of the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, November 1, 1977 (Congressional Record, November 4, 1977, vol 123, p. 37287) “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” We are failing this test – EPICALLY – in the dawn, the twilight and in the shadows. In my opinion we have an obligation, a social duty – to care for these people and assist them to achieve their fullest potential. The reason(s) it’s not done are myriad – but I think it boils down to simple economics in the end. These people in the half light either are not yet contributing to society and the economy, have finished contributing, or cannot contribute much if at all. Therefore they are undervalued. Others -whose vocation calls them to work with these populations, are woefully underpaid accordingly. (I know, I’m one of them.) That’s a whole ‘nother post though, friends.
The fixes start with the children and educational reform. Education is a discretionary item on the state budget. It should not be – a primary education up to the 12th grade should be the right of every citizen; and funded accordingly. School funding is one of the first things cut when there’s a budget problem- and it’s the kids who suffer. Lack of proper funding contributes to overcrowding, fewer teachers hired to teach those larger classes, lower pay attracting less qualified educators, fewer books, fewer resources… and the list goes on. The US can’t compete effectively at the global economic level if we can’t or won’t educate our population to an acceptable standard. We can and should be doing it better than just about everybody else. There is no reason to dumb things down when we should be raising the bar. Junior should ABSOLUTELY be able to read and write by the 10th grade; and I submit – in more than one language (the rest of the world can).
Which brings me to excuses – Lets get rid of them, shall we? Why have standards if we don’t apply them? Educating our children is a partnership between the schools, the children, and the parents- each with their part to do. Everyone in the mix should be ACCOUNTABLE for performing their parts to an accepted standard. Students – for completing their work to the best of their ability and keeping out of trouble. Parents, for assuring that their children are completing their course work to standard; and working closely with the school to ensure the student is attending school and not having any problems. Educators, for teaching the material and assuring that the majority of the students pass any tests at a predetermined standard level. (if teachers teach well, it follows that the students will learn – and demonstrate that by passing the tests) No excuses. Either do it, or be held accountable. Get social services – and/or law enforcement if appropriate -involved immediately if there’s a problem with truancy or acting out in school (this includes bullying and harassment).
Get social services and law enforcement involved if the parents are not assuring Junior is going to school. Get rid of tenure and teachers unions so that sub-standard and/or burnt out teachers and education administrators can be gotten rid of easily. Provide a teacher to teach during detentions or in school suspensions. The work still needs to get done. Pay educators what they’re worth. How about performance based incentive raises for teachers? Something along the lines of the more kids you get passing your class at a certain grade level, the better your pay? Grade students objectively not subjectively. Just some thoughts…. and some of these things are already being done.
And heres two great words: Parental Involvement. Educators can probably predict which of their students will be doing well by what parents show up on conference night. As a parent, it is my responsibility, at the minimum, to assure that my child is getting an education, is fed, clothed and housed appropriately. According to the law, I am accountable for these things. I need to advocate, yell for help, and be a big squeaky wheel if I can’t do that on my own. And its not only the law, it’s my sacred duty to provide for my children. If I’m not willing to sacrifice and advocate, then perhaps I should not be a parent. If I’m a selfish, careless, meth head alcoholic for instance…..enter social services and off to adoption for the kids, off to rehab for me…. No excuses, no second chances. There’s plenty of wonderful lovely people out there who would be thrilled to take over the parenting duties I have no regard for or cannot handle….
I made a lot of provocative sweeping statements here, and hopefully have given quite a bit of food for thought. I don’t have all the answers. There are no easy ones, that’s for sure. And I may be way off base on some things. We have to start addressing these issues and making these difficult decisions and choices because Junior can’t succeed if he’s illiterate.
- What Do Teachers Want? (educationclearinghouse.wordpress.com)
- Catching the kids we let fall (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Group Classes by Level, not Age (teachandlearnwithgeorgia.wordpress.com)