Is a Public Education in Kentucky (and Nationwide) Benign Neglect — or is it Child Abuse?

I was talking to a client today, and a professional peer, and BOTH of my parents about public education. I’ve been talking to a lot of people about education lately. And, one of these enlightened individuals made a comment that resonated in my mind. The person said, “I feel that what I’m doing, by sending my kids to public school, is nearly child abuse.”

That really sang out.

I have a peer that mentioned a sign in front of her own children’s elementary school in Florida yesterday that read: “May 24 – Early dissmissel.” Today, she was going to get a photo, but apparently one of the teachers at that school was alert. It’s a shame that’s not true at all schools.

And I’d like to make a call for anyone else that has this type of “oh, my God!” photo from outside (or inside) their respective schools. So, send them to me!…in the meantime,…
Want to see the results of our educational system in more practical, work-a-day examples? View my peer’s photo of her local McDonalds. (Update 4/2011 link is defunct) The person that put this up? Probably a student or former student of public education.

I’ll be writing more on this, as I talk to more people. You know, I thought that education was just MY hot button, but most of the parents and grandparents I’ve spoken to lately feel the same way. And, most of them agree that throwing more money at education is making the problem worse, not better.

I’ve heard comments that state “We hand them a calculator and a spell-checker and wonder why they can’t do math or spell.” And I’ve heard “Have you noticed the projects that the teachers assign? They are ludicrous! There is no real research, there is no real converging of thoughts or relating one topic to real life!” A client told me about his daughter’s 9th grade project in class. They read a book and then brought in food that was mentioned in the book as a major school project. And what was the food that the children prepared? Bologna sandwiches! The book was not related to historical references, to modern society (and the woes of that society) or any other tangible “learning” experience. Nope, it was a book they read and then they made bologna sandwiches. I shared my own story about my 16 year old reading Black Beauty ALOUD in class, so work after the test isn’t to “challenging” — (God forbid!)

Personally, I’m really looking forward to seeing the notebook my son is keeping on his last three weeks of school. Once the testing is over (the testing that leads to cash rewards for the school system) the education — what little there was to begin with — is gone. I plan to post the results of this three-week survey here on my blog. My mother says that my children will probably not be able to attend the Russell County School System after my little online fits about the sorry state of the education there. I disagree. It’s a PUBLIC school system, and if I need to go and park myself in the classes for “parental observation” of the educational process, write letters to the editor and continually keep the local and state board of education aware of the goings-on from a parental perspective, I can do that.

I believe that, overall, the elementary school in Russell County is good (the one my daughter attends), but the high school… that’s another story. A scary story. I know that the majority of the individuals with school-aged children are just trying to survive. I know many of these parents are single parents to boot. I know that many parents don’t have the time or the energy to fight a system that’s failing our children. And, I know that this problem is indicative of other, even more invasive problems in our modern society… but I am only one person, and I have a limited amount of time to spend. So I will continue to report what I see and to challenge the “status quo” where my children are concerned.

I’m not really easy to keep quiet and I don’t really sit down and play nice when I’m passionate about something. And, education is my “something” and things need to change. They need to change now. If government should not be given the responsibility for things it doesn’t do well — then the government (and unions) should get the heck out of the education business (and several other businesses, like health care and retirement… but I won’t go there right now). For now, give me parental choice. Let me CHOOSE what schools my children attend and let it be up to the schools to get funding based on performance by MY standards and other parent’s standards… not by a bogus test that monopolizes the school year and intimidates the educators and rules the administration. Let the schools return to a place of learning, not a place of politics and “shell games” with our collective future in the balance.

Right now, children freak out when handed a word problem. They don’t know what to do if the formulas aren’t spoon-fed. They can’t do worksheets with multiple concepts. And… they can’t think for themselves and work out problems with multiple-concept applications. It’s too challenging, it’s too difficult, and it’s too hard to MEASURE on a standardized test. And, case-in-point, McDonalds and many fast food places don’t ring up actual prices – they push buttons with PICTURES of food and then the change is delivered — because most of our young people can’t MAKE change anymore. An example? While in Wendy’s recently, my grandmother handed the cashier a $50 bill. The girl rang it in as a $10 and when my grandmother questioned this, she replied “Yeah, I know, but making change from a $50 is too hard, so I’ll just give you back $40 and ring it up as a $10.” Does that make sense to you? Me neither! *rolls eyes*.

If we are to encourage our children to be survivors and good citizens, we must teach them to be problem solvers, not rote equation writers. We have eliminated memorization, we have removed the need to learn to spell, to learn multiplication tables, to learn formulas and conversions and other USEFUL information for daily life. I love technology, but what happens to these children if technology isn’t available at fingertip access? What if they find themselves in a situation where they must problem solve on the fly? What if there is no calculator, no program, no Internet, no spell check. What if there is a problem and they only have the information stored in their brains to help them solve it?

I do not underestimate the job of being an educator in today’s climate. I feel for these individuals. They must stay between a rock and a hard place, trying to teach to the test, keep the administration happy, be babysitters and try to work in teaching a little something in between other duties. I wouldn’t want their job. I respect teachers. But I believe that what’s happening is driving away the best instincts of our best teachers, tying both arms behind their backs and blindfolding them… and then asking why they don’t teach with enthusiasm. Teachers need the support of parents, and they need to be less “handled” by the administration and the government. They need to be allowed to TEACH. Teaching is an art that requires passion. We can’t expect good results when we strip the occupation and these fine individuals of both.