Wednesday, November 11, 2009

These people are responsible for "educating"?

On my way to the library today to get some more reserach done, I heard on the news that a school in North Carolina held a fundraiser where students could "purchase" points to use on a test. So, if a student had $20, he could then acquire points to use on an exam on which he did poorly. As an educator, I was not surprised by this but only shook my head in dismay that not only are we educating young skulls full of mush that buying grades is OK, but that studying and vigilance in the classroom is really not worth the time nor the effort. Fortunately, that decision was rescinded by the school board of that particular district. It just goes to show that in the war against ignorance, not only parents and students have given up, but also entire districts. Is it a wonder that the teaching profession is one of the most stressful professions along with being one of the worst compensated? Is it a wonder that the average life of a teacher is now five years? Is it a wonder that so many districts are hamstrung to find teachers and so close programs?

I've been in education for a long time now (over 10 years). I am currently on hiatus but I am more and more hesitant to go back. I know that I am good at what I do and that I love to teach. But reading about incidents like this make me want to seriously reconsider. Itis just another proverbial nail in the equally proverbial coffin. Why should I go back to try and educate students? A great many of them do not want to learn. Those that do are equally frustrated that teachers have to spend 80% of their time dealing with discipline issues that a fraction of the class dishes out day in and day out. And even those students that aren't discipline problems, most of them just want to learn the bare minimum so they can get their grade for the sake of their transcripts and get out. No one wants to be a life learner anymore. No one wants to learn for the sake of learning. Students frequently complain that they are never going to use "such and such" information in their lives. No, you probably won't need to know the significance of the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 to land that mareketing job at a Fortune 500 company. Who came up with the idea that education had only to be practical for your job? It certainly is a modern innovation. At the same time, I believe that those students who only learn for the sake of their job make their life their job and are very empty people. These are the same people who might see a wonder of architecture and art, read a fantastic work of literature and have only the insight of "It was OK."

But getting back to the issue at hand, it can be no small wonder that kids today are very unenthusiastic about education. The school districts themselves are enabling this whole attitude. It's not about what kind of education standards the district has and expects its students to meet and surpass, it's about facilities and money. The superintendent of the school district I was recently part of loved to boast of what great facilities we have such as a new football stadium, new track, excellent grounds, a weight room that rivalled a lot of gyms, etc. Assemblies to celebrate accomplishments in athletics were routine. Sure, we had great students and I was very fortunate to teach a lot of them who will go on to do very great things. But that was always put on the backburner for those things which could make money, i.e. sporting events.

It is pretty sad that everything is now about money even in education. And it's not just at the secondary level, it's happening at the college level. Schools are becoming businesses rather than educational institutions. And with the education that we are giving, we are giving less and less at the secondary level. Students do not understand basic principles of writing, sentence structure or even what a direct object is! It really is quite frightening. But as long as the school is well funded especially for sports activities, then it's all good. I have a feeling that if I were to do an advanced search that I would find that this one school district is probably not alone in such an asinine proposal.

If, however, the proposal was about increasing test scores as well, here's a novel idea. Whenever I gave students an exam, regardless of what grade they earned, if they corrected their exam, I would give them 1/2 point back for each thing missed. However, this option would only be available for those who actually did homework and came to class. And it worked well, at least for those who did it. I don't believe in extra credit--I figure that if you cannot do the work I assign, why should I give you something extra to do? Why not have students actually earn their grades? I've seen teachers give students extra credit for sharpening pencils! So, really, I'm not surprised by the initial action of this school district in North Carolina. I'm glad, however, that they came to their senses, eventually. But, I foresee that nothing is going to stop the open buying and selling of grades in classrooms. Why learn anything at all? Why even have school? I frequently remarked at my last school that for many things I was required to do was nothing more than babysitting...and babysitters make more money than I doing this!

How sad!

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