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Saturday, May 20

Three things wrong with public education: students, teachers, and parents

Having finished another semester in 17 years of teaching community college classes, one constant is abundantly clear: students, parents, and teachers are responsible for the deterioration of public schools.

My remarks are limited to community colleges and secondary schools. They do not have anything to do with your school experience or even with your above average college student.

Students do not want to make the effort to earn their grades. Just like students generations before, they cheat. They do so in more high tech, sophisticated ways, but they cheat. They also feign ignorance. While busily insisting that they are brilliant, they suddenly do not know how to write a research paper or understand how to use Microsoft Word or any other computer and software. They can play solitaire to beat the band, but they don't know how to use a computer. These students don't want to try. They think they have reached the limits of what they should know and know how to do. They are right, they have. Every student should be required to take a class in Microsoft Word before they sit in a college classroom. They do not want to study largely because they hate to read. They do not have a good relationship with words, the English language, or with books. They are horrified at the length of books and really are ill equipped to shop in a bookstore.

This semester, I showed my classes political campaign commericals aimed at a general unsophisticated television viewer. You know, voters. The students thought that if it was on a television commerical that the candidate's proposals were real, were in place, whether that candidate was in office or not. They do not know that if a candidate loses, or even if they win, there is no guarantee that those promises are reality. I know I am supposed to teach them to be more sophisticated consumers of political information, but we are talking about a basic inability to comprehend the difference between a sales pitch and public policy.

What they hell did they do with these people in public school?

But that isn't the worst example. One young woman this semester couldn't take her finals because she was raped. She is dropping out. Tell me that her experience isn't any different than that of a black person traumatized by being refused admissions or attendance on a college campus because they are black. She was attacked because she is female and rape is indeed a civil rights violation. Not under our laws.

But that isn't the worst example. Perhaps the worst was when a woman asked me should she leave home to call the police after her children's father beat and raped her or should she wait until he passed out drunk and stay in the apartment to call the police. Our discussion on the court structure included how to get a protective order. The textbook we require her to purchase for $60.00 does not. How is she supposed to learn when her life has no relationship to what she is required to read? Do we have on campus counseling for domestic violence? No, but we throw one hell of a Cinco De Mayo party.

Parents are uninvolved with their children's education. After working all day, they come home, open a beer, and watch American Idol. They don't help their children with their homework or read to their children. They worked all day, they want the schools to educate their children but they certainly don't want to pay taxes to fund the school system. They speak contemptuously of their employers who make them do work and their children embrace the same attitude toward educators. They cheat on their taxes and their spouses so no wonder their children are such skilled cheaters in school. Their children beat the hell out of each other because their parents beat them when they are not ignoring them. Parents in Arlington, Texas recently learned via a new video for sale that their middle class kids beat the hell out of homeless people and listen to anti social music. These parents just don't know where their nice middle class children learned this. These same parents think nothing of listening to country music--which is incredibly shallow and violent--and they talk about killing and beating people they don't like. They scream kill the quarterback and kill the pitcher in front of their children and get drunk at the little league games and fight with the coach. And of course kids see their parents drunk and beating each other. No wonder they are little animals because they are raised by big animals.

Students don't take education seriously because parents don't take education seriously. And people who hold Ed.Ds should not be taken seriously. If the teacher who is teaching your child math doesn't have a math degree, why aren't you down at the school finding out why? Why can't you go to the school board and say this is unacceptable? Until you get into a screaming match with an education bureaucrat, you are not a fit parent.

The schools are job programs for people who shouldn't have graduated from college. The education departments at colleges, which should be abolished and the earth salted so they cannot reemerge, accept the lowest grade point averages and have the least demanding curriculum. Until they refuse anyone but a B+ student we are going to produce teachers with the intellectual curiosity of plants. Teachers are unprofessional. Unlike doctors or lawyers, teachers refuse continuing education courses to keep their licenses. We allow them to get away with that. Actually, people should be required to have degrees, preferably Master's degrees in the subjects they teach. They should not actually have teaching certificates which literally mean they have been told where to put the trashcan in their classrooms, but not how to teach youngsters who have drug problems, been raped either by a grown man their mother lets them date or by their fathers and step fathers and have been treated for sexually transmitted diseases -- often spread by the boys they have known since grades school and who have had abortions. That is who your child is sitting next to in Algebra which seems a little silly to be teaching to students who are so abused they don't know what normal life is. Or normal life is abuse.

Teachers really do believe that the best three things about being a teacher is June, July, and August off from work. Until teachers start acting like professionals and renew their licenses every year, they should not be paid as professionals. Teachers teach so they can be home in the afternoon with their children. Great. Their children are more important, they think, than your children. Professionals in the workplace should be home with their children in the afternoon, too. But that isn't our economy because we refuse to pay people a living wage to own a home, a car, and allow one parent, any parent, to stay home with the children. So we raise feral children. Teachers get no training in these issues from the schools of education at colleges and universities. None. But as a holder of a lifetime secondary teaching certificate, I have notes on where the trashcan goes in the classroom. I shit you not.

So stop funding college education courses. No more degrees in education. Close them down. Allow anyone who has a college degree teach subjects and require students to take classes and counseling in what a life without abuse might be. George Bush and Bill Clinton could not teach high school government because they don't have teaching certificates. Teach students to have self respect by accomplishing material that is difficult. Tell teachers to respect themselves enough to demand excellence from themselves and from their colleagues. When teachers know that other teachers are having sex with students--and they know because they too are gossips--the other teachers should be charged with aiding and abetting.

When students are violent, kick them out of school. Require that their parents attend classes in parenting before the student is allowed back around other people. Divorced people who the court finds dangerous must attend parenting classes before they can see their children. What is the difference. Do not have alternative schools because that lets the parents off the hook. The school district is not responsible for the behavior of your child, dear parents, you are.

If students won't study at home, make them study in the classroom. Teachers should shut up and lay off the worksheets and the crossword puzzles and the classroom games and allow the kids to read and write about their assignments. And people who want to be teachers should help the teachers grade the essays. Because the teachers are too busy going to faculty meetings and thinking up silly exercises for the students to do to actually do any teaching.

Every third administrator should be fired. Just randomly and as arbitrarily as they make decisions that affect students and teachers. We do not need anyone in a school that isn't teaching a class. Principals and Vice Principals might be busy. But if coaches can teach health and government courses, everyone else should teach. Including deans and vice-chancellors in charge of diagonal parking. If they aren't teaching they are part of the problem. They don't know who is sitting in class and what their needs are.

Every teacher who teaches adults should know who has a criminal record in their classes. The college should provide teachers with a list of the their convictions and plea agreements. Every ethnic group is involved in gangs, violence, and drugs. Every group is struggling with broken homes, poverty, and fear. College should have the right to say, no felons in my classroom. And remember, they have no training on how to teach felons. We don't talk about that at "in-services." We give each other awards and applaud each others well drafted lesson plans to teach the Constitution by having students break up into groups and write their own. Never mind we don't actually read the real Constitution or talk about how the prison system really works. The students know more about the court structure because they have been through it than the textbook authors who are so arrogant they won't research how it really works. There should be enough police on every campus to patrol the halls and be visible not watching video monitors of the halls. They need a show of force. If the Army can have recruiters on campus, the teachers should demand a cop in every hall and nothing less.

Every semester I feel like this and every semester it literally gets worse. These problems really aren't new. My grandfather quit school after the third grade to work in the fields. He couldn't read and my father has never read a book. The only way out of the field and poverty is education. My public school teachers wouldn't teach school today--today they are doctors, lawyers, judges, and CEOs. They crawled out of the classroom as quickly as it became more accepted for women to do something with their brains. Intelligent people wouldn't tolerate teaching under these modern conditions. It isn't about how much money we spend on public schools, it is about how much mediocrity we are willing to tolerate. We could produce average factory workers that show up, make widgets, and draw a check, however, that economy is gone. We cannot teach people to follow directions, think for themselves, protect their lives and stop acting like the thugs that raised them and soak up their tax money on that waste of public trust and money called public schools.

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