Wednesday, October 18, 2006

School Blues

I am so tired of having to think this much about school. I know that sounds like whiny BS. You are probably thinking, “There you go again. All you overeducated middle class parents are all the same. The schools don’t do enough to meet your child’s ‘special’ needs. No one understands why your Johnny or Susie needs this or that to succeed.” Sometimes I even doubt whether I care too much. But then I get a good night’s sleep, and awake recharged to take on the monolithic education machine.

Is it our fault that our kids are fully prepared to “do” school at age 5? It’s a natural by-product of having educated caring parents who read to their kids, engage their minds, and place them in quality child care. With that background, kids will do crazy things by age 5 – like sit quietly and follow instructions in a classroom, (and read in the case of the Dude). They don’t need to “learn how to do school” as the Hobbled Wife said last night.

So we (actually my better-half) are active in the Gifted and Talented program at school. They promised assessments, clustering, etc - - none of which seems to have happened yet. If it did, it’s invisible to us. All the time they say, “You have to be an advocate for your child.” That’s all well and good – but with all our work and advocacy, we are left wondering what the school is doing?

So here we are: One teacher doesn’t believe in the Gifted and Talented stuff as was obvious by her reaction to our questions at last night’s parent-teacher conference. She went to the training over the summer – but it didn’t “take”. The other teacher has no clue that the Dude can read and do math at 2nd or 3rd grade level. After all, she hasn’t had time to assess everyone yet.

So we are back considering “other options” – we came darn close to sending them to private schools this year – and most likely we eventually will unless some sort of miracle happens.

Me personally (and I do not speak for the Hobbled Wife here) – I’ve pretty much given up on public schools. I don’t see class size shrinking any time soon. Any referendum that passes at the local level, or increase in State or Federal funding just goes to maintaining the status quo. At this point I’d be happy with a voucher system that allocates every family a certain amount of money that can be spent or applied where they see fit. I could choose to apply it to my local public school, or take it to a private option.

Now this is not a new theory – most would acknowledge that the present public school model is a hold-over from the 19th century agrarian culture. Kids are off summers to help in the field. The classrooms (most still set with desks in rows) are designed to teach kids to follow instructions like little assembly line employees. The schools were designed to create the little office and factory workers of the late 19th and early 20th century. Almost none of those skills mean anything in today’s world. And then there’s the age/grade pairing. Why does a 6 year old have to be with other 6 year olds, if he is doing work that the district saves for 7 and 8 year olds? I’m presently work with a group of people ranging in age from 30 to 50 – and we all do the same thing mostly. I’ve heard somewhere that those early readers tend to level out by 3rd grade. Does that mean their intellectual growth slows – or the school environment has been sufficiently dull for them that the others have time to “catch up”?

Assuming you are still reading – thank you. More to follow


Anonymous said...

The Hobbled Wife weighs in.... pretty much totally in agreement with the Runner. I don't want to give up on public school.... there is the factor of friendships, of which our eldest seems to have many. Is that social piece more important? Or is her academic confidence? A setting that plays to her strengths? As for the youngest, he isn't settling in socially- I don't think he has much in common with the other kids. Hopefully I won't drive the Runner crazy on this upcoming trip obsessing about this.

MIstress of All Evil said...

I had a lot to say, so rather than overload your comments, I posted over at I totally feel your pain.