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October 02, 2003

Cracks in the Foundation

Something is fundamentally, horribly wrong with public schools. I'm not talking about teacher competency or math scores or anything else tangible; I'm talking about a systemic misalignment that goes to the core.

I'm talking about kids who pack a gymnasium for a pep rally and don't pay any attention to the events. I'm talking about militant apathy in students who don't want to be at school but are as part of *parole*. I'm talking about students who spend more time wasting away in detention than in class. Weeks, months, whatever. I'm talking *documented* 4th grade reading and writing levels in my 10th grade English classes.

We are trying to use antiquated, small-school techniques, like pep rallies and detention, to teach and motivate a breed of child that is way more prevalent than 20 years ago: kids who have children; who have a criminal record; who have had four or five sets of foster parents; kids who have deep-seated emotional demons; kids whose self-hatred and loathing run so deep they'd rather jump off balconies than go another day to school.

What needs to happen? Small schools would be a nice start. Any large, urban, industrialized school is a breeding ground for apathy, mischief, disillusion, and crime. Personalize the schools. Build a community of teachers and students rather than a production line of education. End the money-saving but soulless urban mega-schools and replace them with schools where everybody knows everybody and kids get attention that means something. Maybe even create focused, goal-oriented schools, like Art and...

Trade schools. We aspire to teach everybody in this country, but by doing so we're holding back the average-skilled student who's going to college but not motivated enough for advanced classes. The kids who should be learning Shakespeare and honing their writing skills are suffering in classes where restless knuckleheads eat up class time with discipline issues. Give those knuckleheads the opportunity to work with their hands as well as their minds. Teach writing skills in the context of manufacturing environments or industrial design. Let's not waste any more time teaching tone and attitude to kids who don't care.

It's almost sacreligious to say this, but, end mainstreaming. Kids with boatloads of emotional problems and learning disabilities are placed in regular classrooms with the noble goal of raising their abilities by exposing them to quality education and regular students. But it's not working. These kids--and I love them--sap the energy out of a teacher and draw time away from the class with discipline and learning problems that require extra teacher time at the expense of regular students. I support the goal; I suffer with the result.

Apathy is the worst enemy. I can't make a kid want to learn, but I can teach those who do if given the chance. Let's expand the options for our youth and provide real-world solutions to real-world problems.

Remember, we can teach them now or we can incarcerate them later.

Posted by tat at October 2, 2003 03:29 PM

I agree with you B.D. Maybe you should run for Governor. I'd vote for you.

Posted by: Jeff Hebert at October 2, 2003 04:38 PM