Stand and deliver dangerous minds
By Diane Alden
The man is unbelievable, shameless, beyond name calling or common sense. Who else? William Jefferson Clinton does it again. Just when you thought he couldn't do anything dumber he goes right ahead and proves you wrong. This time with more chutzpah than anyone in recent memory he has called for "organizing home schooled kids." Where is his head? Where are the heads of the soccer moms who voted for this loser? They are silent because he says pretty things about improving education they think this will result in results.
Lets delve into the weird world of Bill Clinton's education reform. Yes the same "reform" we have had from government for 20 years with no results. But nonetheless they are going to giveus more of it whether we like it or not and it will cost lots more money and if history is any guide it too will fail.
The Heritage Foundation investigated not long ago and the author of the study Dr. Nina Rees found that at the heart of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is a 5 step program to "improve" education. States would be required to 1.turn around low-performing schools; 2.end social promotion; 3 raise teacher quality; 4 implement sound school discipline policy; and 5 issue report cards on schools.
The Act's requirements also would apply to the recently expanded Education Flexibility Partnership Act (Ed-Flex), which offers states greater flexibility to administer some ESEA programs in exchange for meeting program goals.
After 34 years and $120 billion spent on Title I -- ESEA's key program -- only 13 percent of low-income 4th graders score at or above the "proficient" level on national reading tests, compared with 40 percent of the higher-income students.
Despite spending $358 million per year to train teachers in math and science, America ranks 19th out of 21 industrialized countries in 12th grade mathematics achievement and last in 12th grade advanced physics.
The Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities program has spent $6 billion since its inception; but according to General Barry R. McCaffrey, the Clinton Administration's "drug czar," it simply "mails out checks."
The lack of correlation between federal programs and academic outcomes
is disturbing. Thus, although the President's diagnosis of the problems
facing schools and students today is accurate, the Administration's plan
is the wrong remedy. It will complicate and retard treatment of these
Public schools are more than a disaster, they reflect the absolute moronic education philosophy and policies of the last thirty years. They won't change for the better because these policies are entrenched. Teachers unions and the education establishment are in charge and they and the "soccer moms" elect blind and spineless individuals to national office where such policies receive their funding.
Not long ago, a person's grandparent, who may never have gone beyond the 8th grade, had today's equivalence of a junior college education. In Jeb Bush's Florida, an incredible 60 percent of those who do go on to college have to take remedial courses in order to continue their education and compete. While some states' numbers aren't as high, the downward spiral to the basement of competence is nearly universal.
I talk to kids because I like them. As a mom with grown ones and a former teacher of special ed they intrigue me. The young African-American who carries my groceries out of the Big Star, is a high school sophomore with dreams of becoming an architect.
He told me he was having trouble with "environmental science." I swallowed my gorge at that misnomer for propaganda and asked him if he had taken geography or world history or biology. Mind you he was a sophomore and he said he had only had geography as part of social studies back in elementary school, and no, he had not taken those other courses yet.
He went down the list of those he did have. There was no biology, no languages, no solid history courses. He was taking English and algebra but the rest of it was "crap." The bright shining light in his eyes spoke about dreams and goals - too bad the system will let him down.
In today's brave new world of education, kids don't memorize the facts of math - the formulas for the multiplication tables, poems, phonics, parts of speech, countries of the world, their own states, their own history. No - memorization is verbotten. The touchy-feely rules the day.
For instance, some states like California use the Dale Seymour third-grade program for math. This instructs parents to have family math discussions. Make roll out cookies and explore shapes. Explore who gets a "fair share" or not. Conduct family math decisions like how many yards of carpeting to buy and make sure the whole process in democratic. No memorization here.
Kids and their parents are feeling and self-esteeming themselves to a klunker of an education. In this world of the educrat there are no right or wrong answers - the process and technique become the goal. Along with the goofy notion that somehow technique is going to bring families closer together. Since when was that a function of education?
In Petaluma, California, a mandatory high school class called Human Interaction is driving some parents wild. The young people are given take-home assignments which tell their parents how to be parents.
Some of the questions: How much money do their parents make? Have close relatives ever had alcoholism or mental problems? Do students feel okay about crying? Then there is the really important stuff like whether or not they recycle, eat fast food, or use public transportation. Now what has all this got to do with whether or not a kid can point out his state on a map, read at a high school level, or do basic math without a calculator?
And the president of all the people wants to inflict the education establishment's notion of what constitutes an education on home school children. Who by the way according to all test scores are light years above their contemporaries. But when asked if he would have home schooled Chelsea he babbled something about the experience of learning with a diverse group of kids and the benefits of "socialization." Like the exclusinve private Quaker school he sent her to was a hot bed of "diversity."
My Own Personal "Breakfast Club"
In the school year of 1988-89, armed with a temporary teaching certificate, bold idealism, hope and love for kids and teaching I agreed to teach a bunch of behavior disordered kids in what Georgia then called a "project school." Located near the projects for the poor and lower middle class, Grant Middle School (not the real name) is located in a mid sized Georgia town south of Atlanta.
My certificate gave me the right to teach for one year as I decided whether or not to pursue further certification.
My first day I cut out the requisite bright colored paper letters and rocket ships and pinned them to the cork board at the front of the room: Aim High - it said. On them there were the names of the 35 students who would be my charges for that year. I had only seven kids in each of 5 classes, because teaching special ed kids is different than teaching mainstream kids. For each and every one of them I was required to fill out four different reports on various aspects of their education and progress. In addition there were lesson plans and extra curricular activities like overseeing a group of youngsters at home football games or taking them on field trips, doing lunchroom or bus duty.
Most of their faces are now lost to memory, however, there were six I especially remember, six who stand out. The others are an administrative blur and that is because I wanted to forget what I considered failure to do what I started out to do.
There was the 15-year-old named Albert, whose father owned a heavy equipment business. Albert had a spiky blond crew cut and a missing front tooth he had lost in a fight. One day he told me that his father had just pulled a big scam. He had dug a large hole in the hard red Georgia clay and buried most of his equipment - for the insurance. Albert informed me if I told anyone his father would have me killed. Routine business - no big deal.
Then there was Ronnie, Albert's friend. With the hope of the eternally optimistic I put Ronnie in charge of taking the lunch money to the cafeteria. Towards the end of the year I was told by the vice-principle-former deputy sheriff, that Ronnie had been stealing tickets off the center of the roll for an entire year and selling them to kids at reduced rates. When his parents were informed they threatened to sue the school - I forget their rationale. Ronnie I am sure is running some West Georgia business with his friend Albert and making tons of money - or he is in jail.
Then there was Jeffrey. A 14 year old African-American, a handsome kid who looked like a young Will Smith. Jeffrey was the father of two children out of wedlock. One mother was a 12 year-old girl, the other was an older woman of 15. Jeff made it a point as he left the room every day, to tell me that if I ever touched him or sassed him his parents would sue me.
The other teachers called this one child the "Demon." His real name was Damantra, a young black male about my height. I was warned by everyone from the vice principal on down to just let him sleep in class because he was a lost cause. Somehow I had not gone into teaching to let kids sleep in class. I should have listened.
Then there was Sarah, a small bird like little red-neck girl with big blue eyes and a smile that I looked forward to every day. Sarah's soft voice and eagerness was immensely different than the apathy or outright rebellion I encountered from most of the kids. She told me once that her step mom and her dad had hopes she would get out of special ed someday.
Howie was the special ed nerd. A young black kid who worked desperately at getting out of special ed. Of all the kids I taught that year Howie wanted out the most. Every extra credit, every moment begging extra tutoring, Howie would do anything to get mainstreamed.
Then there was Wayne. A tall gangly withdrawn young man who lived out in the piney woods near the Chattahoochee with his widowed mom. He kept a large notebook filled with pictures of tanks and guns and barbed wire compounds. I had a feeling Wayne was on the way to becoming the dictator of some third world country. Wayne was also suicidal.
I have always thought my personal failures were Ronnie and Albert, the two white kids. And Demantra, the African-American who beat up a retarded black kid. As I came between the two of them, he took several swings at me which connected and left me with a fat lip and a bruised cheek.
The deputy sheriff/vice principal insisted I press charges. I said I would rather not - so he did. Demantra ended up with six weeks in Jackson - the reform school of the day. He was also tossed out of special ed.
The school had an alternative class run by look alike of Denzel Washington - coach Roy. A former Marine drill sergeant, Roy was my buddy. As he marched his charges through the hall, Demantra would glare at me and Roy would high five and wink. I felt no vindication about Demantra, only immense sadness of knowing that child would most likely end up dead or in jail before his 20th birthday.
The rest of my own personal "Breakfast Club," had different outcomes.
After deciding the world of public education could do without my help I told the kids I was leaving. Jeffrey who had plans of getting rich from suing me stayed after class one day. He recited the dates, most important battles, and five World War II generals I had demanded he learn for history. He said, "maybe someday I will go on Jeopardy and get rich if they ask me about World War II." Then I had to turn away "Mizz Lang, he said, "you the best teacher I ever had."
Howie got re-tested and was mainstreamed for part of the day for the following year. I suspect if the system didn't crush every spark of desire out of him that he would do very well. Maybe it was the extra credit that did it. Or maybe it was the fire in his belly to learn.
Wayne was the withdrawn suicidal storm trooper who drew pictures of guns, and killing and death and unhappiness. I am not sure what happened to him after I left, but I know that year his drawings changed. He talked about himself, why he was angry, why he hated school. The art teacher took him on as his special project and put him to work doing school murals. Sometimes he took him to work with him on his second job as a botanical garden designer. I don't know what happened after I left, I just know I saw progress.
Sarah was totally mainstreamed. One of her essays had won a second place in a state contest. Linda, the other special ed teacher agreed that Sarah had more writing talent than most supposedly normal kids. Plus her math and science had improved to such a level that she out shone many kids in regular classes. No one had pushed Sarah, she was easy to ignore. But she shines in my eyes. The essay she won the contest with was called: "The Best Person I Have Ever Known." Linda showed it to me when the letter came about Sarah's triumph. Foolish child, she had written about me.
The day I packed up my stuff and took down the faded cut out letters
I had idealistically put up at the beginning of the year "Aim High."
I felt I had failed. As I look back now I know there are thousands of
Ronnies, Alberts, Demantras, Howies, Sarahs, and Jeffreys. And I know
they are losing out in public schools as they are presently set up. It
has more to do with what has happened to our culture and the way we teach
and what we teach than a lack of money.
Give the kids of America a break!
Diane Alden is a research analyst and writer. Contributing to Newsmax, Etherzone, Enter Stage Right, American Partisan, Spin Tech, Liberty Caucus, Georgia Radio Inc., as well as Range Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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