Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Silly, and Stupid Practices in K-12

Seriously, Do They Still Do That? Things in K-12 That Really Need to Go
Since I haven't really been directly in touch with K-12 schools since I graduated high school in 2001, I don't know how common the following practices still are in St. Paul and Minneapolis but they are probably are all in use somewhere. I also attended elementary school in 3 different states, and 4 different schools- Preschool & Kindergarten in Lewiston, Idaho, Grades 1 & 2 in Topeka, Kansas, and 3rd-7th in Dubuque, Iowa (at 3 different schools) and high school at a regular one for 3 years, and a charter school for 2 in St. Paul, Minnesota. So my experiences vary broadly.
This is listed in order of what I think of, not by priority-
  • School Fund-raisers for Kids- all those programs (usually presented by private companies who get a cut) where the students are pressured to sell junk food, holiday d├ęcor or other stuff no-one really wants but is guilt-tripped into buying. My parents didn't allow me to
    In reality, these as well as Girl Scout cookies and such, fall on the shoulders of the parents. They take the order forms into work and annoy their friends and co-workers. Then the kids get prizes or badges for being the best salespeople, when actually their parents are just the best wheedlers or social networkers. Though I suppose that is a good sociology lesson about privilege vs. actual truly competitive capitalism. And of course the families or neighborhood schools with more money can contribute more to this, leading to even more inequality. Which leads me to-
  • Funding Schools with Property Taxes Yes, I know. It's Always Been Done This Way. Tradition! Every five years or so there is a referendum in St. Paul to raise property taxes, and like a good liberal I vote for it, in spite of the fact that I don't pay them. Because somehow, everyone has the money for this, right? Even all those seniors on fixed incomes, or all those people who lost their jobs? I am not expecting the state or the Feds to totally pay for public education. What I think should be done is these larger forms of government need to make up the different between Edina and Minneapolis or Minnesota and Mississippi and maybe even give poorer areas more money. I know this is done to some degree but it needs to be done more- go read Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities to see what I mean. But this is socialism! Paying for Their Kids is Their Personal Responsibility. By that logic childless people or empty-nesters shouldn't have to pay for it (though some of them might in favor of that) Children are primarily the responsibility of their parents, but these kids are our neighbors, our relatives, and our future fellow citizens, employees and business owners. They affect you even if the live at the other end of the country, heck even if they live in another country. Oh, yeah and the ones who will support you in your later years, even if they're not your kids. So be nice, or they might not be so forgiving if they know you didn't help them when they needed you the most.
  • Pull-out/”Supplementary” Gifted and Talented Programs- this is really a cheap and token sop towards highly intelligent students and their parents. I could say the same of many pull-out programs as a whole. But what G & T students really need is accelerated curriculum, so they can have schoolwork that challenges their minds, rather than being bored most of the day, and having one hour with some special activity. Many of these students are underachievers, and thus are never identified, because they are so bored with the regular classes that they do not pay attention or make an effort. Many of them also have different learning styles like AD/HD, dyslexia and autism. As a result of all these problems many highly intelligent and talented people in our society end up under-employed. What a waste!

  • Cursive Hand-writing- I was talking with a teacher a while back and she mentioned that they still teach this. What?! Why don't they teach 1950's style shorthand while they're at it? We do have a modern version of short hand that is used online and in texting.c. At any rate, I remember she defended it by saying that students need to have their own unique signatures so they can't be forged. All a signature requires is bad hand-writing which all these kids have anyway. And these days, things are moving more towards fingerprint, retina scans, and pretty soon we'll all have our own QVC codes. We do still need to learn to print well for writing notes, filling out forms, etc. Instead of wasting time on this, let's teach them to print legibly and learn that how to write and speak academically and professionally vs. the latest online/texting lingo. I feel bad for all the immigrants who are trying to learn English.
  • Pep Rallies: Or I, the Principal, Dub thee Sir Football Captain
    This is another weird holdover from the 1950's held to supposedly promote “school spirit” consisting mostly of worshiping sports teams. Assemblies are a more logical event to be holding for relevant information/news to students and staff. Sometimes they are also held in response or to commemorate some occasion or current event- like the latest school shooting. So, about once a month. 
  • Amusingly, some workplaces (particularly retail) have pep rallies for their employees. At my company we have a morning “rally” and at Jo-Ann's we had “team huddles” Extra funny for workplaces mostly consisting of women. At Wal-Mart I have heard they actually do cheers. So it is great preparation for the "real world" after all! 
  • Bullying, and Anti-Bullying Programs that are also a joke. When the anti-bullying movement arose, I remember thinking resentfully thinking, oh sure now they're doing something about it. Some spiteful part of me thought if I went thru it they should too, and maybe “kids these days” are just wimpier but then I realized how unfair that was, and this has become so normalized in our culture that we just consider it a regular part of childhood. Many conservatives are getting mad about the whole thing, suspecting that it's really a part of this evil Liberal Pro-Gay Anti-Christian conspiracy. They are right, in part about the pro-gay thing, but aside from that I really think it's based on a masculine might makes right, suck it up and deal with it, worldview. A stink is also made about how it's really the parents' responsibility to teach their kids good values . I agree with this, but even parents who try their best can end up with brats and serial killers, and awful abusive parents can end up with Nobel Peace Prize winners. Once again, the schools have to deal with it, regardless of what the parents do. To be continued...
  • The Whole Concept of Junior High/Middle School I never understood the point of having a school that only lasts for 2 or maybe 3 years (No, I don't mean community college) While I'm in general opposed to gender-segregated education, I think this age group would actually be a good exception. Face it- puberty sucks. Girls go thru it first, and are noticeably socially and emotionally more mature than boys, even when the boys are getting thru puberty. 6th-9th grade at the broadest. It's possible this may exacerbate bullying, however, since most bullying in my experience happens among the same gender. Oh, and around this age, please get them vaccinated for HPV- both Susie and Billy. This, and comprehensive sex ed in general, do not encourage kids to have sex. It teaches them the risks and avoids the forbidden fruit phenomenon that results in rebellion and exploring without knowing how to protect themselves. Even if they are pure virgins at the altar, hubby or wifey may have an unpleasant surprise from a previous relationship, or cheat on you. STI/STD tests are always a good idea before you start having sex with someone.
  • History Classes that are all about Wars- and White Guys I find history, both American and globally to be fascinating, but particularly in junior high it was all about wars. In our culture, they are supposed to be fun spectator sports, complete with chest-beating tribalism, but I just found them boring. Civil War. World War II. Revolutionary War. Yeah, I get the idea. Funny, thing too, they never teach about the ones that we lost. History curriculum has become increasingly multicultural, but at least in my experience, it was often a token inset, or Black History Month- generally about the same people- MLK, George Washington Carver.

  • Over-Priced Yearbooks/Class Rings Jostens is an evil company that has a monopoly on yearbooks and class rings. I don't know if they make ones for colleges, but I wouldn't be surprised. It is actually not that hard to produce your own book at an office supply/printing store like Staples, Office Max or FedEx Kinko's, or online print on demand companies. Those rings are just plain tacky- they look like something a pimp would wear (at least the men's) Then, sometime after you graduate- No One Cares. You don't care. And the ring ends up in some drawer gathering dust. Save your money for interview/work clothes, college tuition and moving expenses.

That's all I have for now- end rant!