Friday, October 06, 2006

Are We All Really Created the Same?

All people are not created with equal abilities. We are all good in different things. We all can't be doctors or lawyers or car mechanics. The only thing we can hope for is that we find something that we can be good at, enjoy doing that thing and find a way to make a living doing it. Everyone has different abilites and we all peak at different level, depending upon what that activity is. Unfortunately, this view is not shared by the people writing school curriculums now. Somewhere along the way someone decided that everyone should go to college. Kids, regardless of their abilities are being pushed into courses that they have no interest in and have no ability to understand. Because of this, they often act out and cause disturbances in class. Cutting class is the norm. They would rather fail because they don't want to pass than fail because they cannnot master the material.

While I am not happy about these kids, I am more concerned with the ones that come to class every day. They don't disrupt. They do all homework and participate in discussions. They still cannot pass because the work is way above their comprehension. I have been working on polynomial in my M&C class since the beginning of the school year. We've been factoring for over two weeks. I gave an exam today. I only looked at a few papers so far and while many were quite good, some of the answers I saw were quite disturbing. In fact, the answers were so off beat that I wonder if I am really teaching anything at all. Maybe I am speaking Russian and some of the kids are learning in Chinese?

I wish the powers that be would wake up and go back to the old diplomas, like when I went to school--Academic, Commercial and Gerneral. Kids took classes relevant to their interests and no matter what the statistics say (they can be made to say anything) I think most kids did better. My own mother got a general diploma years ago. She could never get a degree with today's standards, or, if she did get one, she would have a meaningless one. She would have had no training to go on and get a job to support herself and her family.

A friend of mine, an administrator in a different school told me that it was racist to track kids as to many minorities end up in the lower end of things. I find that hard to believe. I teach in a middle class Queens high school. The five lowest achievers in my class are Jewish, Irish, Chinese, Italian and Pakistani. I don't see how putting these kids in track classes is racist.

If we really care about children and really believe that no child should be left behind, we must change the curriculum. Teach kids things that are meaningful in their lives. If any of them decide that at a later time, they want to go to college, they can always make up the work they missed and attend.


Chaz said...

I agree with you. However, these politically correct people believe all children can pass a Regents. What a joke.

Pissedoffteacher said...

The joke is the regents exam. Passing it, at least in math, does not mean that you know anything.

Anonymous said...

General would be something like a local diploma, with RCTs?

I don't know what course of study would equate to Commercial today, any ideas?

And as far as tracking, let the kids track themselves. Force them all to take a crack at the coursework for the advanced or academic or whatever you call it diploma, and if they fail the coursework in X number of subject or Y times in one subject (I think X should be 3 and Y should be 2, but that's not a strongly held opinion), then let them move themselves to a general or commercial track.

The administrator has a point. If we let counselors or administrators or teachers move kids into a lower track, Black and hispanic kids will be moved down more quickly than white kids. It may have nothing to do with intent, but the racism in this society is so thick that it colors the decisions of even the most well-meaning of us.

However, by giving every kid at least a double crack at an "academic" diploma, we might mitigate the effect.

Anonymous said...

I also agree with you. Passing the Math A Regents Exam is no proof that you know Mathematics.
I taught Math A to 78 students last year, 17 failed. Most of them were in my 1st period class, all level 1's, some of them with behavior issues. They were always very late or absent. I asked the administration to move that class from 1st to 6th period. These kids were programmed for 2 periods of music, 5th and 6th. I failed them, they went to Summer school, and had teachers (brand new teaching fellows) that were in some kind of "summer training" and passed. I heard the rumor that my Principal, that was in charge of the Summer School program, gave the order to pass all of them. Now I have the same kids, level 1, with a 4th grade math level, seated in my Math B class, doing no work, feeling lost and confused. They are programmed to go to "Math A Prep" (that will be also taught by me) in our new "after school program", starting in 2 weeks. I feel cursed. I didn't want to work last Summer. What a mistake.

Pissedoffteacher said...

I do agree that more minority kids do get stuck in lower level classes. Although I hate to say it, I think some of them have their paths laid out way before they get to high school. By this time, they are so turned off to school there is no chance of success. For those that really can and want to succeed, there are opportunities. I teach also teach at a community college. Everyone returning is treated with respect and lots of remedial classes and tutoring are available. It's never too late to go back, but I think high school is too early for some to push ahead. I say, let people find what they can succeed in and then go back if their interests change. As adults, school is approached diiferently and success is possible.

When I went to school, commercial courses involved secretarial studies. One of my good friend followed this route. Although she was smart, she was not interested in college or academics at the time. She graduated high school, got a good paying job and after several years decided to pursue her education and became a legal secretary. She was much better off than the kids we are graduating today with no goals or skills.

Anonymous said...

It's too bad that we can't give vocational training anymore. There's no denying that plumbers and electricians make a lot more than teachers nowadays.

One problem, I guess, would be finding enough people willing to cut their salaries enough to teach.