by Anniel 8/18/15
How do we change thinking on education until we understand at least some of how we got where we are? Getting rid of Common Core, the Department of Education, and unions are the first items that need to be addressed. Those items are beyond the scope of what I write here. Let’s agree for our purposes that the local schools need to be just that, local, period.
Every serious educator I know says the best thing we can do for our students is to have small neighborhood schools. One of the advantages of such schools is crowd control, as in not so much opportunity for gangs to be formed. The teachers know their students, and their families. Instead of a large coterie of principals, assistants, counsellors, ad nauseum, there could be low bureaucratic overhead, and actual emphasis placed on teaching and oversight of both students and teachers.
And now I want to face squarely the big money issue. Every request for funding comes with the obligatory “It’s for the Children” claptrap, which really means it’s for the Teacher’s Unions and the monuments to stupidity they support. I can personally vouch for the two following stories.
One High School in Anchorage, Alaska undertook a very extensive and expensive remodel, which included a very costly copper dome ceiling in the library. The librarian was thrilled by its beauty – until the end of the first school year after its installation. She was told the last day of school that she would have to box up and store every single book by the next week-end because the copper ceiling had to be removed. This was so new science labs on the floor above the library could be constructed. The contractor knew beforehand that the science lab work would necessitate the removal of the copper ceiling, but installed it anyway, probably on orders from the District. The cost for removal and reinstallation? Who knows?
To meet the 1% For Art requirement when the District completely rebuilt the High School my children attended, a two story atrium entrance was draped with colored parachute like materials, purchased as “art”, and hung at great expense, until the Fire Marshal noted that the “art work” covered the fire suppression system and the District had to remove it.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHANGING NATIONAL SCHOOL REQUIREMENTS:
• Work to get rid of the Department of Education, Common Core, and to curtail some of the union’s power.
• Stop squandering resources on things that don’t matter. No more marble floors, copper ceilings, expensive artwork, or even homages to politicians are needed. A practical smaller, easily maintained building is enough. Inspect it at least yearly, and make repairs when needed. Don’t wait until the roof leaks and then go to the State or federal government for funds.*(See Notes, Below)
I can’t recall who said it, but teaching requires just a few things, a bench with a teacher at one end and a learner at the other. A stick to write in the dirt may be enough to teach the basics if that’s the only thing available. Stay with the basics, adding only a few frills like art and good music. Books are important but might sometimes be optional if the teacher is really thinking and decides to have a lesson using good stories or facts. Men used to teach relying on memorized poetry, then teaching it to their hearers, who also memorized it. We probably should exercise our minds the same way today, by requiring some memorization.
Don’t lie to children by telling them they can achieve anything they want. Not everyone gets to be the Sugar Plum Fairy, the captain of the football team, the ace pilot, or the greatest tenor in the world. Live with it.
Insist on proper dress and decorum in the classroom. Good manners towards all should be stressed.
Discipline is crucial to the ability to learn. Self-discipline is the most desirable of all traits, and recognizing the need to work is a revelation that each student must come to. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to actually do away with the tyranny of “equalizing outcomes.”
DOING AWAY WITH EQUALITY OF OUTCOME:
The greatest impediment to change can also be the greatest asset. It comes in unequal pairs, the strongest half, usually, is the mother, while the weakest, is the father, if he’s even in the picture. I have only one suggestion here, and that is for the whole school to emphasize parents reading aloud to their children. Get parents on the bandwagon if at all possible. Try to enthuse parents on Back-to-School night. And let those same parents know right away, maybe at PTA meetings, that there will be no pandering or grade inflation. That their child will be treated fairly and graded according to his or her efforts, and that grades will not be changed.
The following poem is kind of treacly, but emphasizes the parent’s responsibilities:
THE READING MOTHER
I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.
Strickland Gillilan (1869-1954)
That poem could lead to the telling of stories of faith and courage and of people like Ben Carson, whose mother helped lift him and his brother from poverty to the fine men they are today.
One item never thought about much, is using older or faster students to work with younger, perhaps slower ones. My youngest daughter’s favorite teacher always requested that he have two grade levels in his classroom. He knew how to place students together so they both benefitted from their task. One year he placed my daughter with another girl who could barely read. They spent part of every day reading aloud. My daughter says that he never embarrassed the other girl, nor did my Cate feel put upon. The slower girl’s reading improved markedly. At the end of the year the girls were very close friends and remained so until the other girl moved away.
When my middle son, Alex, was in high school, he was in a class where the Juniors and Seniors who wished to could go to the elementary school next door and spend an hour reading to the kindergarteners. Alex loved it and even now remains friends with some of the kids he worked with.
I, personally, do not think computers should be used in elementary schools until children have learned to write, both print and cursive, so their brains develop properly. Use Slingerland methods and don’t worry about so-called “cross dominance,” or sloppy writing until you need to.* (See notes.)
Yes, I do believe that it is tyrannical to try and equalize outcomes. Only one of my children has had an actual IQ test, which means nothing when parents and educators are more concerned with rearing good and decent people and geniuses only if they have to. In order to skip 6th Grade, some “crucial” milepost in the minds of educators, one of our sons was tested. He topped out the test completely. So his IQ is unknown. He was fortunate enough to not think that was any big deal, and he still prefers good character to supposed “smarts.” If anyone had attempted to “equalize” by holding him back, I’m not certain what we could have done. I do know that not all of his friends were brilliant, but both he and they benefitted from combining their individual strengths and weaknesses and learning from each other.
Remember, Richard Feynman never thought he was a “genius,” but he surely knew “numbers.”
One of my son’s pet peeves with education is putting all students in a grade level “class” instead of allowing them to learn a subject at their own pace. If there is a third grade child who is good at math, let him go to an “open” class and proceed at his own speed. If there is a sixth grader in the class working faster, so what? Maybe he can assist the younger student or ( gasp!), learn something from the younger student.
I almost forgot, my son says he never felt he was “better” than the other kids, if anything he knew they thought he was “weird.”
In order to meet the needs of students at all levels of ability, schools need to get back to the basics, offering the same opportunities to all and ignoring no one. If all else fails, we need to insist on Charter Schools or maybe turn to Home schooling if necessary.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHING:
• Stick to the basics, including art and good music (which really are basic).
• Don’t lie to the students about what is expected of them,nor tell them what they can and cannot do. They need to discover their own strengths, and weaknesses.
• Require proper dress and decorum. Good manners from both students and teachers should be enforced.
• Discipline should lead to self-discipline and learning the work ethic.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENDING EQUALITY OF OUTCOME:
1. Require parents to participate in their child’s education by reading
aloud to him or her.
2. No pandering to parents or children. No grade inflation allowed.
3. Treat students fairly, tell them why they received the grade they did and
refuse to change grades, even if they whine.
4. Let older and more advanced students mentor the younger or slower
5. Mix classes of differing age groups.
6. No computers until students have learned basic handwriting skills.
7. Teach by subjects, not what grade a child is in.
8. Establish Charter Schools, or Home School your own children if you
One last recommendation I have is a book by my all-time favorite children’s author, Avi, titled The Secret School, published in 2001, Harcourt Children’s Books. Available on Kindle.
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*Notes. Previous Stubborn Things Articles of interest:
“The Model Public School” — F.J. Roca, 7/9/15.
“(Hand)Writing to Learn” — Anniel, 6/16/14.
“Back to School – Really?” — Deanna Chadwell, 8/14/15.
And many others. Type “Education” in the Search Function or click on the Education tag. • (1057 views)