What happened – what is happening?


As I was listening to Michael  Krasney today (who I thoroughly enjoy!) I reached a point at which I had to turn off the radio.  The whining was beyond unpleasant (not from Michael or his guests – his callers and people who typed in comments) and reminded me, sadly enough, of the parents at the end of “Waiting for Superman”.  The scene where parents were resigned to the fact that their kids would not get to attend a charter school and so all was lost, or at least that is what Jeffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee would have us believe.

The reality of education is not monetary……..or not in the way the misconception holds.  I decided to debunk some misconceptions brought up by parents today as I can not believe adults still believe it is the school (albeit the teachers) who are the root of the problem attached to the tree of education.

First of all, I am curious how many of the people who either called in or wrote in a comment EVER managed to attend multiple school board meetings in SFUSD as the school selection process was neither created in a vacum or in secret.  I live across the bay and read the accounting of what went on in the meetings.  There was rarely a ‘sold out’ audience. If people fail to be involved in their representative government, they can not be represented and it is very difficult to blame people whom are attempting to do the right thing – whether or not you agree. Not showing up to school board meetings is a decision/choice and all choices have consequenecs – unintended and otherwise.

The folks in “Waiting for Superman” made the same poor choice for the same reasons – they were busy, they had too many kids, they had to work hard, etc.

Interestingly, no one happened to state, “Well, we thought about having children but realized we did not have the finances or time to make sure each child obtained a great education, so we did not have children.”  If anything, it was the opposite – we have four kids and surely we can’t afford private school for all of them. Might this family have been able to afford private school for one?  This is the same concept people wrestle with in third world countries – have the number of children who can obtain an education or there will not be progress.

About 5 -10% of comments and people who called in indicated people who volunteer in their local school.  Considering the unemployment or underemployment rate, we should have parents lining up out the door to volunteer at school.  There should be so many volunteers that actual progress could be made.

One parent commented on the difficulty of volunteering at the middle school level. I can assure you (most of my teaching career was middle school) myself and other teachers at this grade level would have sold a portion of our pension to have volunteers. Instead I would say there was a collective of 5-10 really involved parents and the rest were vapors that would show up occassionally under duress.  The parents I usually dealt with when problems arose for their child were those who could not understand why their child was not doing well and never grasped the disconnect related to their involvement at the school.

One parent complained about activities for kids in the city. Interestingly, I grew up in a small suburb in Southern California and by golly we always had tons of things to do. One night a week was library night, one was Girl Scouts, we had volunteering to do, a garden to maintain (along with pets), chores, homework….by the weekend, my parents figured out how to take us for a walk at a college campus (we had to drive to them), museums (we had to drive to them), art galleries (we had to drive) and all other local cultural events.  We actually needed vacation from all of this. Almost everything was free or low cost.  The big treat was when my parents would buy tickets to plays/musicals/dance performances for a matinee show.   Considering everything in San Francisco and how accessible it is, I was horrified to hear a parent state there is nothing for children.  It takes real effort to be that vacuous.

Money – anyone who thinks education is expensive merely misunderstands (but is starting to learn) the cost of ignorance.  I encourage parents to find out how much their school spends annually for new textbooks – why? Algebra has not changed in, well forever, but books which are not taken care of become destroyed and new ones must be bought.    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2741677/posts    And even unused books cost money.  Students write in/on their books. Parents should be ashamed to raise children who do such things. Books need to be treated with reverance.  School furniture is ruined as many parents (not all) believe children should be allowed to act any old way at school – writing/carving on chairs and desks, destroying school property (‘decorating’ bathrooms), grafitti, etc.  Apparently something happened in the last 20 years where the barnyard animal gene kicked in.  Again, cleaning, repairing and replacing all of these capital assets is costly beyond imagination. There would be tons of money saved if schools did not need to replace everything all the time.

Behavior, behavior, behavior ( the school equivalent of location, location, location) and parenting:  I have indicated on many occassions in blogs that parenting would make it possible for students to learn. I still hold firm to this concept. Having taught in a hut and wrote in the sand (Peace Corps), learning can really take place anywhere.  The difference is the children in my village wanted to learn, had a desire to learn and there were very real ramifications for disruptive, inappropriate behavior at school.   In schools today, parents are so concerned about their childs self esteem they completely forgot to impart any moral code whatsoever. The ‘not so good’ schools are filled with almost feral children who are difficult to educate – for a variety of reasons: (1) no food – went to bed hungry, came to school to eat a sugary breakfast provided by the school (2) too noisy – TV, guns, cars, loud music, crazy people – student could not do homework/study and/or sleep (3) clothing – have limited clothing, don’t have access to keeping it clean, shoes too small or falling apart, child too cold, too hot (4) parents drugged out/strung out (5) children raising their baby brothers and sisters because their parents won’t (6) being learning disabled due to fetal alcohol syndrome, not growing up in a nurturing environment (7) ESL. The list could go on and on and on. The real problem is that it is difficult to educate children who lack basic skills, have health issues and there is no one at home to provide support, compassion, a spine and integrity.

No matter how one ‘integrates’ a school, without decent parenting and parental involvement, at the end of the day the teachers and rest of the school staff are fried and no amount of money can overcome exhaustion.

The huge lesson I took away from Dr. Krasney and his guests today was not abject despair at SFUSD and raising a child in San Francisco, it was the absolute inability of adults to expect something of themselves and make change.   I was raised that you could only complain (whine) if you came up with at least one potential solution to the problem. It seems San Francisco just needs cheese to add to the ‘whine’ party.

A follow up:   http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/jtaylor/index