Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The American Public Education System. Missing the Boat

I’ve often told people if they really want some good entertainment they have to look no further than the American Education System as practiced as it is in Clayton County Georgia. In a county whose accreditation was taken away, the school board dissolved by the governor and two of the five board members did not live in the county.  This is the school system where two married female teachers got into a fistfight in the lobby of the school over a married male teacher they both were dating on Facebook. This is the school where a teacher and student were caught having sex in a classroom five minutes after the class had ended. This is the school system who once took every student in their system to the Georgia Aquarium one day and through the entire park it was standing room only, and no supervision of the students. This is the county where most of the students failed the year end test mandated by the feds, and lo! Two weeks later they all passed a retest where all the wrong answers had been erased and replaced, every single one of them, with the correct answer. Taking their cue from the Catholic Church’s handling of pedophile priests, the school system is now shuffling teachers and principals around rather than firing any of them. All of this, all of these disasters, all of this went on the tab of the taxpayers and not one of these incidences educated one child in any way.

            You cannot discount the entertainment value, however.
           
            The federal government’s Department of Education has a budget of seventy billion dollars each year, and each year that amount rises. Consistently, the United States ranks lowest among industrialized nations in test scores, and we lost out last year to super scholars states like Bulgaria. There are school systems who turn out more unwed mothers than graduates, and there are school systems who drop out rates outmatch the graduation rate again by half. Yet each year we throw more money at the problem, and each year the problem continues to get worse by degrees or the lack of thereof. Tin Kuo of competing at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut California walked away the winner in a spelling bee recently, and would you like to guess as to where he might be from? Asian students are walking off with award after award, not because Asians are smarter than home grown Americans, but because their culture places a higher value on education. How much money do you think was spent on training Tin Kuo? Or could it be this young man has a hunger for spelling, a hunger fed by his parents?
            Culturally speaking we would rather spend money on a problem than time. We will sit idly by and let the government rob us blind to burn money that is not educating a damn soul rather than get involved in education ourselves, and why should we? What qualifies a person to teach another in any subject? My parents taught me to read before I was five and neither of them went to college for teaching. Community volunteers pour out like fireants at a picnic whenever there is a bunch of young’uns about to play a football game but how many people there would sit down in front of a crowd of kids on a Saturday and say, “Algebra is all about offense! You attack the equation head on!”

            Not happening, kids.

            The government can, will, has, and is going to get involved in using tax money to pay for sports stadiums, and people rarely put up enough fuss to stop them. These same people will pay incredibly ticket prices, outrageous parking fees, and dole out cash for nearly toxic hotdogs to watch college kids play football, but they would not think to hand some freshman math major twenty bucks for working as hard as some linebacker who couldn’t read his high school diploma. Considering how little we value education, and how little we’re getting for our tax money, it is amazing that we can even think clearly enough to realize we’re getting ripped off, and from I’ve seen, most people do not realize this.
            My sister is a teacher at a private school. Many years ago she abandoned public education and ran screaming from the room, figuratively speaking. She would have a set of indifferent parents wander in late for a conference, they wouldn’t bring the child in question with them, they would sit there and complain about how she treated the child, and then demand she raise the grade of the child, without ever even so much as looking at the test scores. “He needs to get an “A” to get into a good school” and invariably, if the parents created a big enough fuss, the grade would be changed, and the student would not learn, and the next set of bored or indifferent parents would wander in at their leisure.
            Teaching isn’t a nine to five job with free weekends; there is grading of papers, reading of papers, deciphering of papers, creating tests, making class plans, trying to figure out how to break through the barrier between boredom and knowledge, the ever present danger of losing control of a classroom to spit ball tossers and hair pullers, or worse. You have an hour to get their attention, hold it, teach them, and hope like hell you reached ten percent of them and the rest don’t go off the deep end smoking crack at lunch. We’re told that public education has “evolved” to the point we need seventy billion dollars, new sports stadiums, computer labs, state of the art buildings, all sort of fancy gear for students to use and learn from if they aren’t breaking it or stealing it ( guilty as charged, yes, I did some of that) and yet with all of this going on, we’re still relying on one human being standing in front of a crowd of students to put in action all of our efforts and it is there we have put the least amount of resources and respect.

            You bought a new boat to go fishing and forgot about the fisherman.


I’m not done yet.

Take Care,
Mike

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