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Getting schooled, or, Sometimes there are some pretty large cracks...

I came across this devastating article about public schools thanks to CLICKED. Before I write about the article I should say that my wife is a public school teacher, all three of my kids went to public schools from 1st through 12th grade, we have many friends who are teachers and another good friend who was on the school board until recently (sadly, she was foxed out..).

I am a strong proponent of public education even though I spent 16 years in a private school (Lipscomb - which may explain a lot). Public schools don't get to weed out the miscreants, slow learners, non-english-speaking kids and the kids who are different. I also believe that charter schools should be given more of a chance round these parts to better deal with some of the so-called fringe kids. I believe that a voucher system would destroy the good public schools along with the bad, but I digress.

My belief in public education is why I was so frustrated last summer when Kay Brooks* was maneuvered onto the School Board. Kay is a home schooler and has a lot to say about education, but should not have been party to another fine Crafton/Craddock plot (in my humble opinion). She had every right to run for office and I'm glad she did.

I'm slowly winding my way to the major point - public schools often do a piss poor job of dealing with outsiders. Let me pull a quote from the article:

When you read about the problems with American education, you usually read a bunch statistics about literacy and dropout rates. But those statistics don'’t do the subject justice because the problem with American education is a human story. Every dropout is a human being, every illiterate teenager is an individual, every teen that commits suicide was somebody'’s baby, and every kid that'’s doing 20 to life is a real breathing person full of potential.

People are too quick to criticize parents, teachers, administrators, and students. The failure of government education isn't theirs alone. It's every American'’s fault because we continue to allow the unrestrained growth of government schooling. Haven'’t we learned anything from our own experiences in government schools?

The author of this piece, Steve Olson, seems close to wishing the entire system destroyed, even though he backs away at times. Where he hit home with me is when he mentions 'zero tolerance'..

The top students learn the system. If they are free thinkers, they hide it, because they'’re after top grades and independent thinking is too risky and unpredictable.

What'’s different today is the nature of the mediocre and poor students. They don'’t confront and challenge us like they used to. They seem brain dead and indifferent.

Our zero tolerance policies have created a larger gulf between the students and us. From the late sixties until the mid-nineties, the students and their culture were somewhat accessible. Today they completely shut us out.

Our younger son was 'zero-toleranced' right out of Hillsboro for one year - he got caught with a joint. He did a stupid thing and deserved to be punished. What happened to him made his stupidity sound like accidenal littering.

He was placed in an alternative school with elementary school furniture and elementary school-like textbooks. I use the word textbook lightly. They were actually workbooks, many with fill-in-the-blanks. There were no after school activities and no required counseling sessions. The kids were basically in a place where they were told they were defective and could not learn. Our son began to buy into this nonsense and we pulled him out of school. He got to go back to Hillsboro for his senior year, thankfully, and despite what a moronic vice-principal told him, he got to graduate with his class.

I saw first-hand how the school system deals with the so-called alternative kid. He was treated the same way as if he had bought a gun to school. Once again, he deserved punishment and he had to deal with severe penalties from the legal system, for which my wife and I remain very grateful.

Particularly galling was the fact that several students at Hillsboro the same time my son was expelled got caught passing counterfeit money in Green Hills. They were suspended and not expelled which is curious considering it was a federal offense. Oddly, that crime was not listed as a 'zero tolerance' offense. My point is that zero tolerance policy is ridiculous, not that those young men should have been treated as stupidly my son.

If you want to read another story about school malfeasance, please read Ginger's post about what happened to her daughter and how the school handled the situation.

Like I said above, we still need public education. I'm not ready to throw the whole thing out, even though home-schooling is a viable option for some and our schools have failed so many. The author of the article is quite bitter, but considering his story, I probably would be as well.

*I wrote some mean things about Kay Brooks in regards to her school board tenure. I don't regret my belief that she should have not been named to the school board. I do regret my mean-spiritedness. I've been told by many people that Kay is quite nice and quite friendly. She certainly has important things to say about education. If I were looking for advice regarding home schooling, I would start with Kay. Our politics are quite different, but that is actually quite irrelevant in the great scheme of things.

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About me

  • I'm John H
  • From Salemtown, Tennessee, United States
  • Cruising past 50, my wife and I have reared three kids and several dogs. I work for state government and daily conspire to deflate bureacracy.
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