Sunday, March 15, 2009

Entitlement the PS way

Since I'm currently working for an inner-city public high school I'm often asked about my thoughts on the current state of schools and what may fix the major problem of education. I can tell you what will not fix the problem is money. Yes, I said it, money will not fix any problem, in fact, money will only make things appear nice, when in reality we are in a very sad state. I'm not denying that we as educators don't deserve much more, but paying us $100,000 is not going to force little johnny, timmy, or susie to wake up and take education seriously. Just because you throw some brand new computers in each classroom doesn't automatically mean that students are all of a sudden going to join the National Honor Society and attend Yale, Harvard, or Princeton. The computers look nice and now we can use the fancy term "technology in the classroom," but how do computers, new textbooks, or anything given on a silver platter really serve our students? The answer is, they don't. In my short 5 months in public education, I can now say with certainty why public education just doesn't work. Let me illustrate one example.
I was hired the very first day of the 2nd quarter and one of my students misled me to think that he was going to be moving to another state soon. I saw this student one time and never saw him again until the very end of the 2nd quarter, actually it may have been the beginning of the 3rd quarter. It just so happened that a teacher was running late and I was asked to cover a class for 10 minutes. The class I was covering was an English class. I entered the class, turned on the lights and greeted the students. Ms. R showed up shortly thereafter. Just before she arrived however, there was a boy in the front row who looked vaguely familiar to me. I wondered from where might I know him, then it clicked, this was the student whom I met nearly 8 weeks ago and led me to believe that he was moving away. To confirm the student's name, I asked Ms. R the boys name and sure enough it was he! Naturally I called home and wrote the child up for having skipped an entire quarter of my class. When the student decides to come to class he is disruptive since he has no clue of classroom procedures and knows even less of the subject matter. I asked the attendance officer if there was anything more beneficial for him instead of my class, to which she retorted, "he is entitled to a free public education." To me his entitlement was forfeited when he chose and still chooses to skip my class since in my opinion he is taking away from the free public education of those around him by being such a disruption. Some may criticize me by saying that as a teacher I should be able to control him or support him. This is a child who does not care about his success even after the many attempts to help him and the many chances I've provided him for success. This is the system that has failed him. We've established laws/rules that enable instead of holding individuals accountable. Public education is in a sad state and needs the help of God, not the help of legislators. Education starts in the home, period. The only way schools will become successful is when entire cultures begin to accept its responsibility and change the mindset of that culture. Perhaps we need legislation on family? Perhaps before getting married we require couples to attend parenting class (of course this presupposes the couple getting married), more accurately stated, before having children we require parents to attend parenting/family class? I don't know how to fix the bleeding, I don't know if anyone does, but the huge bandages that we keep trying seem to do little. I don't see education separate from the other issues we are facing in our nation. To me they are all interconnected. How do I teach a child discipline, accountability and respect if these values are not reflected by mom/dad and the society around them? How do I teach a child that when as a nation we have little respect for life, family, discipline? To me these are serious questions and those making the rules and those with the power ought to realize the immense responsibility they have with "the entitlement" they teach.

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