The State of our Schools

A conversation in the park:

New acquaintance: “I’d like to talk to you about homeschooling. I’m looking for a new situation for my 8-year-old son.”
Me: “Sure, I’d love to talk to you about it. What’s going on with your son?”
Her: “He started misbehaving in class at the beginning of the year, and we sent him to all kinds of testing to learn what the problem is.”
Me: “Oh? And?”
Her: “They discovered that there is nothing specifically wrong with him. He’s just bored because the class work is too easy.”
Me: “Well, that’s not a bad thing is it? I guess he just needs more challenge.”
Her: “Right. So I started sending him extra, more challenging assignments to complete when he gets done with the class work.”
Me: “Good thinking. And did that help?”
Her: “Well, I don’t know whether it would or not. The teacher wouldn’t let him do the assignments.”
Me: “What??!? Why not? That’s insane!”
Her: “I know. So I took it to the principal. He agreed with the teacher.”
Me: “I don’t understand. What’s the problem?”
Her: “They said it wouldn’t be fair to the other children.”
Me: ?
Her: “Giving him more challenging assignments would provide him with an undue advantage over the others in the classroom.”
Me: !?!

Note: This is a true story.

2 responses to “The State of our Schools

  1. Great post – this is what happens when fear creeps into decisions made by school administrators. But it is not as simple as saying “hey, stop it”.

    1) Parents will have to stop obsessing over whether their child is receiving every single advantage. Notice I didn’t say, stop thinking about ways to improve your child’s life, just quit the obsession. Hint: obsession is always ego based.

    2) Administrators will need to get back to thinking about the kids instead of just their jobs.

    3) School boards will have to, in turn, give administrators more latitude and stop protecting their political careers.

    If these three things start to happen, we may just begin to eradicate these asinine responses to problem solving.

  2. Great response! Thank you. I agree about all of that… but how to get there?

    I have so much admiration for my friends who advocate for their children both inside and outside the public school system, but especially those who are up against this and still looking for ways to give their kids what they need (not necessarily “all the advantages,” but at least enough to meet their individual needs).

    I taught 9th grade when I was young and ambitious. Only for a year because I got so fed up with the system–with administrators who were, as you say, more interested in their careers and their school statistics than the individual children we were trying to serve; and with school boards who were more worried about eking out one more hour of “work” from teachers than in supporting their efforts to make a difference in the lives of children.

    I admire teachers who stick it out and do make a difference under those circumstances. There are good teachers, good administrators, good schools out there. But how do we create a system that rewards & nurtures the goodness and makes the “asinine responses” rarer and rarer?

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