EB: Giving ’em the business!

Brain dumps from the original Bonehead.

P.S. Not-Good-Enough

I don't know why but lately I've found myself pondering the public school system. Odd, considering that I don't have children and I'm well over a decade removed from said system, but that's where my head's been nonetheless. What can I say… it's not easy being green. So, in it's usual progression, thinking evolved into wondering which then evolved into researching, and this ultimately resulted in me banging my head onto the keyboard again.

I've been thinking alot about not just the school system in general but about specific things like how it works and such. It's not uncommon to hear fragments in the media about public schools being poorly maintained or having old, worn textbooks; but once you get to college and the book money is coming directly out of your pocket, it's also not uncommon to opt for the older books, this time of your own volition! Ok – so let's skip the books part… so long as they're legible, the pages aren't stuck together, and the info isn't outdated, we're good.

Someone recently asked me which subjects I was best at in school and my answer was: it varied from one year to the next. Though I was typically a math/science guy, there've been plenty of times where I was unusually strong in language, history, etc, not because I was in a rare mood for the whole year, but because I had a teacher that was particularly adept at making it interesting. On the off chance I lucked out and got a teacher that was not only interesting and passionate, but also adamant about holding me accountable instead of letting me skate by for just being "gifted", that's when I really dug in deep and grew as a person.

It's amazing what you discover that you're capable of when someone refuses to take any of your shit, ain't it?

Yeah, pretty much. Last night there was this thing on HBO where actor/comedian Robert Wuhl, who also turns out to be a big history buff, lectures a college class on little known pieces of trivia about American history. In most cases history bores me senseless but his enthusiasm and delivery and material made for a very interesting program. For the sake of argument, let's say that we all feel that way – that the right person can make even a dull topic more appealing. Teachers, then, make a big difference in the quality of education.

I've often heard standardized tests being wholly dismissed for being culturally biased. I'd often interpret that as a euphemistic way of saying they're designed to prevent minorities from succeeding academically. Most of these tests are just math and English, occasionally history or science or something but always comprised of stuff we should have been exposed to during the school year. If you're being tested on things you were taught how can the test be biased against anybody's race or gender or anything? Sure, there's big words and you're being watched closely and there's great pressure to perform but that just makes it a little bit more like real life, doesn't it?

But there's lots of different factors that can influence academic and testing performance.  I had every excuse in the book to perform poorly but I was home schooled and maybe just a bit special, oh, and competitive as hell too.  What about other kids whose parents aren't leaving it entirely up to schoolteachers and are home schooling or coughing up the bucks for tutoring?  Or kids that are genuinely gifted or just plain hard workers and refuse to stop working until they're at the top of their class?  No one expects every student to have the same level of drive; or every parent to have the time or finances to make home schooling or tutoring an available option for each kid.  But what we do expect is that each kid that shows up in school is going to have roughly the same shot that every other kid has but that apparently isn't the case either.

Say, did you know that public schools receive bonus money from the state government as rewards for performance based on their standardized test scores?  We're not talking about a high school out in some well-to-do neighborhood that can afford to field Lacrosse and Equestrian teams.  No.  The faculty at schools that record higher scores on standardized tests are rewarded financially. 

These schools are getting their "pick of the liter", so to speak, because of simple common sense.  If you were a schoolteacher would you rather do your job at a school where metal detectors and armed security are needed to ensure safety, or a school where test scores are higher and you'll be paid more for doing the same damn job?  Well it's not really up to you because everybody wants to work at that second school and they're only accepting the best candidates.  The rest will have to take jobs at whatever schools will have them. 

Who you know may be plenty important once your kids are all grow'd up but while they're coming up, apparently, who your neighbors are can be just as important.  I guess it really does take a village to raise a child?


April 8, 2006 - Posted by | Observations

1 Comment »

  1. Like the change in your blog interface….cool!

    I attended private schools (1st through senior year in high school), so I’m pretty sure that my input is biased, but…..I feel that I recieved a really good education; I truly excelled in all my classes (specifically Math :)). Maybe you DO get what you pay for! My teachers (mainly nuns) were extremely effective in getting across the materials into my big head.

    But, IMO, home schooling is the way to go (if at all possible). With home schooling, a child DIRECT attention from their teacher. No snot-nosed kids to get in the way….Yeah…home schooling is definitely the way to go.

    Comment by Poca | April 10, 2006 | Reply

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