Learn Me a Book

I anticipate this will be a long one.  I have a few issues to address.

So, as a lot of you know, I turned 26 about a week and a half ago.  For a long time (about 6 or 7 years now, I guess), I’ve often wondered at what point a person feels like a grown-up.  I’ve yet to come to a conclusive answer.  I thought that maybe it would be when I moved out of my parents’ house.  Nope.  Maybe when I graduated from college?  Well, I haven’t done that one yet, so bad example.  Okay, okay, surely, when I got engaged.  Nope.  Alright, then, parenthood.  Surely, if anything, parenthood.  After all, that’s a pretty big milestone.  Proof positive that I am no longer the latest iteration.  Well, I’m here to tell ya, while it goes a long way, it’s still not that magical defining moment that I always thought it would be, but I suppose it’s the closest I’ve come so far.

Although, it does sort of divide time.  Like, you’ve got your life BC (Before Children) and your life AC (After Children).  And it changes your perspective on a lot of “pet” subjects.  Like today’s topic: Education and Schools.

Education has always been a very important subject for me.  Even when I was still in school, I knew it was of drastic and vital importance not only to me and my future, but to society as a whole.  And it is.  Our whole groundwork as a nation relies on a functioning educational system to produce literate, reasonably informed citizens which is why I am constantly amazed that funding (on any level, be it federal, state, or local) for education is ever cut.  It also baffles me that teaching is the only profession where a first year novice is expected to perform at the same level as a 30-year master without the benefit of a mentoring program (think of the residency requirements for new doctors).  Also, teachers have one of the hardest and most important jobs in the world, and yet are drastically underpaid.  Seriously, garbage men get paid more than teachers.  Not to disparage garbage men, but just as an interesting comparison.

So, we’ve got this public education system going, inadequately staffed by underpaid, undervalued professionals who (for the most part) try very hard to do their jobs properly, but are constantly having their resources cut and their authority undermined while still being expected to perform at the same level as before as indicated by arbitrary statistics and “standardized” tests that are administered every year (cutting into otherwise useful and valuable class time). So of course there is an inclination to “teach to the test”, as it were.  Which is to say that teachers are “encouraged” to teach their students how to pass these multiple choice tests as opposed to teaching them something useful, like, I don’t know, critical thinking or the usefulness of proper and precise communication skills (like how “lol” is not actually punctuation).  It really is quite absurd.  And yet, we’re more concerned about economic stimulus packages or — when you get right down to it — the millionth season (or whatever we’re up to) of Survivor.

I guess the main problem that I have is that I love the idea of public school.  Why is this a problem, you ask?  I’ll tell you why.  Because public school was not designed with people like me in mind.  And this is where I toot my own horn for a bit.  I have absurdly smart parents.  They somehow found each other, married, and had absurdly smart children.  And then they put these children in public school.  And that’s fine.  Like I said, I love the idea of public school.  And we were very fortunate in the fact that we lived in a very good school district, with good schools, good teachers, adequate funding, and lots of attention.  Awesome.  Except that public schools, in an effort to reach even the lowest common denominator of student, tend to neglect the gifted students.  A case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, I’m sure.  And sure, I understand.  Everyone deserves an adequate education.  And what I got was certainly adequate.  But it wasn’t what I really needed.  I remember being quite bored in school a fair amount of the time, and, as a result, I didn’t really care to try very hard.  I was already doing about as well as anyone else, and, after all, you can’t score better than perfect on a test, anyway, so why bother?  As I got a little older, I was offered slightly more challenging classes, and I took them almost every chance I got, and I still wasn’t terribly impressed.  I got lazy, I took my brain for granted, and I never learned how to properly study or try, so by the time I got to my sophomore and junior years of high school and I actually could take classes that challenged me, it was too late.  I had almost none of the skills I needed to succeed.

So, I wonder.  What does this mean for my kids?  They’ll almost certainly be wildly intelligent (a reasonable assumption, I think).  They’ll need to go to school, and I doubt we’ll either want or be able to send them to a private school.  I don’t feel particularly qualified to homeschool them adequately by myself, and the homeschooling co-op programs are almost exclusively religious in nature (especially here in the South).  And that’s not to say that I intend to raise them devoid of religious knowledge, I just want a clear separation for these types of things.  So, we’re left with public school and all of its problems.

Thankfully, this is not a decision that I have to make right away.  The kids aren’t even born yet, and Kindergarten doesn’t start until they’re 5 years old, anyway.  Maybe politicians will realize that their interference in the education of other people’s children is not needed or wanted between now and then.  Maybe, one day, public schools will receive adequate funding so that vital programs such as art, music, and various extracurricular activities aren’t cut out so schools can afford basic things like nutritious lunches and, you know, textbooks.  Maybe knowledgeable people will continue to point out what’s wrong with the system, and other people will listen, care, and implement change.  Maybe the system will be adapted to accommodate gifted children as well as those who are struggling or have special needs.

These would be great changes, but I’m not holding my breath.

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