Monday, November 19, 2012


Have you heard the talk?  There's a lot of talk about education -- news alerts  -- the U.S. has dropped to 14th place in the world, and educators are still discussing teachers' strikes, cheating at Harvard, very focused on why kids should (or shouldn't)  bother getting a college education.

Hey, people have been raising kids for about two million years. You'd think by now they'd be sure what to do.  Don't we know, by now, that kids who get good grades do better in life than kids who get bad grades or don't go to school?

Okay, but now there's a trickle of thought that says academic ability may not be what it's cracked up to be.  Also, there is a flood of books on how to fix education in America. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its program for International Student Assessment, that compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the U.S. 14th in reading skills, 17th for science, and way below average -- 25th for mathematics. 

So everyone's reading books, saying teachers gotta do this, schools, parents, and kids gotta do that.

"FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION,"  by Alan M. Blankstein, shows how to avoid ten common routes to failure, how to double the resources, (with case histories, and examples) and suggests how a failing school can become a winning school.
  "WIN,"  by Pamela Grundy, examines the way school sports (starting in North Carolina,) affected industry, women's suffrage, the rise and fall of Jim Crow, and in high school and college -- how athletics has grown into one of America's most beloved and most controversial institutions.

"TEACH YOUR CHILD WELL," by Madeline Levine, is manual on how to restore family sanity -- with less emphasis on grades, more on values, less homework, more sleep, less fretting by parents, and more encouraging the kids, themselves.

'"HOW CHILDREN  SUCCEED," by Paul Tough, stresses resilience, discipline, re-framing the way kids think and react -- it helps kids more than high SATS do.  Rather than so much focus on congnitive skills, Paul Tough suggests grit, (perseverance), is what kids need to be taught, starting in kindergarten.

Okay, so what did you want to be when you were a little tyke?  I remember it was a giant big question on my mind when I was five.  I didn't want to be like Mom -- she spent too much time folding towels, dusting, and checking on the maid, who also did those things that to me seemed boring, useless.  My father was an executive in the children's dress manufacturing business, but he talked about the book he always wanted to write, and the seven wonders of the world  he wanted to see someday.

I knew it was important to decide when you were young and stick to it.  I'd been to Radio City once, I wanted to be a dancer -- not a Rockette -- I wanted to be the lady in a white tutu and pink satin toe shoes.

What do kids today want to be when they grow up? They've got TV and films  -- fancy cars, sexy stuff, and bang-bang weapons -- fantastically exciting murder-death-sex adventures. They've heard quite a bit about terrorism, nuclear disasters, poison in the air, and other worrisome stuff about running out of water, electricity, roads, schools, bridges, banks, debt, and the top guys -- just about everybody and everything is rotten to the core -- nothing and nobody can be trusted.

Be like Mom or Pop? Be what they admire -- be a money maker -- sing, dance, strip, do something crazy and become a celebrity -- shoot basketballs, hit home-runs -- do something no one else can do in sports, the arts, or some money business -- legally or illegally.

What about college? C'mon, it costs a ton of money -- what have you got if you got a degree? A teachers job?  Get on committees and help run the things?  People applaud the do-gooders. but gee -- that's a hard road to hoe -- look what happened to JFK, RFK, MLK.

Am I sorry I didn't go to college?  No, I'm glad -- I learned to teach, run a business, create sets, sew costumes, hire, fire, direct -- I learned more by tackling more opportunities in my work, than I would have, if I'd gone to college.

What I don't hear in the education talk, nowadays, is the searching for something -- going after something you'd like to do -- making, building, growing, or caring for things.

How about teaching kids to look around -- to learn how to win -- how to lose and not be destroyed by what doesn't happen -- how to boogie and learn more -- it's the spice of life.


Billy Ray Chitwood said...

When dealing with our cultural mix in this country, our changing demographies, the secular influences, the whole complex of parenting, we try to fit kids into the system inefficiently. It's quite a conundrum...we've been throwing tax-payer dollars at Education for years with little to show for it. It's past time to try innovative approaches like competitive 'pivate sector' involvement, more charter schools, et al.

That's all I got...

Carola said...

I do think it's good to take a year or two off before one goes to college. People shouldn't go to college until they are ready and really want to - and if there are alternatives (like you found) that is very healthy too.

Poet_Carl_Watts said...

Good article. Great music. It is interesting that I'm working on a series of article on how to be a parent. Keep writing, creating. Humanity needs that!

kitjoegia said...

This article is of particular interest to me as my daughter has just left school after 13 yrs and is awaiting results to enter University.The poor thing says she does not feel equal to her peers as she went to a very competitive school.She has a dream though to become a scriptwriter which I think is brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog today. Lots of info and discussion about kids today and how bad they are doing in our schools. Amazing what they are learning today compared to when I was their age and in school. When I was in kindergarten we napped, ate snacks, and played. Now, they are probably learning to use calculators! Yes, something needs to be done, maybe parents need to do more discipline and gear their children toward higher achievements and grades in school. kam

Anonymous said...

My brother was a teacher in California for 25 years. They got many 15% wage reductions in the last few years, until finally he was laid off.
In Ontario, we have the highest paid teachers, probably in the world. And they want to strike for more money.
The government has had to legislate away their right to strike.
Education is important, whether it's at school, or out in the workforce.
Continuing to learn throughout life keeps people sharp and happy.
I think we're doing ok with reading, writing and arithmatic. Although the sciences are not as well populated as we need them.
Unless people start practicing birth control and bring the population down, it's science that holds the key to humankind's survival.
So the kind of education we're failing at, is recognizing that the earth can only hold a certain number of people comfortably. That is, without paving every last square foot with apartment houses and living off algae based food.
And we need to understand that right now, birth control is a much better choice for controlling population than war.
And we need to teach our children to treat one another like they would like to be treated, and that includes all the other animals on this planet too.
We need to teach our children and practice what we preach, that just because we seem to be 'top dog' at the moment, is no reason to ruin this planet for the rest of the animals and plants who call it home.
Louise Sorensen
louise3anne twitter

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending me the link!

I used to be a teacher, my ex-husband is a teacher, and one of my daughters studied for awhile to become a teacher, (two of us no longer are, do you see a pattern?), so I know that there ARE teachers out there who are inspiring children to be the PERSON they want to BE, instead of just what they want to DO.

Unfortunately, these teachers are often discouraged by administrators who want to see more tangible "results," and yes, many do leave the profession. I remain hopeful though, and know that overall the education in this country isn't usually as bad as the press it gets.

It's hard to be satisfied with the little successes, but sometimes they're all we get.

I look forward to catching up on your blogs!