Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bitch, bitch, bitch. "You called?"

Today, my small regional-campus class took their midterm exam. After everyone finished, we walked across the parking lot and had lunch together at Pizza Hut.

I listened to these lovely people talk about what school has meant to them. And up until recently, it hasn't meant much that was positive.

I sat there nursing one diet coke after another and heard these nice people talk about how discouraging school had been, and how scary some of the classes were, and how they still had nightmares about teachers who had been cruel or disinterested in them, and how they had been made to feel ashamed to ask questions. They talked about standardized tests, and how they remembered nothing from many classes except how to take a big test. They talked about how a little support and caring would have been nice. And they talked about how huge their schools were, and how crowded their classes, and how it would have been so wonderful if people knew their names.

This wasn't the "I still have nightmares about locker combinations and gym class" thing that I've talked about before on this blog. This was far more important.

A table of kind, decent, hardworking adults, not one of whom had a good word to say about their public school experience: what does this tell us as a society? That the table was full of stupid people? I think not. That the table was full of people whose experiences were the exception rather than the rule? I don't think that, either.

I think it's a sad commentary on our society, that a large number of the kind of people we hope our own children grow to be, share such memories.

Oh, there was talk of being bullied, of being snubbed by the "A" group, of getting behind in class, of homework problems, etc, but mostly, they talked about school in general and how parts of it failed them.

We tend to think of students failing in school, but the truth is, much of the time, it is our schools that are failing the students. Not always, but sometimes.

"Sometimes" is too often.

To be nearly forty and to still become shaky and emotional when talking about school. . . . this isn't right. It's just not right.

What should our schools do to improve? I have a few ideas, but I don't think you'll find them on any NCLB agenda, or on a school board list, or in an NEA publication.

I think our school are too big. Large corporations sounded good on paper; they meant all students would have access to the big laboratories, the college courses, etc. Those things are true. For some students, they are perfect.

But ultimately, I think what large school corporations have done is eliminate neighborhood cameraderie and family time. Who has time to sit down to a family dinner in the evening any more? We're too busy driving our kids back and forth to the school. Why don't the kids walk? Because the school is thirty-six miles away.

It isn't only fast food that makes our children fat; it's riding everywhere because the schools are too far from the neighborhoods. Kids don't walk anywhere, any more.

It used to be that almost every neighborhood had a school within walking distance. Now, even children who live across the street from their school must ride the bus because of insurance prohibitions against pedestrian students.

School function after hours? Even if their parents worked, students used to be able to walk to school for choir practice, ball games, etc. Not now. Some kids live a good hour's drive from their school. And some kids who live across the street from a school aren't allowed to go there because of busing (one of the stupider ideas of our time); they are forced instead to go to school a good long drive away.

A child whose parents are unable or unwilling to drive him/her to school in the evening will not be able to participate in the things that make school fun, such as choir, plays, programs, sports, band, etc.

Why aren't there very many members of the marching band any more? Because too many parents aren't willing or able to take their child all the way back to school in the evening, or spend (sometimes) hours waiting in parking lots for the band bus to bring them back from an out-of-town function.

And while it is very, very true that many parents just aren't able, for whatever reason (and some of the reasons are good ones) to spend that many hours on the road to school and back, it is also true that many parents just don't care enough about their child to put forth the effort. They're tired, and they wanna watch football, dammit, and the kid has no business in the band anyway, or anything else that bothers me after work. Dammit again, and where's my beer.

Sure they're tired. I was tired, but I spent what amounts to years, sitting in the van, waiting for a bus. Why? Because I LOVED my kids and that's part of parenting. I took mine, and I took many of their friends whose parents didn't love them as much as I loved mine, and I'm not taking back that statement.

(Those parents whose work schedule or health didn't permit such things are an exception.) (Those parents who chose tv and personal relaxation over their child should be dragged out into the streets and shot, and their children given to GOOD parents.)

Ahem. The point is, more kids would be in better shape physically, and be able to participate in more activities, if they still had a neighborhood school they were allowed to attend.

My kids are grown up now, but whenever I see one of those parents who chose not to participate in his/her child's growing-up years, who chose not to sit in the gym and watch them play, or sing, or act, I still want to wring their disgusting necks.

What's the solution? I don't know. Most teachers would love to be able to once again teach children, not just standards. Most teachers would love to be able to hug and counsel and stay after school to tutor, and make home visits. We don't do those things much any more, because it's too dangerous. Too many crazy parents. Too many litigious people. Too many nutjobs. Too many administrators who view anything other than NCLB and ISTEP as 'dangerous.'

My solutions? Some of you won't like them.

Get rid of the huge consolidations. Bring back small neighborhood schools, with small class sizes and teachers who are allowed to TEACH, not just bring more money to a district by force-feeding children and banking on what's puked back out.

How about making people pass IQ and EI tests before permitting them to reproduce? That would be popular with all things PC, I'm sure.

Okay then. This one thing should take care of everything: Decent Intelligent Administrators Who Care More About Students Than About Politics.

I haven't found any yet. Have any of you?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:07 PM | |


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