Friday, March 14, 2008

Thoughts From A Near Teacher

I've been having an ongoing e-mail dialogue with my buddy N. Our friendship dates back to the early 1980's, a long time when one considers my youthful age of thirty. N began his collegiate career with the intention of becoming a teacher; I started out to become a Youth Pastor. He works in banking, I teach.

He asked: Do you really think the public school system can be changed from the inside-out?

My answer: Yes, but it will take the teachers and students to revolt. I really mean this. For the public schools to change, it will take the students demanding a better product and the teachers refusing to follow the status quo dictated by politicians.

In referencing one of the Obama speeches, he adds: The speech begs one question of his massive assumption - do parents today really know what it means to be a parent? And - do parents really care about what their kid does in school or do they mostly send them because they know the kid has to go?

My answer: I don't think parents really know what it means to be a parent. We are a child centered world which indulges our youth instead of teaching them the importance of self-reliance--Emerson would be furious.

But both of these questions are far too broad. In general, parents do well at validating the educational process. Yet, we still have too many students neglected by both poverty stricken parents and lavishly wealthy parents.

For public education to flourish, we must recognize when our students need more than an academic education. To assist us, the politicians who dole out money to public shools must change their paradigm. Instead of giving equally to all, the government ought to recognize that some need more than others--and not just financially. Part of being responsible with public funds should mean teaching the parents the necessary skills to help their children.

To get a driver's license, we take a mandated course. To become a parent, a much more dangerous venture, society requires nothing.
He closed with: When you have a sense of entitlement towards education, which a majority of students have today, there is no drive to stand out, let alone achieve the minimum. There's no respect in the prison for the jailkeeper unless he (or she) throws the prisoners a bone now and then. That's what it seems to me that you are describing in some of your posts. Kids that are doing what they have to because there are no other options to school (the prison). To many of them, you're the jailkeeper. Though, its not really you...its big government.

My answer: Well, there's no question so it is simply to agree in principle. I need to consider the prison concept a bit further.


At 1:16 PM , Blogger Mr. B-G said...

Hi Mr. McNamar,

Thanks for the engaging posts. Do you think you'll stay at your current school next year? Are you looking for someplace new? I teach in Western Massachusetts, probably not too far from where you are in Connecticut.

I am tagging you with a meme. Check it out on my blog.


Mr. B-G

At 4:33 AM , Blogger Miss Profe said...

I agree with your comment re: parenting. Ineffectual parenting knows no boundaries w/r/t socioeconomic status. As a teacher at an independent school, I see many examples of neglect on the part of well-do-parents. I also agree w/r/t your comment re: the child-centered society in which we live. Parents are afraid of their children, and teachers are afraid of the students.

W/R/T the prison analogy: That's not how I see school. Perhaps that's how students see it, especially if they have been lavished with the idea that it's all about them. Students form an integral part of the process, but, it's not all about them. In other words, I don't teach per their demands; I teach what they need to know and be able to do.

At 4:58 AM , Blogger Peter Thies said...

1) God forbid government ever gets involved in "licensing" becoming a parent.

2) Teachers only before afraid of students when their authority to discipline and remove students is taken away from them. Without authority, how do you deal with a student like this?

At 5:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "For public education to flourish, we must recognize when our students need more than an academic education"

Let's focus on the children getting an academic education FIRST. That needs to be taken care of first, before anything else.

I think it might be more productive to have the schools teach the children and the parents parent the children.

Many children, especially the bright ones, are ignored throughout the school day/year. The concept the school seems to have is that they are too busy with character education, self esteem, other non academic issues to actually involve themselves in having enough material and at a fast enough pace to effectively teach the bright kids.


At 9:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, sure. The employees of a public monopoly are going to revolt against those who pay their compensation. That isn't likely to happen. And the students revolt? I won't hold my breath.

Those who control the purse control the institution. If you want to get away from government intrusion into education, then don't take money from the government.

At 2:51 PM , Anonymous Joe said...

“Do you really think the public school system can be changed from the inside-out?”
There IS no public school system. American public schools are decentralized and locally controlled. There are as many systems as there are districts and there are great differences among schools within those districts. There are certain general traditions we follow in American schools, but they are far from systematized.
It is a waste of energy to think about fixing a system, from the inside or the outside, where no system exists. We CAN modify funding formats where they are in need. We CAN create and enforce systems of discipline, by creating a consensus among interested parties in the community. We CAN work from within to change attitudes within a school over time.
“Do parents today really know what it means to be a parent?”
Parents are no worse or better than they ever were and have about the same amount of influence over their kids as they ever did—which is a lot in some cases, some in most cases and little or none in the remaining cases.
To ask that question is to look for someone to blame—which people love to do (as witness the comments to this posting) but which accomplishes nothing but to create rifts where we need bridges.

I’m not sure where to begin with the entitlement/jail bit. It is disrespectful to everybody. It dehumanizes students—lumping them all together as “entitled” and suggesting they all see school as a prison. Such generalizations create hypothetical problems for which there are no solutions. There ARE solutions for real problems in real schools, and there are numerous examples of places where a few knowledgeable, hardworking individuals have completely redeemed unhealthy school situations.
On the other hand, poor administrators, disheartened teachers, disenfranchised students and detached parents, can turn any school into a hell.


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