Public school curriculum is a joke – no child left behind, easy to say when you are not moving forward at all. The other day I went to my kids’ back to school event. I have to say that what I heard was a joke and I was not laughing.
Before I continue, I have to say the following, otherwise I would be totally not fair: Dr. Newman, the principal at my kids’ school, is a great guy and capable professional. He really tries hard and goes beyond the call of duty for the kids. What differentiates him from the rest is his availability to parents and willingness to listen. I have had the chance to talk to him a few times. Not too many, but enough. He cares for the kids. He wants them to succeed. He wants to push them and propel them forward. He really wants them to learn and excel. My kids have special needs, especially my son Jared. They need more than most kids from an academic point of view and that is recognized and to the best of Dr. Newman’s wiggle room, caters to them. In addition to Dr. Newman, his staff also goes the extra mile. Or at least that has been our experience with the classroom and resource teachers assigned to our kids. So, this is a big “THANK YOU” to them as well. Both, my wife and I recognize what you do.
But back to “Back To School” night ….
One of the topics in the curriculum is “birth stones” where the kids will learn all about their birth stones. WHAT?? Is that geology? Sounds more like astrology to me. Next, we will be teaching them that the earth is flat and only approximately 6000 years old? I just find it appalling. If the purpose of studying birth stones is to make it fun, then I am all for it, but based on what I heard … there was no substance to the whole thing. The rest of the curriculum did not sound much better. In my opinion, and I am not an educator but just a parent, the kids are being robbed of their education. We pay our taxes but our kids are not getting our taxes worth in education. It is infuriating.
As a side note regarding certain topics: Should kids be taught about Creationism? Yes. I think they should, along side evolution. They should be taught comparative thinking and given choices. Creationism, and to be VERY CLEAR I do not believe in it, is what many people believe as truth. And in spite to all the evidences to the contrary – evidences in favor of science including evolution – it is a possibility that can not be discarded in teaching children how to balance facts and decide what works for them and what does not. Children are smarter than we are, and believe me, they will not get confused if the information is presented in a non-emotional manner.
We were thinking about putting our kids in private school. We looked around where we live and besides the snooty kids and the price tag, the education is not much better than public school. In that case, I rather keep my kids in the public school they go to now, where not only they will get better socialization skills, but I know that the teachers really do their best. And in spite of our disappointment, I rather have my kids with teachers that care for them even when their efforts may come short.
Let’s talk about the teachers. Unfortunately they get the short end of the deal. My wife taught for a while at South Central Los Angeles. As a first time teachers, fresh out of school, with no experience, no road under her feet, no real tools at her disposal, she was sent to teach at the war zone. Can you believe that she had to pay for her classroom supplies? For her own photocopies of materials to distribute to her kids? Well, the Bank of Fabian paid for them. Unbelievable. I can understand that as you progress in your career and you get seniority you should get rewarded with easier assignments than South Central, but to send first time teachers and to boot make them pay for their own supplies just makes no sense.
How would I manage the situation? Simple … first, of course, give them the supplies they need; not in excess but in a way where they become responsible for those supplies. Second, I would place the first time teachers not in the cozy neighborhoods, but in middle class, not too problematic areas where they can be exposed to a wide range of behaviors but not too out of the ordinary. Once they have been there for 3 or 4 years, then send them to places like Watts or South Central Los Angeles. They would be better prepared to deal with the sad realities of those areas. After a few years, then send them to the upper class areas where they can now bring their WAR YEARS experience and make good use of their knowledge.
As predicted, she did not last long, just as some of her colleagues did not last either. She became physically sick and emotionally drained. She had students that only ate what the school would feed them. Or had a close family member – dad, mom, brother, etc. – either dead or in jail for a felony offense. Some of them, their parents worked 4 jobs and lived with 6 other families all in the same apartment or the garage they were renting with no toilet. Again, as predicted, she only lasted two years. Teachers MUST be prepared to deal with those realities. And it is the job and responsibility of the government to prepare them.
We often look at counties in Africa or the Middle East – Iraq and Afghanistan. We see what those war ravaged places have done to their children and we weep. We decide to contribute to charity for those countries, for those children. We feel guilty that our kids have it so good, in spite of our being upset at the school curriculum, and we give money. But why look so far? Go no further than South Central or Watts. Go no further. Here in the United States we have WAR RAVAGED LANDS, with children that are just as shell shocked as the kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kids that experience drive by shootings every night. I helped fund a PowerPoint class through an online charity organization. Do I feel better for doing that? Yes; absolutely. Do I think I am a hero? Not one little bit. I am far from it because it was a very small contribution and a one time thing (even though I have contributed several one times I still do not feel I have done enough.)
There is a movie called Idiocracy, with Luke Wilson, that I watched a few weeks ago on TV. It is about two strangers participating on a cryogenic experiment that is supposed to last for one year, but lasts for several thousand. When they finally wake up, a few thousand years later, they find out that earth population has become dumb and can barely deal with basic technological obstacles, like cultivation. The movie is funny and in jest, but given what I have seen from our education, and not just in the US, it has become a sort of prediction.