Bad School! Baaaaaaaaaaad School!

21 Aug

Why are parents and students interested in attending private schools or in obtaining vouchers that will help them leave the public schools and attend private or charter schools? Is it because the public schools are bad? I mean are the actual schools themselves, the buildings, dangerous or frightening or haunted? Or is it because the teachers, the faculty and administration, are dangerous or poorly trained or unqualified? Or maybe the staff is mean and anti-social or have extremely offensive body odor? Of course not. The buildings are fine. They’re inspected and well built and safe, even if perhaps at times a little older than one would like. The staff and faculty are certified and qualified; state tested and approved, even if perhaps a little older at times than one would like…but that’s not what makes a school bad.

So what could it be? What makes a bad school? What are the private, parochial, and voucher loving parents and students running from? They’re running from the other kids in those schools. Let’s be honest. A bad school is any school that has an overabundance of the wrong kinds of students; students of the wrong color or wrong religion or wrong culture. That’s what private schools provide an alternative to; kids that you don’t want your kids hanging around with.

A private school can provide a homogeneous grouping like all girls, all boys, all Christians, all everybody like me and mine. That’s what some people are after, and it is a free country after all, but if you want to attend the Anti-diversity and not the Uni-versity  then you should pay for it yourself and not with public monies or by taking money away from the public schools… But let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and look at it from the pro-voucher stance and cut through all the euphemisms, i.e.; crap and be honest here. The public schools are where all of the public children go, right? So when you send your child there you:

  1. Send them to where all the bullies are!
  2. Send them to where they can easily find drugs, learn about them and buy them!
  3. Send them to where they can meet all the girls and boys and discover sex!
  4. Send them to a place where we now have to have security drills because who knows who could wander in unannounced and kill them—It’s public!
  5. Send them to where gang members look for recruits!
  6. Send them to where they are most likely to get hurt while playing sports!
  7. Send them to where no praying is allowed!
  8. Send them to where all of the crazy, reckless teenage drivers drive!

But all of these dangers come from the other parents’ children NOT the teachers! NOT the staff! NOT the administration! NOT the school building! Besides trying to teach them how to read and write, we are the ones who are also faced with the challenge of teaching them wrong from right. We’re not the problem! Firing us and taking away our tenure or our health care or our pay raises or our buildings isn’t going to make these seething hotbeds of teenage angst and lust better. It might make it cheaper but certainly not better.

Creating cheap, industrial, warehouse schools is how we got into this mess in the first place. We don’t need fewer schools with fewer teachers. We need more schools with more teachers, with fewer students in each. We need higher paid teachers who are more highly trained with more job security and with incentives to want to become even more highly trained. We need better neighborhoods with more available and better paying jobs and an infrastructure that is not old dilapidated and crumbling. What we need is more political, governmental and public support for our schools.

Any talk about doing anything else is just what it is: The latest crap served on a steaming hot pile of waste by thieving political cheapskates who would take a dollar out of their poor mother’s pocket to give to their whoring special interest girlfriends just for a vote now wouldn’t they?

So if we really want to save money in the public schools here’s what we should do.

First of all, school’s too long! It begins too early and it ends too late. When was the last time any adjustments were made? And why are we always so reluctant to make changes anyway? Here is a list of my reforms.

School begins at 9AM! No more getting up before the sun and wandering into the building with one eye open. This will give students some time to eat some breakfast and maybe say hello or goodbye to some family members, maybe even time to establish a relationship with some family members. Imagine that! Mornings with breakfast, time to wake up and relationships! What a concept for the modern world.

Since we’re beginning school later in the day we’ll have to eliminate some things…Phys. Ed., Music, Art, Cooking, Woodshop, Acting, Foreign Language, Sports…OK, everything but…

ENGLISH, MATH, HISTORY and SCIENCE:

4 classes then go home!

9AM-1PM

That’s it. School’s closed. Shut up shop and we’ll save a bundle!

What? You’re hungry? Go home and make lunch!

Now what would be so wrong with this idea? Less school, fewer teachers, more savings, right? Well maybe this would be possible if we were living back on the prairie where Ma was at home churning butter while Pa was out in the fields churning manure but we’re not. This is the 21st century where no one lives at home during the daytime. Families these days are like vampires. They only gather at night! I remember a school day not so long ago during the winter when a storm developed during the school day and our superintendent decided to send the district school children home early which was not an uncommon practice but for reasons of good fortune or fate hadn’t been done for quite a few of the preceding years. That decision nearly cost him his job because the parents were furious. Most of the district homes were empty during the day and the children upon arriving home early were either alone in their homes or locked out and left stranded on the porch or front stoop in a winter snow storm. Moral of the story? No one wants their kids home during the day! The daytime is when all good little vampires go to school and stay there!

So if in today’s modern America we were to shorten the public school day or shut down schools what would we do with the kids? No one is home. All of our parents are working! And if you’d like to consider an alternative like day care, the average cost of daycare in this country is $8,150 per year…for each child! To be paid out of your pocket not the tax payers. And that’s just for caring not schooling too! So let’s face it. Public school is not going anywhere. It’s here to stay because you don’t want your kids at home during the work day do you? And Without the public schools to keep an eye on your children while you’re out working for the almighty dollar little Tommy the Tank engine of capitalism would crap his pants and derail the money train.

What vouchers are really for is a new kind of public school that doesn’t have YOUR kids in it. Vouchers are a another version of the good old money grab; a way to divert public monies into the private and religious sectors and when was the last time that you saw something privatized  turn out being good for the middle class and the public at large. Eventually everything that is privatized becomes more expensive because once government lets go of something it lets go for good and that means the end of any chance at regulating prices except for the use of subsidies which is another money grabbing operation that forces out the working classes and opens up more opportunities for the wealthy to step in and rake in the cash.

There are no bad schools. Those schools that we call bad are only poor, old and neglected ones. Calling a school bad or failing is just as bad as calling your own children names. What does it accomplish and what purpose does it serve? That’s how you really leave children behind by calling them more names and destroying their sense of worth and self esteem and their community’s sense of worth and self esteem and then shutting down their ones source of hope for a brighter future.

We need the public schools of this country to remain supported, well funded and public because the word public does not mean ME or YOU. It means ME and YOU as in US! The word UNITED is our country’s first name is it not? Abraham Lincoln once said that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” And he continued, “I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

If we do not support our public schools they will most certainly become all one thing and that one thing will most definitely be bad; bad for our children, bad for our country and bad for us all. We cannot run from what we don’t like. We cannot wave our fingers at it and call it bad and expect it to suddenly behave more to our liking. We cannot move to the other side of town and say, “We’ll take care of our kids, you take care of yours.”

We must work together and live together and learn together and support one another while doing it with all of our resources and all of our citizens and all of our diversity in order to make our schools and our children and our great states all one very good and important thing again…of ALL the people, by ALL the people and for ALL the people…or in other words, UNITED.

 

18 Responses to “Bad School! Baaaaaaaaaaad School!”

  1. memoriesofeverydaywarrior September 13, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Although everyone’s experience is different, and my situation may or may not be unique to my particular area, I can honestly say that the public schools that I attended were bad. I come from a small town in central Indiana. The town consists of mostly agricultural families, but there is also much affluence in the form of physicians, attorneys, and successful real estate investors. The teachers (most of them) were bad. Underpaid, overworked, and far too stressed to attend to each and every student, these teachers gave the lectures and homework they were required to give. They dismissed us when the bell sounded, and we went to yet another class where the teacher systematically regurgitated everything he/she said to their previous class.

    I was picked on harshly and regularly by my peers. Many of my teachers chose to look the other way. Some of them joined in. Most of them laughed along with the students. What was important in my school was simple: Athletics. Athletes were not reprimanded for bad behavior. Athletes got good grades– even the dumb ones. Our athletics were among the very best in the state. Academically, however, I was not prepared for college. In fact, despite the fact that I took all Honors courses in high school, I wasn’t even aware that

    The hallways and stairwells of my high school were littered with cigarette butts and chewing tobacco spit. Lumps of chewing tobacco were often found on the mouthpieces of the water fountains. On three different occasions, I found cockroaches in my salad from the cafeteria.

    My family lived only a couple of miles from the next school zone. I begged my mother to find a way to get me into that school system. Unfortunately, it seems that the teen pregnancy rate in that school system was incredibly high. It is entirely possible that private schools in my area would have consisted of the very same experiences for me.

  2. Education Go Abroad October 1, 2012 at 2:12 am #

    Great article. Thanks for sharing. Agree on your stand and opinion. There is no Bad School. Parents need to do more than just working and earning money. It is not solely teachers responsibilities to teach children.

  3. lindagwhite October 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    It’s parenting (actually, the lack thereof) and teaching that are the problems. There is little of either going on from what I’ve seen. Both parents and teachers are afraid to enforce guidelines, or heaven forbid, say no: parents because their darlings might get their feelings hurt, and teachers because their hands are so often tied by the administrators who roll over when a parent threatens a lawsuit. Our sue-happy society and egocentric-oriented populace are causing many problems that will only result in the U.S. becoming a second, third, or fourth-rate nation in short order. It’s sad to watch this happen – and throwing more and more money into school systems that clearly aren’t getting the job done isn’t the answer in and of itself. If the pendulum ever swings back, maybe then education will again become important enough to do something about, besides just talk.

  4. ranu802r October 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Yes, there are good and bad public schools.There should be co-operation between teachers and parents,without it , we might as well give up.That’s my feelings about it.

  5. Keith Wadley October 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I agree with most of this post, with one area in particular being of utmost importance: increase the number of teachers per student ratio. There should not be any more than 15 students per teacher, and that should be the high end of the spectrum. I have taught both class sizes and the ones that were the most effective in reaching each student were smaller in size. This allowed me to not only diversify instruction, but tailor learning to each individual student.

    I understand the need for standards to an extent, but standards should be a guideline, not the end-all-be-all for teachers. Again, from a previous comment I just wrote in the Porn post, John Taylor Gatto is eye opening to read. Check out Weapons of Mass Instruction to have your eyes opened.

    I am enjoying reading your blog and your frustrations with public schooling. The question is, what can be done about it? By the teacher, parent, administration, boards, unions, etc…

    Parents hold the true power in the situation but they need to be educated about what rights and responsibilities they possess, verses solely relying on their own experience with public education. Teachers can help with that process.

    Keith

  6. pigletridesagain October 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Spot on!

  7. memyselfandkids October 16, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    You make many points here – some I agree with and some I dont. One point I agree w/is the one about the greater focus on the core subjects. However I dont think it should be the core subjects only.

    • RAB October 25, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      I believe that was irony, no?

      • gpicone October 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

        yes it was 🙂

  8. mymezzaluna October 17, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Great post. The problem lies with a lack of parenting and parents who actually care and get involved with their children. Many parents are only top happy to offload their kids. They forget they are their child’s first teacher. Values are what’s missing from families.

  9. Rose Resovich October 21, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    Wow. I can’t remember the last time my mother (former LAUSD teacher) agreed with something someone wrote about education.
    Way to go!

  10. midsoutherner October 21, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Wow, where do I start?

    OK, first of all, let me say that I am a public school teacher. I am white but teach in an “urban” high school where more than 95% of my students are black and the rest are Hispanic.

    Second, I have a teenager of my own who attends a public high school that is about 85% white and rural. I could not be more pleased. He attended a parochial school for elementary and most of middle school, and I can tell you that from our experience, private school was far, far inferior to his current public school.

    Now, the biggest problem I see with public schools these days is with the kids and their parents. Of course there are bad teachers and bad administrators, but most of the educators I know are doing the best they can. However, it’s extremely difficult to teach kids who either aren’t at school on time, aren’t there on a regular basis, or who don’t come prepared.

    I’ve had plenty of kids who never–I mean NEVER–leave their cell phone at home, but never seem to bring a pencil to class. There are plenty more who are quick to tell you what they are NOT going to do, as in not doing homework, or not doing projects, or not writing essays. They are used to getting away with it, because districts make it really hard for teachers to fail kids. In order to fail a kid, you have to create a paper trail. Did you contact the parents? Did you have a conference? Did you do a behavior plan? What types of interventions were taken in order to help this child pass? Kids know that no teacher will fail the whole class, and they are playing the odds when they hope that you don’t fail them.

    But where do these attitudes come from? Some of it is a total disdain for learning within certain demographic groups. Their parents can’t read or write, therefore they don’t teach their children that it’s important to read and write. For others, they know they’re dumb, and they become hostile when asked to do anything rather than admit their shortcomings or ask for help. You almost can’t blame them. Almost.

    You see, up until maybe 50 years or so ago, a person could do pretty good for himself with just a high school diploma–or even less. That’s because there were still plenty of manufacturing and other manual labor jobs in the U.S., and you didn’t have to have a college degree for that. But we live in a different world now. Most of our manufacturing base has left, and somehow people have got it into their heads that working with your hands is menial and dirty.

    So schools push everybody to go to college. But that doesn’t make any sense. Large numbers of people did not suddenly become more intelligent or educable just because what should have been their jobs went away. There are still people out there whose brains are wired to be mechanics and plumbers, and that’s OK. Instead, we try to make them into accountants and lawyers, and when they figure out they can’t do it (something they figure out pretty quickly but they school systems still don’t seem to get), all they do is get frustrated, become disruptive, and occasionally drop out.

    What needs to be done–if we are indeed going to continue with this compulsory education farce–is separate the wheat from the chaff at an early age. Send the kids that can down a traditional college-prep path. Send the rest of them down a path that will give them the basic 3 Rs and then teach them a trade.

  11. RAB October 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    What I see as the biggest problem with public schools today is Political Agendas, particularly on the right. Ranting about our Failing Schools, our Bad Bad Schools, our Dangerous Schools, and our Precious Children seems to sell pretty well. Oh, yes, and of course our Godless Schools (in this supposedly secular nation). Not to forget The Teachers’ Unions. These messages, trotted out for reprise every election cycle and harped on continually during school-budget and municipal-budget talks, FOX talk shows, and water-cooler gripe sessions, infect the general public, feed their fears, encourage their prejudices, and devalue their own judgment. Not to mention devaluing a lot of kids (in the same way the recent “47%” campaign plan devalued nearly half the nation). The political agendas extend into the way we fund our public schools, with property taxes. How is THAT going to support quality across the nation?

    I went through public school in a New Jersey town that was part of a township. Primary schools we had a lot of, and they were really neighborhood schools. Junior high (a much better idea than Middle School, at least hormonally) brought the whole town together–seven junior highs for the seven towns. High school united the township. Some of the towns in the township were upper-middle-class as far as parental income goes; most were middle-middle; one or two were blue-collar, embracing poor, working poor, and lower-middle-class. At every level in all the towns, the teachers were uniformly capable, uniformly committed, and mostly warm people as well. I know this because when we all got together in high school, everybody was pretty much prepared for high school. That’s not to say everyone was “college prep” or top twenty: in any group of 1100 (my graduating class) you’re going to have a range. For some of those years we were “tracked” according to, maybe, tested aptitude or previous academic average or plans or something (they didn’t really tell us what they were thinking); for others, we were mixed together. I learned every time. In fact the year I learned the most about being a human being and thinking in more than one way was seventh grade, when the little schools poured into one junior high and I had in my class not only four kids who went on to graduate from high school in the top twenty but also three 17-year-olds determined to stay in school until they got their eighth-grade diplomas (and two of them succeeded, and one went on to graduate from high school).

    My own town was somewhat mixed in terms of religion (1/3 Protestant, 1/3 Catholic, 1/3 Jewish, more or less, with a few outliers). Racially we were pretty homogenous if you lump the European countries together, but there were a few families of color. High school meant somewhat more racial and ethnic diversity. The only expressed prejudices I heard were some animus towards “Noorkies”–kids whose families had moved into the township from Newark (!) and who consequently didn’t behave according to our more-sedate town norms–and, alas, an uncomprehending but occasionally vocal mocking of kids whose behavior was observably non-standard in terms of gender.

    During my time in public education, I never heard anybody’s parents grumble about “bad schools” or “bad teachers.” I never noticed any political rants to that effect either. Two kids in my neighborhood went to prep school instead (i.e. private school). Our town had a parochial school, K-8, but in the ninth grade those kids also poured into the public junior high, and the only transition problem they had was being worse-behaved than the rest of us until their freedom from the nuns ceased to be “new” and they settled down.

    What I DID hear, from both parents and politicians, was how important school was and how good our schools were. And in my parents and my friends’ parents I also saw attitudes supportive of the teachers’ expectations and standards, supportive of the school (LOTS of PTA members), and supportive of my friendships with my fellow students (and those friendships were wide-ranging and diverse). Of course kids grumbled and groused; but the occasions when a parent “went in” to have a word with the teacher were urgent and infrequent.

    Among my acquaintances there were some kids whose parents were teachers (including me, although my mother wasn’t actually teaching when I was in school) and a LOT of kids who wanted to be teachers themselves. Of those, a number were interested in teaching in inner-city schools, where they felt they could be of most use.

    “Public” wasn’t a dirty word. Public transportation, public libraries, public parks, public schools–weren’t these all part of, as you said, being the UNITED States? Wasn’t everyone part of the public?

    When politicians wade in, they want to show their constituents bright and shiny toys, exercise what they consider to be steely-eyed political expertise, and demonstrate their heroism by catering to, pandering to, what they believe to be their constituents’ assumptions and fears. Works at the polls. Doesn’t work at the schools.

    Yes, even when I was a kid a lot of inner-city and poor-rural schools were struggling; and in the South, schools were still segregated. All of that was harsh in the general, and terrible for the kids whose futures were at stake. But I knew, even then, that those problems came from lack of money and lack of societal and political courage. I think such problems still come from those causes, exacerbated by a much sharper divide between the legendary Haves and Have-Nots and a far, far greater undercurrent of opinion that likes it that way.

    What makes a bad school? As an educator, I’d say what makes a bad school is a segregated (racially, socioeconomically, religiously, ethnically, or any other) student body (that can only lead to a segregated nation), grandstanding politicians who think of education as inferior to and only justifiable by the “private sector” but know pretty much nothing about education in and of itself, parents worked to bits trying to make ends meet (or else discouraged into inertia by an inability to do so), parents afraid of or contemptuous of anyone not like themselves, and a society that offers small rewards to an educated young person but huge rewards to the monied, the lucky, and the criminal. None of these problems can be solved by pouring more public money into private hands by way of vouchers, no matter how glib the con.

    Thanks for your eloquent but no-nonsense defense of public education.

    • gpicone October 25, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

      Thank you for such a thoughtful reply. I grew up in Park Ridge, NJ and taught in a public HS school in Lakewood, NJ for 33 years.

  12. geneb527 October 25, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    Reblogged this on Political Musings-At the Sunset of My Life.

  13. Dr. Sayers November 14, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    You make a lot of great points in this post with which I heartily agree, but I object to your characterization of independent schools as homogenous. I was 100% committed to sending my children to my local public school until the curriculum was gutted by NCLB. We had bought a house in this particular school district b/c it is a racially diverse community and we are a racially diverse family. When we moved our children to a nearby Quaker school to improve their academic experience, we were shocked to find that it is FAR more successfully diverse than the public schools – in terms of race, religion, and class. Kids are openly out of the closet in middle school. Latina, Black, White, and Asian students work and play together and go to each other’s homes. While the public school had plenty of kids from different ethnic backgrounds, there was very little co-mingling. I know there are many independent schools that are all about exclusion and homogeneity. There are also lots of independent schools that are not.

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