December 14, 2010

School reform made realistic

On long drives, Joe and I always seem to end up talking about where the actual problem lies with the American school system and how it could be effectively fixed.  What is the problem?  Is the lack of arts good or bad?  Would more money really fix whatever it is that's broken?  Is it the parents?  The students?  The Ritalin generation?  The politicians?  While I've never claimed to have any of the answers, when it's just Joe and I we play a mean game of hard ball on the issues, solving all the world's problems one road trip at a time.

I sat on this post for quite some time, not wanting to sound too serious about education or offend those who partake thereof.  But I just can't help myself any longer.  I had an experience in our local elementary school recently that made all the car talk we've done on the topic seem like useless chatter.  It was as if we had been discussing MRIs and CAT scans when the issue was a mere splinter. 

Haven was being tested to see if he qualified to get into Hunter's speech therapy program at the elementary school, so Hunter and I had an hour or two to kill just loitering around the building.  While we were wandering the halls, peeking into classrooms and such, we noticed a poster for the book fair which was being held at that very moment in the library.  Yay!!!  Something to do with our time!  We asked a woman where the library was and made ourselves at home.  There was a class in there when we arrived, and they remained there for the entirety of our stay, which ended up being about a half hour.  We stayed for so long because it was hard to pull myself away from the car wreck that was before me.

Maybe I'm being over critical here, or maybe this was an unusual occurrence, but the teacher was playing a game with the kids called "would you rather" from a book by the same title.  She asked the class, "Who wants the next one.  Okay, Mike.  Would you rather sneeze through your butt or fart through your mouth?"  Seriously.  I cannot make stuff like this up.  It continued like this for what seemed like forever.  Gross out questions mixed in with sexist comments from the teacher.  In the end there was a half hour spent on who did or did not want to eat an armpit hair, drink vomit, lick a hairy back, etc. 

So does it really matter if we cut the arts to put more time and money on the three r's, if we lobby for longer school days, if we hire or fire younger or older teachers when it's considered okay to spend who knows how long (they were there before I got there and after I left) on gross out humor?  Sure it has its place, like on road trips and camp outs, but does it have a place in the school day?  Would the answer be different if our students were excelling?  Do the countries whose students outrank ours have teacher sponsored fart humor hour?  I can't confirm, but I have a hunch.

All the talk about budgets and quality teachers fell by the wayside and all I could think of was how much more prepared our kids would be for what comes next if school time was spent learning.  Not that they can't have fun or have to be serious.  We laugh all day, but we do it while we're learning about the world in a fun way.  Where does this library time fit in to our plan for enriching the school environment to nurture little independent thinkers and community members?  I've tried to think of a positive spin on what happened in the library that day, but I haven't come up with one.  Sure maybe a kid who hates school will have fun during library time, but the problem of a kid who hates school still isn't fixed.  We haven't made learning fun for her.  We've just given her a break from the boring learning for some lowest common denominator humor. 

Okay.  I've made myself sound like a total bore.  I laugh.  I promise I laugh a lot.  And I want kids to laugh in school.  But I don't want that much time to be eaten up with nonsense that in no way ties into anything that resembles enrichment.  Ya know?  So I think if we started by properly utilizing the time that kids already spend in school we'd not have to spend so much time trying to figure out how to suck more money out of the overburdened tax payer.  We could just sit back and watch our kids get brighter.  But that's just my 2 cents.

Haven got into the speech program, by the way, and loves it!  And they never have library time *wink*

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