Letter dated August 16, 2013:
With the start of the 2013/2014 school year at its beginning and after attending parent’s night for my oldest daughter, who is entering the middle school level of public school, I decided to write an informal letter for you to read when you are parents, with some observations on the public school system as I currently see them. The school system we are currently attending conducted parent night through a structural format with parents following their child’s schedule to each classroom for a ten minute brief from that classroom’s course instructor.
The first classroom we visited was the social studies course. I believe the majority of American schools alternate between U.S. history (a very narrow curriculum that briefly touched American slavery and Native American genocide and displacement, let alone capitalism, government, foreign policy, territorial expansion and imperialism) and world history. The grade level we are currently entering is world history, and knowing this in advance we have worked hard to cover the globe over the summer. After all, when it boils down to it….this isn’t about letter grades, this is about acquiring truthful knowledge and critical thought for our children.
The social studies teacher at this particular school was a somewhat young, in my opinion, male teacher. I will state here that with the growing trends of teacher misconduct and moral problem in American society that I still support gender segregation in the classroom, but that position has been put forth previously and will be discussed again in the future. My first concern with the first classroom, since history is one of the most vital subjects of required knowledge for our children, was that this teacher was also the football coach, the basketball coach (for both genders) and the track coach. I found myself questioning the level of academic dedication in the field of history that a teacher could give to studebnts while being so active in sports coaching. Since I do not know the man, I will give him the benefit of doubt at this point, because while I am an avid pursuer of historic knowledge, and I am also a sports fan and I also coach my daughter’s recreational sports teams on occasion. This teacher provided a brief background on himself, and with this background (shared by many teachers), I found a problematic trend among educators in the public school system. This teacher of social studies, otherwise known as the very important subject of history, did not have a degree in American or world history. He only possessed a degree in teaching. This realization told me that he was possibly pushing forward a pre-established state curriculum, in effect no different than a politician reading a pre-written speech. This realization solidified my position of the importance of home education in addition to systematic education and public school resources.
Question #1: Should our teachers be required to hold degrees in the areas they are teaching our children? I hold the view that this requirement, in itself, would be a very positive element of education reform.
The second course classroom that we visited was pre-algebra and the teacher was a healthy looking grandmother with three young grandchildren. She also had a teaching degree, but a minor degree in the field of mathematics, and she generally portrayed a passion for mathematics, which I greatly appreciate. The advanced work that my daughter and I have put in over the summer seems to have covered the areas previewed in her curriculum, and I left this course classroom with little concern.
The third course classroom was drama and speech. The teacher for this course was an older male teacher, eccentric in character and obviously by his gait a theatre-actor type. Even though the curriculum of this course was basically a state sponsored acting class, I support the social interaction involved and, as the instructor himself stated, the social interaction building on life skills (even if the topic areas of that interaction are irrelevant, we can work that on our own time). Even though my hopes that the speech portion of this course might contain topics pertinent to society, I could only cede that this course would not hinder or damage the educational process.
The forth class was gym. Again, we find ourselves dealing with a gender integrated gym course with an older female gym teacher and a young male gym teacher. Again, I am not supportive of this structure, especially in the physical education (if it is still called that) arena. I noted that the school gym shorts being sold were too short for young girls who are physically developing into women, but at the current stage of our society I seem to be in the minority group of people holding these views, or even considering the concern. As our children grow up, we must allow them to make certain decisions…but must ensure that our children are fully informed, to the best of our abilities, prior to making those decisions. My daughters, your mother and I have always been upfront and have never candy-coated or hid the ugly realities of the society. When news reports of rape, sexual assault or teacher misconduct have been reported….we have attempted to make you aware of them in order that you may reflect on the dangers in society. At this point in our society, I simply do not see the issue with a slight increase in modest dress for our young women. I left this decision with my daughter and she is considering her options.
The next few courses of classes brought no new concerns. I support the Spanish course with the mentality that a future bi- or multi-lingual generation of Americans can only be beneficial. I had no problems with the science course, as we have long anticipated the periodic chart, or the teacher, an older no-nonsense instructor, other than she had no degrees in science…only teaching. Apparently Pluto is no longer a planet (note how the field of science can change).
The most impressive teacher was the language arts and reading teacher. She informed parents that she had been teaching at the 1st grade level for several years and was making her first jump to the middle school level. Perhaps this organic educational passion she displayed was an eagerness to advance to a new age group of students, but I sincerely hope that her passion burns for a long time. We were lucky enough to draw her for dual classes, language arts and reading. She had me sold as soon as she made the statement that her students would do a book report every two week on exterior books. Not only does this play directly into our home studies, I instantly began envisioning working on our college level citations for each of these book reports.
These were the main observations that I took from parent’s night at the public school system. Since this informal letter is focused on the public school system, I feel compelled to revisit a topic concerning capital, the quality of schools in economically healthy neighborhoods, and the dilapidation and lack of resources for schools in lower economic areas. Why is there a disparity of equality concerning available resources, obtained by capital, between schools in lower economic areas and upper economic areas? I am sure that there are a plethora of reasons that can be put forth, but the most basic and problematic area (based on the current state, county, and city structure that I can theorize on is crime and drugs. We know the government is big business and currently has little concern for our children, and we know the private sector is profit driven; therefore WE, the people, must take responsibility for reform efforts. In capitalist society, the private sector corporations, who practically out-capital the individual business owners and eventually force them out or swallow them, hold the sole motive of accumulating profit. The private sector corporations care for very little else and certainly show little concern for our children outside of opportunities for solid PR campaigns (public relations). At the same time, the public school system draws its majority budget from tax revenues from the state, county, or city. With this being said, a degenerating neighborhood or community that is plagued by violence, drugs, and other negative elements will be held stagnant, or more than likely reduced, in tax revenues due to a lack of investment by the capitalist corporations (caring only for profits) in their avoidance of investments into those neighborhoods, which results in less available jobs, higher unemployment, and less tax revenues for schools. For so many years we have heard empty rhetoric from politicians about rebuilding destroyed cities (and lower economic areas), such as areas of Detroit and Chicago, but these politicians do not control the private corporations. If anything, the private sector corporations own them and their votes. It is vital for our lower economic community members to build their communities by cutting off the drug supply lines (through the reduction and eventual ending of demand), reducing the epidemic of violent crimes (usually young men murdering their peers over reputations or chump change), with the end result aiming for the increase of individual business operations (or corporate job creation) to create jobs, generate stronger revenues for school and community resources, and an overall better living community for the youth. Of course, we must also identify and remove all forms of corruption in the local levels of government. How can we accomplish this? Education is one tool and it is a tool that must be wielded by a parent or a true mentor, not the public school system, and conducted on individual AND community collective levels. How can we make better opportunities for our children, if we do not understand the economic, political, and government structures within the levels and operations of government, the private sector, or the public school system? We must educate ourselves, so we can educate our children. We, especially the lower economic-working class, have to teach our youth that the system is designed for them to fail or fall short. Instead of the tired slogans of “Drugs and violence are bad”, we need to begin teaching our children these economic, political, systematic formulas and how the systems (and the social, economic traps) work….how they impact THEIR individual and community futures….to include the consequences, both individually and community level.