Truth is stranger than fiction...
My sister-in-law and I had the most disturbing conversation yesterday. Evidently a day out of classes for a painful dental appointment put my nephew (who is in middle school) behind in his science class. Evidently they have to keep the textbooks in the classrooms because they don’t have enough for all the kids. So any work they do has to be done in the classroom during class because a lot of teachers don’t have after school hours. And they won’t let the kids take a book home just for a night to catch up. And get this -- they don’t send homework home anymore because they don’t have enough books and it’s too expensive to make photocopies.
So my natural response to this was, “Well, just buy him the book.” My brother isn’t wealthy, but he and his wife are willing to sacrifice a few things to make sure their kids get what they need to get a good education. So she tells me that she thought of that and asked the principal if she could do that – just buy my nephew the book. The principal was flabbergasted and told her that she couldn’t do that because that would give my nephew an unfair advantage over the other students.
Let me say that again, because I think it’s worth repeating. Buying my nephew a science textbook for him to keep at home, so he could stay up with the class, would give him an UNFAIR ADVANTAGE.
What exactly is an unfair advantage? What the hell are we, communists? So I left work wondering how our education system got so screwed up. I mean, it was pretty lame back in the day when I was in school, which was fifteen years ago. Even when I was nineteen and struggling through my first years of college I knew that the public school system sucked. The reason being that I found myself having to self teach myself the stuff the public school system left out, but that the colleges expected me to know.
Only a few years ago I was bitching about how kids are now expected to know how to use calculators because nowadays it doesn’t matter if they can do math on paper or in their heads. Back in my day they confiscated calculators because calculators weren’t allowed. I was annoyed to learn kids are taught to type and use spell check but their handwriting and spelling is no longer important (and therefore illegible and unintelligible).
Now I have more to bitch about because, it seems, kids have to learn everything they need to know in the 35-40 minutes they’re sitting in a class during an ever-shrinking school year. And, from what I’m also told, a lot of the curriculum is based on teaching kids to express their feelings, how to accept others, and all sorts of nonsensical feely emotional stuff that they should be getting at home or within their spiritual upbringing. As a result a curriculum of reading, writing, math, science, language skills, and creative arts is only a small fraction of what it used to be.
From my new understanding of our local public school system this is what I see. The kids don’t have homework, and they’re not allowed outside help to progress ahead of their classmates. If a kid does progress, according to my sister-in-law, the school quietly moves that kid to another more advanced class so that none of the kids in the original class feel stupid because one kid “gets it” faster than the rest.
That’s not learning nor is it challenging kids to learn and excel. That’s called pandering and IMO it’s teaching kids that it’s okay to be average and that they should not have anything more or less than anyone else even if someone else has worked harder. This gives kids the impression that
A. They don’t have to work hard to succeed, and
B. They learn to expect that they should get what others (who have worked harder) have. This is the reason you see so many kids these days throw fits when they don’t step out of college with a 50K a year job. Reality is harder for these kids because real life isn’t like MTV’s Real World.
This isn’t fair to kids and sets them up for a life of low paying jobs and no aspirations. I believe most kids start out extremely bright, but the public education system, instead of helping them to learn, actually stunts their learning ability. It dumbs them down.
From where I’m sitting, America’s current “average” isn’t anything to brag about or aspire to. You’d think our public schools would be thrilled to see kids excelling regardless their “advantage”. Instead, they’d prefer to hold kids back, intentionally, because it’s not “fair” for someone to be smarter or to get outside help. It might hurt another kid’s feelings.
So does that mean if you can afford to buy your kids educational books outside of, or more advanced than, their current classroom curriculum that you’re giving your kid the unfair advantage, too? IMO, if you can give your kid the unfair advantage – go for it. This generation of kids is going to need all the help they can get with more and more jobs going overseas and with our colleges graduating fewer scientists and engineers each year.
Am I being unfair to my local public school system – or am I on to something? For years they bitched about parents not being involved enough in their kids’ education, and when parents do get involved – they’re told they’re giving their kids an unfair advantage? I don’t get it. Kinda like those dumb commercials that tell people to spend time with their kids, talk to them, read to them, etc… Duh! Do we really need public service announcements to tell us that? Evidently so.
All I know is I want my nieces and nephews to get the best education they can possibly get because they are going to need that education to survive in an increasingly competitive job market. If that means giving them the unfair advantage of outside of school education so that they can excel in school – then so be it.