How I Would Fix Our Schools
Why Reading Instruction Must
Be Addressed First!
Parents expect their schools to:
Lincoln, Lillian I. Everyday Pedagogy: With Special Application to the Rural School, Ginn and Company, Atlanta, 1911. This is an eye opening realization of just how far we have wandered from what used to be considered a good basic education.
Also: McGuffey's Eclectic Spelling Book. for good basic spelling information. Generations of immigrants learned to read with the "Blue Backed Speller." I can guarantee you it was not based upon whole language or "feelings". Those immigrants wanted to learn the language and achieve in their new country. That would not come unless they spoke, wrote and spelled correctly. My neighbor was an immigrant from Italy who never progressed beyond the 8th grade. He learned well when he came through books such as this. He was one of Dothan's community leaders and a success in every measure of the word.
A child should have a good understanding from basic to complex of many topics. However, each builds upon the other. He does not start off "knowing." He must be taught. That is why Traditional Education works and Progressive Education fails. If taught traditionally, by the time a child gets to college he or she will have a foundation upon which to build critical thinking skills. They will have a basis of comparison because they have been disciplined to excellence and will be able to recognize excellence and produce excellence.
There needs to be open debate, but there will not be. Those who hold the purse strings (and sell the computers) have circled the wagons.
So, how would I fix our schools if I ruled? But I can't , because I don't, but if I could...I would...
1. Return to Neighborhood Schools. I would ask each school to request that those parents and concerned citizens (i.e. taxpayers) who care about education and want to help select the curriculum for their neighborhood school to attend a meeting. The group would appoint a steering committee to study and approve the type of curriculum that school would employ. If a group of parents chooses Progressive education that is their prerogative. But, parents should not have to pay to get a good Traditional, basic education. If parents do not like the neighborhood school choice or have a special needs child, they may have their child bussed to another school, but they should have the choice of attending a school close to their home first.
2. Give Parents Curriculum Choice: Traditional or Progressive It is just not right that poor parents cannot get a true Traditional Educational because they cannot afford private school. The District would pay for representatives of the different methodologies to make presentations offering parents choice. I would love to see Marva Collins come to Dothan and make a presentation to the parents about Traditional Basic Education...her successful methods. Progressive educators could choose the educator of their choice. After these presentations, the steering committees of those schools would present their findings to the parents of those schools and the decision and involvement to produce success would then rest upon the parents and their choice. Notice how the activities in whole language focus on programming the child to depend on peers while the Traditional approach emphasizes self reliance. Pavlov, a WL favorite, postulated that one could model attitudes and beliefs by modeling activity. Notice how the two forms of education model the two different philosophies... Independence, self-reliance vs Dependence, socialization
3. Encourage Fundraiser Events to be organized and held by parents to pay for extras for their schools beyond basic education. (Like barn raisings, events like this bring people together for a common cause. They are opportunities to get to know one another and feel a part of the school. Parents need to get to know their children's friends and their parents. Community volunteers and teacher sponsors would be encouraged to share their talents "coaching"/mentoring" AFTER SCHOOL. These would include all of the following so that every child, no matter what his talent could have an opportunity to shine.
Talent contest (our own city wide version of American Idol) in which students from every school get a winner and then they compete district wide. All practices would be held AFTER school and would never infringe on valuable educational time.
Academic Bowl in which a team of children selected by teachers and fellow students and representing each school would be asked questions in academic subjects on different grade levels to be held in the Civic center. The prize would be a Savings bond to to help the child with college.
Mini-Olympics with children from each school competing for prizes. Winners in the Twelfth grade would be eligible for scholarships.
Art, Sculpture and Pottery Competition to be held at the Wiregrass Art Museum with judges from out of town and items available for sale.
Science Fair and Spelling Bee to be well publicized and in competition with ALL schools and children of Dothan and perhaps televised on the Cable Channel.
NONE OF THESE EVENTS WOULD EVER, EVER INFRINGE UPON SCHOOL CLASS TIME. CHILDREN SHOULD BE EVER AWARE OF HOW PRECIOUS INSTRUCTIONAL TIME IS. IT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WINNING AND LOSING. THOSE EVENTS OR PERSONS INFRINGING UPON THIS TIME ARE ROBBING THEM OF THEIR OPPORTUNITIES.
Children would not be used to fundraise for any community charity. They should not be put at risk going door to door to sell anything. No child should be embarrassed because his/her parents could not afford to "out buy" another child. Students in school are a charity of this community unto themselves. We contribute to their education and every minute of instructional time is our gift to them. That means that raising money for pet projects such as buying trees in the rain forest (politically indoctrinating children into their teacher's agenda) or jump rope for heart with the reward of getting prizes of a party as a reward would be prohibited. Classroom time should be sacrosanct to those who value education. Children respect what the authorities value. Yet some involved with our schools enjoy the prestige that comes with super fundraising on the backs of our children. That would stop if I ruled the schools.
4. Initiate a Teacher Draft The schools whose students score the lowest would have the first choice of teachers in the pool. The choice would be like that of the football draft. Those highest performing teachers would receive a District bonus. Performance would be determined by a beginning year pretest and an end of the year post test based on objective empirical criteria like the OLD SAT. Should a school choose to be a traditional Spalding school, for example, parents and citizens would be encouraged to take the instruction classes along with the teachers and make themselves available to tutor students. This has been done effectively in Charter Schools across the country. Teachers in Honors classes would be judged on how well the students did on the CLEP exams. College graduates/retirees who want to teach but do not have a teaching certificate could offer themselves for the draft. Their qualifications might make them the perfect match for a certain school. Surely some arrangement could be made about credentialing with the State Board of Education for Schools in Crisis.
5. Initiate Yearly examination for administrators and teachers If students must test so should teachers. My sister is a cardiologist and to retain her license she must pass a yearly examination. Educators should have the same pride and standards. Teachers and administrators would be required to take a yearly test of general knowledge and skills. This test is color blind. Knowledge knows no race or gender. A teacher should never blame their college for not preparing them because as teachers they teach that one never stops learning. If a teacher is not proficient she should be remediated by the college or university from which she/he acquired his/her degree at no cost. If ultimately they are unwilling or unable, to pass the test then, just like a driver who loses a driver's license, so would a teacher lose his/her license. This would also encourage colleges and universities to have standards for their degrees...IT MATTERS TO THE CHILDREN THEY TEACH WHETHER A TEACHER IS LITERATE IN THE SUBJECT MATTER THEY ARE TO TEACH. Either you pass or you don't.
If a teacher's or administrator's grammar skills are deficient, they would be required to take remedial courses, just like those students they produce must take in colleges and universities after having been passed through school having been "taught" by those teachers. Many private schools hire individuals without education degrees to teach and they do so masterfully...because they understand the subject matter as a totality and have seen how skill must build to skill and therefore how to teach it. Those who have only mastered the most basic elements of a discipline have little understanding about the importance of the discrete skills. Get rid of the incompetents and let others who want to teach and actually have an understanding of the subject matter teach.
6. Hold parents accountable for discipline With parents actually becoming a part of the process, it would also be their responsibility to help enforce discipline. Each school will work on its code of conduct and each parent must sign on to supporting the code. Education is a privilege. Those who abuse the privilege robbing others of their opportunity will then become the parents responsibility to educate...in their own home or in a "special" school. Those children probably need intensive intervention...perhaps reading remediation because as Michael Brunner wrote in Retarding America: the Imprisonment of Potential the greatest common denominator in those sent to juvenile facilities is illiteracy. The best remediation method is phonics intensive intervention. Of course, these problems could be prevented by proper initial reading instruction, but until then we must deal with the fallout of our inept methodology.
7. Each school would choose its own uniform colors. Each child would be reminded that their behavior in every instance throughout the community reflects on their own school. Manners and etiquette would be taught at every age leading up to a fancy dress ball that would occur as a Senior Party given as a reward for hard work to the Graduating Senior Class. As the party is given by the community, it would be open to students in all schools, including private and church schools. A part of the Physical Education curriculum in Senior High School would be ball room/social dancing.
8. Require every child to learn another language Each school would choose at least one foreign language to be taught on the grade levels in that school. I would suggest Latin, French, or Spanish. Secondary Languages might be Japanese or German. Studies find that children who learn Latin, French, or Spanish in addition to English actually perform better in English skills. Teachers who teach these languages would not teach English unless they score extremely well on their grammar test.
9. Appoint a citizen book review committee to read EVERY book EACH teacher proposes to determine whether it fits the standards for the community. "As a man thinketh, so is he" whether you like it or not. It is the responsibility of those in authority to introduce students to that which good, pure, honorable, virtuous, decent, courageous, and inspirational.
a. Is the book well-written?
b. Is the topic appropriate for the age level?
c. Does the book present topics that might be disturbing to a vulnerable child?
d. Does the book glorify activities that might encourage a suggestible child to perform that activity?
10. There would be no more DARE program in our schools. Like the snake in the Garden of Eden, this program has taught children the good and evil of drugs...and many choose the seductive evil. Statistics show that children who have been in DARE are MORE LIKELY to start on those gateway drugs of alcohol and marijuana than those who have not. They learn where to buy the drug, how to use it, and how it feels to those who use it. It is also proven that children are more likely to be adversely influenced by their peers than they are to be positively influenced by their peers which means kids who have been sheltered and protected from such knowledge are now well versed on the ins and outs of drugs...and more likely to use them. Role playing and visualization are psychological techniques that should not be used by the unlicensed. The "therapeutic classroom" has been a failure.
Schools should stick to their mission and do it well...teach children reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, and geography.. We must resist letting government put more on our schools than its basic mission can handle. If that basic mission is fulfilled, our children will be well-equipped to handle whatever else comes their way.
This is from Berit Kjos' critique of the book The Giver which has been required reading in 8th grade classes in the schools in my community. I share her concerns and urge parents to read what their children read. And we wonder why there has never been more incidences of depression and suicide among teens.
Laura's fourth-grade teacher was reading a new book called The Giver. The story seemed sort of strange and spooky, but most of her classmates at Adams Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa, liked it. After all, it had won the 1994 Newbery Medal--and was dedicated to "all the children to whom we entrust our future."1 Therefore it had to be good--didn't it?
The book told about a special community where every child felt safe, ate plenty of food, took pills to stop any pain, and lived in a family no larger than four. Overpopulation was no problem since new babies were limited to fifty a year. Born to professional "birth mothers" instead of real mothers, the newborns were placed in Nurturing Centers where older children helped care for them during volunteer hours. To keep people comfortable and free from stress, handicapped babies and low-weight twins were "released" to go to a mystical "Elsewhere."
Each December all the children advanced into the next age group. At the Ceremony for the Ones, the healthy babies born during the year were assigned to selected families. Jonas, one of the Elevens, still remembered when his sister Lily was a One and came to live in his family. This December, she would become an Eight and receive her first voluntary service assignment. On the same day, all the Nines would get their first bicycle, and the Tens would get special haircuts. The new Elevens would soon have to take daily pills to quench the strange "stirrings" that came with puberty.
Each group of children--up to Twelve--learned to follow the rules for their age, succeed in school, complete their service assignments, and share their dreams and feelings with their designated family Sometimes Jonas preferred to hide his feelings, but that was against the rules.
As they neared December once again, Jonas and the other "young adults" waited anxiously for the Ceremony for the Twelves. This year, they would receive their permanent Assignments--their place to work during their productive years. These Assignments were chosen by the Committee of Elders who had been observing every child.
Jonas, who had intuitive power to "see beyond," was chosen to be the Receiver of Memories - the one who would know the past. The former Receiver, who now became the Giver, would place his hands on Jonas' back and psychically transfer all past experiences and distant memories to the boy. Eventually, Jonas would become the community's source of wise counsel and secret wisdom - like a tribal shaman.
Laura and her classmates listened, imagined, absorbed, and pondered. Sometimes Laura felt uncomfortable--as when Jonas had to bathe a frail, slippery Old woman during his volunteer hours at the House of the Old. But the worst part came when Jonas' father, a Nurturer, had to "release" the smaller of two newborn twins.
As the teacher read from the book, Laura pictured the scene she heard: Jonas and the Giver were watching the Release on a video screen. They saw a small windowless room with a table and scale--the same room Jonas had seen during his service work at the Nurturing Center. "It's just an ordinary room," he said to the Giver. "I thought maybe they'd have it in the Auditorium, so that everybody could come. All the Old go to Ceremonies of Release. But I suppose that when it's just a newborn, they don't...."
Suddenly, Jonas saw his father enter the room with a tiny newchild. He put it on the scale and noted the weight. "...you're only five pounds ten ounces," he said, "A shrimp!"
A shrimp? Laura could identify with the tiny infant. She, too, was a low-birth-weight twin. Feeling shaky, she listened closely as the teacher continued to read:
His father turned and opened the cupboard. He took out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe.... [Then he directed] the needle into the top of newchild's forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly.
"Shhh," the Giver said sharply.
His father... pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty....
As Jonas continued to watch, the newchild no longer crying moved his arms and legs in a a jerking motion. Then he went limp. His head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still...
His father tidied the room. Then he picked up a small carton that lay waiting on the floor, set it on the bed, and lifted the limp body into it.... He opened a small door in the wall... It seemed to be the same sort of chute into which trash was deposited at school.
His father loaded the carton containing the body into the chute and gave it a shove. "Bye-bye, little guy," Jonas heard his father say before he left the room. Then the screen went blank.2
Stunned, Laura stared at her teacher. Would they really kill a baby if it didn't weigh enough? The horrible image of the tiny infant, murdered and thrown down a chute like a piece of garbage made her sick. Her thoughts raced on. How could the kind Nurturer kill it! What if it had been her! She was just as tiny when she was born. And she already been thinking about death. Only weeks ago, her own grandmother had died.
She rushed home from school and burst into the house. "Mom, Mom," she cried, "Guess what my teacher read today!" She poured out her story, while her mother, Elaine Rathmann, listened quietly.
The next day, Mrs. Rathmann, a member of the local school board, visited the school. When she suggested that The Giver might be inappropriate reading for fourth-graders, the principal indicated his reluctance to "stifle academic freedom".
Next, she told the teacher how the book had affected her daughter.
"But I didn't tell the class what I believed," he answered. "I let them come to their own conclusion. My children know fiction from nonfiction."
But that doesn't matter, thought Mrs. Rathmann. Sometimes an exciting story can transmit horrible images and socialistic messages more easily than a history lesson.
I actually do not believe in censorship except for children in school where they should be introduced to only the best in literature. What they read at home is between them and their parents.
Sometimes I actually get optimistic and believe "Yes we can"...that perhaps we could actually give our children what they come to school to become, civilized citizens both culturally and functionally literate...perhaps God help us, encouraged to produce with excellence. They would have an understanding of the world around them and their place in it. They would respect themselves and others. That should be our goal as citizens in this community.
But it won't happen continuing as we are with those who have produced the problem providing another expensive excuse/remedy and being rewarded for it by well-meaning citizens with the injection of more money on a failed ideology merely perpetuating the problem.
Copyright 1996 These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you. The errors are my own. But, perhaps they will give you a starting point. All original writing is copyrighted. Webmaster
Copyright 1996 These are my own working genealogy files that I share with you. The errors are my own. But, perhaps they will give you a starting point. All original writing is copyrighted. Webmaster