Monday, August 01, 2005

School is in session

Something that always troubles me is figuring out what to do about public schools. I can't seem to find a perfect guideline to how money should be spent or what should be taught either officially or unofficially. I'm not sure this topic is entirely philosophical but I'm going to venture it anyway.

My brother attends the only public school in Eunice; it's fairly small, 900-1000 kids, no real violence problems, maybe 10 pregnant girls a year, drugs and drinking mostly done off campus. I went there for two years and I knew I hated it, but I was blind to most of it. Looking at it now, though, hearing his stories, all I can think about is how institutionalized it is.

For instance, class is interrupted to do uniform checks, and students without the proper belt or whatever have you are pulled from class and sent to the cafeteria to write the dress code over and over. (This seems so terribly wrong to me, especially considering that some of these kids might just value their education and while they were making a great 4.0 without a belt, they're now missing what could be valuable class time.)

Anyway, once a year an academic pep rally is held to celebrate those who did well, and prizes are given. Last year the prize was one of those portable DVD players, you know, one little screen for things like riding in the car. And it seems like the money could be put to much better use, you know? Then again, a reward like a DVD player encourages kids to do well all year, and isn't that something worth investing in?

Then there's the issue of teacher pay. I hear all this talk about how teachers should get paid more, but I look at the way our school was run, and our teachers didn't have enough control in the classroom to teach, and I even had one teacher who literally gave us every answer to our final exam... should we be paying more for teachers who really don't teach, or would more money motivate them to actually perform?

And of course we have to consider affirmative action. While I tend to be pro-AA, I look at my 10th grade homeroom teacher who wasn't even certified but was hired for her sex and race... What do we make of that, seeing as though it will impact the health of our children's brains?

Next issue: how should we measure progress and intelligence... standardized testing? skills testing? life testing? Is one system the way to go for all schools? Or should we encourage "creativity in the classroom" as it has so fondly been called? What is it we want our kids to learn at school? Sex ed and creationism? Or straight up, nondebatable math and grammar? Are there things parents should be more responsbile for? Or should school really be the place for kids to pick up certain knowledge?

What do you guys think about all this? I'm hard-pressed to figure out what's up, what should be done, what could be done.

2 Comments:

Blogger CSC said...

This is going to make me sound like more of a traditionalist than I am. Speaking as a teacher, I can understand how a school ends up lowering its standards. It goes something like this. Student who turn in work expect to get at least a B. If the teacher gives a C, the parents complain. If the administration won’t back the teacher, there’s a problem. Even if the administration does back the teacher, students might avoid that teacher undermining his/her productivity rating. Furthermore, “outstanding” teacher awards are often based on popularity with students. Its hard to be someone who is both popular and giving C’s or lower to some students who at least hand in something for each assignment.

Of course, this could be avoided if there were a different set of expectations. We needs a culture that desires education, a culture that knows that it needs to learn and therefore respects those who are educated. Most schools mix this culture with the one in the previous paragraph, but we are losing this culture. . .

Of course, we’ve lost respect for some good reasons. The schools have been racist and sexist. Worse (from this perspective) schools have been the primary locus of the fight for racial and sexual equality. That is, educators lost credibility by being so wrong and education has been politicized. A call to respect educators now sounds like a call to defer to them on important political issues. (Worst of all, many educators buy into this politicized image of their job.)

This, I think, is warped too. Students don’t believe what I tell them to believe. I love to advocate vegetarianism at the end of Phil 102, but not because it makes students into vegetarians. I’d guess that I convert less than 1%. What it does is make the issue hit students directly, revealing a powerful criticism of something nearly all of them do, while putting them at odds with an authority figure (me). Intimidation won’t work. I’m hard to ignore. You are stuck giving reasons for your positions. This isn’t political. It’s education. It cultivates habits of reasoning and courage we should all have respect for. In short, education should train you to be rational, and everyone needs that, so it should be public.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Antonio Hicks said...

I was just browsing various blogs as I was doing a search on the word poster, and I just wanted to say that I really like what you've done with your blog, even though it wasn't particularly related to what I searched for. I appreciate your postings, and your blog is a good example of how a blog should be done. I've only just recently started a Posters website - feel free to visit it when you get a chance if you wish. Much success, antonio.

5:24 PM  

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