Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Farce We Call Schooling

Teachers, dedicated or not, are expected to do something wonderful each day: teach. They are expected to bring the joy and magical experience of learning to our children and to the older adults who didn't have that opportunity as children. Yet, the politics of education are mired in special interests, incredible obfuscation of intent and self-aggrandizement on the part of this country's educators and elected officials.

Do I sound jaded? You bet I am, especially when I see that schools are not encouraging experimentation and exploration into the field of technology, but especially in the areas of reading and math skills. And you should be furious, not just mildly surprised, because these are minds that are left to, no encouraged to, lie fallow in a culture that is racing to land people on Mars.

Where's the race for the kids in the dismally unequipped schools all over this country, even in its major cities? Who is seeking out their needs, fairly evaluating them and providing the joy that learning should bring? I've yet to see a national champion although we hear of one or two people occasionally, But when I hear about the exceptions, I wonder how they got the media exposure. Who sponsored their efforts to gain attention and what was the result and the true intention? It's "House of Cards" played out in classrooms.

I am especially shocked at the self-appointed education thought leaders who have lined their pockets while stacking the cards against the kids by manipulating the statistics in their districts. No names need to be mentioned here, but if you follow news in education, you know the culprits. They offer solutions they never had to school districts in desperate need and they ask a pretty penny for these vacuous solutions. Signing off on their contracts is tantamount to committing the students to yet more educational abuse.

Yes, let's call it what it is. It's abuse of the system and the kids and adults for whom they offer such glowing hope. Look behind the rhetoric and you'll see it's nothing more than the educational equivalent of a Hollywood movie set; all front with nothing behind it. No wonder the kids, in particular, fail to exhibit the enthusiasm and records of achievement these new age theorists promise. It's a smoke-and-mirrors show and anyone who reads the media can see right through it, but not enough do follow this new trail of tears. The slick presentations and the skewed stats are all they see. Worse than too bad. It's morally criminal.

Who would want to not provide an excellent education to kids? You have to ask that question and another you have to ask is why we're pushing kids to trade schools again. Nothing wrong with learning a trade if that's where your interests and abilities lie, but what if you have other potential that isn't being allowed to blossom just a bit? What if a child has hidden abilities that aren't even permitted to be sparked by a lesson? Remember that TV ad that told us that, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste?" Well, we sure are wasting all those minds and we're doing it while we furlough teachers, cut school budgets and hire "educational experts." Give me a break.

If you cut back on education, what are you nourishing? How about lives filled with anger, desperation, drug abuse, a tendency to criminality? If you have no hope and no one has ever believed in you enough to keep your teachers employed or to make sure you can read, you begin to listen to the whisper of those who know how to get over. You learn that the only way for you is to take what you want because they sure aren't going to give you what you need.

Where's the light at the end of the tunnel for these kids? Is it the one that emanates from a jail cell or is there hope? Unless we begin to become more demanding of schools, stop buying the pap offered by the education experts and nurture kids and educational efforts, what does the future look like? Do we begin building an economy based on corporations specializing in incarceration and beef up our police forces? Do we red zone areas of criminality and write those who live there off?

If strong fences make for good neighbors, what do strong schools that really teach provide to us? A future that fulfills the promise we all want and all the kids and adults will be maximized in their potential. Yes, I want electricians and plumbers and bus drivers and gardeners, but I also want computer scientists, physicians and librarians. I want an America that is the one I grew up believing in, an America where the streets aren't paved with gold, but with promise and a fair chance to be what you are capable of. I guess I agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren with the points she stated in her book, "A Fighting Chance."