Posts tagged " school "

Uncovering the School Cover-Up

July 30th, 2020 Posted by Susan's Musings 32 comments

Jason Gay is a talented writer and, despite a general apathy about  the topic, I sometimes do read his sports columns for the Wall Street Journal. His words are clear and witty, unexpectedly enticing me to spend a few minutes on matters of baseball, football and basketball.

Mr. Gay also writes on family issues and while his approach is often comical, a recent article left me more annoyed than amused. He lamented how poorly he was coping with his children  at home and how exhausted both he and his wife are. The idea that schools might not open in the fall loomed as an insurmountable challenge to him.

While I didn’t love the general tone of the piece, what particularly irritated me were two paragraphs in the middle.

“Let’s not ignore the serious problems we’re creating—how these issues with schools are causing learning gaps and putting disadvantaged children at an even greater disadvantage. Children who need extra educational support are in crisis…

‘Meanwhile, privileged families are creating their own little education yurts with tutors and tennis coaches and pastry chefs and widening the chasm between families who can and cannot bathe problems in money.”

Excuse me? Where do I even begin to list the many flaws in this?

Let’s look at his, “serious problems we’re creating.” The fact is, that schools have been creating serious problems for decades now that result in more “disadvantaged children.”

Society has been living a great lie—that the government can replace devoted parents. Do you want to have a child without a spouse? Go ahead! All families are equal. Do you want to invite a rotating cadre of boyfriends to live with you and your children? It will be the school’s job to see that your children are emotionally healthy. Are you an immigrant? The school’s job is to welcome your child but not to integrate him into American life or demand that he or she learn English—after all, every culture is equal and all languages are valuable. Do you tell your children that studying is a waste of time and model poor behavior and decision-making? Not to worry! The school will make your child learn as well as a child whose parents read to him and sit with her at healthy family meals.

We have prioritized imparting social and political views over education. We have treated students as bargaining pawns in union negotiations and destroyed what used to be an admirable public school system that produced literate, responsible and productive graduates no matter the poverty level in their homes. Was it imperfect? Yes. But there was no pretense that schools could and should fill every academic, social, emotional and psychological need.

Certainly, many children with special needs are more impacted by the closing of programs geared specifically to them. However, an incredible number of children who need “extra educational support” need that support because the schools they attend are awful and because we have devalued family and home life. We have pretended that having children is not the awesome blessing and responsibility it is, but rather one of hundreds of  “lifestyle choices.” The closure of schools has shone a light on how we have deemphasized the importance of being a parent and how unskilled even well-educated parents are in their most important task of raising the next generation. It did not create the problem.

I can’t ignore the disparagement of wealth that Jason Gay presents in the second paragraph I quoted. Money does not guarantee raising successful children—if it did, Seattle and Portland would most likely not be the disaster areas they are today. But for every parent who is hiring a pastry chef, thousands more are standing in the kitchen and baking with their children. Many more parents are reading stories and playing games with their children than are hiring private tutors. Not having to scramble to put food on the table so that you can spend time reading and playing games with your children is an advantage to which everyone should aspire rather than one that should be mocked.

“Bathe problems in money”? Really? Is it worthy of derision when parents delay gratification and work hard so that they can take care of their own children rather than expecting their fellow citizens to do so? If Mr. Gay’s children needed medical, educational or psychological help I imagine he would be happy to scrimp and sacrifice and utter prayers of gratitude for a saving account that would allow him not to “bathe” the problem in money but to solve, mitigate and deal with it.

I will still continue to enjoy Mr. Gay’s writing. But this article badly missed the mark.

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The Not-Straight-A Report Card

June 21st, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 2 comments

It is the end of the school year, which means that scores of children are bringing their final report cards home to their parents.  While one hopes that the image of the stern father overlooking the many ‘A’ s while focusing on the lone ‘C’ is apocryphal, there is no denying the myriad subjects in which most students are expected to excel.

Writing in the New York Times, opinion writer Margaret Renkl recently observed, “School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best.”

These are powerful words. As I look back at my elementary and high school classmates, some of the most successful among us were not honor students. Whether we measure success by income, public achievement, community involvement or having happy and fulfilled family lives, some of the best students certainly seem to be successful—but then so do some of the least scholastic. Even if we measure by professional and academic success alone, a classmate who struggled to maintain a barely passing average may very well be at the top of his or her field. After all, you can be a brilliant chemist who has trouble writing a coherent paragraph or a best-selling author who thinks that the San Juan Islands are in Puerto Rico. However, a D in English or geography is not going to give you a superlative report card.

I’m all in favor or getting a broad education. At the same time, let’s remember that school is an artificial environment which shares only a partial resemblance to the rest of life.

Vacuous Vacation or Summer Holiday?

June 3rd, 2019 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Reading Recommendations 8 comments

Marrying a man born and raised in the British Empire, who speaks “authentic” English expanded my vocabulary. While some words, like queue, made it into my daily speech, others, like bonnet for the hood of the car, never did.

But there is one British word that I have gladly adopted and think is much more joyful and suitable than its American counterpart. I love the way that the British go on holiday rather than vacation. After all, vacation focuses on what you are leaving behind. You are vacating work or school or your daily routine. Holiday is full of mystique and charm, focusing on thrilling activities that will take the place of everyday life.

Holidays are distinct from “holy” days, set aside by religious or even civic duty. When Arthur Ransome titled one of his children’s books, Winter Holiday, he wasn’t talking of Christmas, but rather of what Americans might call winter break. Not surprisingly, as a winter holiday it was not used for going to the dentist, watching TV and sleeping late but instead was a period of adventure and excitement for the protagonists of his story. You might sleep away a break but who would so mistreat a holiday?

There is another dimension to this seemingly minor vocabulary difference. When you vacate or take a break from something, there is an implication that it is a burden you are happy to shrug off. In contrast to that, a holiday means that there is a fleeting (after all holidays can’t last forever) opportunity on the calendar. A subtle point, perhaps, but subtleties can have big impact.

So, as students come to the end of their school year, I don’t want to wish them a happy vacation. Anyone with a few unencumbered days should have plans to execute, ideas to implement, and dreams to realize. If imaginations are too shriveled to think beyond the ordinary, I would suggest tossing the electronics and investing in copies of some classic British children’s literature like that of Richmal Crompton, Enid Blyton, E. Nesbit, and of course, Arthur Ransome. Expand your vocabulary as you read them aloud to your children on a blanket at the beach or park. After all, how often do holidays come around?

 

Let Anthropologie Run Local Schools

December 14th, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind No Comment yet

Our local government schools had a late starting time today due to inclement weather. There had to be at least an 1/8 of an inch on our lawn this morning! Here’s an idea. I have no clue what the most popular mall stores are with children and teens, but how about linking school closings to store closings? I’m not the only one who notices that malls are packed on days that schools cancel classes because of weather. If you can get to Nordstrom, you can get to class.

Should I go into massage therapy for my career?

May 14th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I am a seventeen-year-old young man and I am looking towards going into Massage Therapy to, as you surely would put it, “Serve your fellow man and make money in the process.”. I’ve already participated in a class on it and completed the course. Until I can get licensed, I work for tips since I cannot legally ask for money for my work. 

The problem is since listening to one of your podcasts where you talked about dating, courting and marriage, you talked about the power of touch. How dangerous it can be. What are your thoughts on Massage Therapy and would you consider it respectable work? It’s been on my mind that because of the physical contact in Massage, it should perhaps be reserved only within a marriage?

∼ Riley

Answer:

Dear Riley, (more…)

Your answer was off base!

May 5th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question #1:

“I have been receiving your newsletter and watching you on Glenn Beck and listening to your radio Podcasts for quite a while now. I respect you greatly and think that you have a lot of wisdom, however, I was very dismayed at your answer to the young 17-year-old aspiring massage therapist. I’m a massage therapist myself and there are countless ways that you can go into the profession. There are many ways that you can serve in a medical setting rather than in a spa setting. Spa massage IS a luxury and has much less therapeutic value.

(more…)

No snow; no school

December 7th, 2006 Posted by Susan's Musings 1 comment

Our city’s schools had two snow days last week but there were no red cheeked children outside building snowmen, no peals of laughter as sleds raced downhill and no snowballs hurtling through the air. Why not? Well, there was no snow – or nothing more than a dusting on bushes and roofs.

I’m not criticizing the decision to close. Many of the classroom teachers come from a distance, and the areas around us truly were snowed in and roads were treacherous. The school board had no choice but to act as it did. But I couldn’t help recalling a passage from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, These Happy Golden Years, in which she describes a dilemma she faced as a young teacher. When two half-frozen students came three minutes (!!!) late to class after laboriously breaking a path through newly fallen snow, Miss Wilder could see how they had struggled on their mile long hike. But, after all; that didn’t change the fact that they were late! Should she or should she not mark them as tardy?

The very fact that such a question could be asked rings alien to modern ears. Yet that teacher from over a century ago not only asked the question, but answered it by seeing no choice but to truthfully mark the record, while at the same time inviting them to sit close to the stove.

As a mother and grandmother I have no desire to return to the days when a difficult trek to school was not unusual or when classroom heating in the winter was insufficient. But it is a human characteristic to not appreciate what we too easily obtain. And when education was not easily or universally available and sacrifices were demanded of families and children in order to access that education, learning was valued in a way that simply isn’t often found today. In all the (in my opinion) ridiculous discussions of how little we spend on education perhaps we can kill two birds with one stone. Let’s dismiss all custodial staff and have the students mop the floors, clean the bathrooms and take out the trash. We can save dollars and instill appreciation at the same time.

The fact that no one – even I- thinks that this proposal stands a chance of being considered is one piece in a complicated puzzle that explain why most eighth grade graduates of Laura Ingalls Wilders’ days had greater knowledge of history and civics and more developed English and math skills, not to mention greater moral development, than too many college students of today.

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