Monday, March 02, 2009
For Mr. Anonymous
A snow day left me plenty of time to comply with Mr. Anonymous' request to post about what is wrong with the American education system. I'm happy to oblige with my opinions. He's hoping others will post their comments as well. He is really trying to figure out a way to best help our kids and no matter how much I bitch and moan about the system, that is my goal as well. I only hope that Mr. Anonymous does not get too pissed off when he reads my comments.
One of the things I find wrong with our education system is the amount of money being spent on remedial programs and credit retrieval programs, programs that only benefit the lower end of our population. Now, I am not saying that I don't want to help these kids, I do. In fact, these kids happen to be the ones I love the most. But, I hate seeing so many resources being spent on them that the other kids are being left out.
Years ago, Packemin HS had three sections of double period AB calculus classes and two sections of double period BC calculus classes. We had over 150 kids taking college level mathematics. Today we have two sections of AB calculus (classes meeting only 7 or 8 periods a week) and only one double period class of BC. We now have only about 90 kids taking these classes. The reason for these cuts--money. The cuts began the year we had to start offering Math A double period. There was just not enough money in the budget for everything. Something had to give and that something was calculus. Sorry upper level kids, you just aren't as needy. You already have all the credits you need to graduate, our money has to go somewhere else. There is no money for AP calculus tutoring. Any extra funds go towards remedial tutoring and just trying to push the bottom end toward graduation. While there is nothing wrong with that, the top kids need help too.
AP classes in other subjects have been cut as well, and are offered fewer periods a day. Students have to pick and choose which classes they will take. In the past, the good kids could take it all. Now they are restricted because of class availability. This, is another thing wrong with the system today.
Mr. Anonymous, you write about poor graduation rates and having to outsource so many jobs overseas. You write about having to import engineers and doctors. You write about the United States being unable to keep up with foreign countries. You fail to write about the attrition going on in places like China , where kids are tested out of school at an early age, sent to work in factories and on farms because they are not smart enough to go on. Here in the United States, we think everyone is college material and instead of concentrating our resources on the bright, we are spreading ourselves thin by pushing a college education on everyone.
Mr. Anonymous, you write that the drop out rate in the United States is abysmal. That is true. It might be better if we taught more relevant courses. The one size mentality of education does not work. Not everyone can and should go to college and no matter how unpopular the idea is, tracking is necessary. Obama wants everyone to go to college for at least one year. He should open his eyes and see how many of these college graduates cannot get jobs. He should see how many kids graduate college and then decide what to do with their lives. I was talking to a young man tonight who wants to be a physical therapist. The school has led him to believe he can. This boy is a senior that still needs to pass his global and history regents. He squeaked by in math and he is passing English on his charm. Wouldn't he have been better off in a vocational program somewhere? This boy is fortunate. He comes from a home with parents who value education and have worked with him to keep him in school. He's motivated but he is just not book smart. A different education path might have been better for him. Others in his situation might have been long gone.
Mr. Anonymous, education snobs only respect the book educated. Some people are not interested or do not have the ability to be book educated. I don't know about you, but I am a princess, I like going to a restaurant and having someone pour my coffee and cook my food. I like someone cleaning my toilets so I don't have to. Education today does not teach us to respect these people. If we pay them well, treated them like equals, we will always have them to do the jobs we don't want to do. It is up to the education system to teach that all men and women are created equally and that the job the custodian does is equally as important as the job the Principal does, although they are both very different jobs.
Lastly Mr. Anonymous, education today does not teach responsibility. Kids remember to bring I-pods and cell phones to school but not calculators, pens and notebooks. They miss their period one class because they overslept and it is not their fault. They fail math because the teacher is no good. I could go on and on but you get the point, they take no responsibility for their own actions and we teach that it is okay because we supply them with calculators and excuse their lateness and give them credit recovery programs to make up the gym class they were too lazy to attend in the first place.
I'm sure I left out lots of things and I am hoping others out there can add a few.
We as educators can't change the entire system. We have no control over the curriculum the state insists we teach. If geometry and chemistry are mandated, we must teach them. We can water them down and make them as simple as possible, but they must be taught. They have no relevance in the child's life, but that is too bad. They need the diploma and these courses are the firewall they must break through to get it. We can't change the world but at the very least we can teach them the responsibility of working and trying. Without that effort, we have taught them nothing and we have given them a piece of paper that is as worthless as confederate money at the end of the Civil War.