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Chernynkaya On February - 18 - 2011

I am the product of a California public school education, from the day I entered kindergarten in Los Angeles to the day I graduated high school in 1968. I received a very good education—not a spectacular one, but a really very good one. I wish I had been taught a second language starting in grammar school, and that the curriculum had more science and math classes, but overall, I feel I was educated.

Every semester, there was at least one field trip. We went to museums and to classical concerts. I saw my first opera in the 4th grade: Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” And there was a Glee Club. In elementary school, we had an art teacher and a music teacher. We never had to sell candy door to door to pay for those. I was blessed—and I have to say in my case, it was truly a blessing—to have one great teacher after another. I remember my kindergarten teacher—Mrs. Bebalar, my 5th grade teacher Miss Farmer who invited the class to her wedding, and my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Schultz, who one day expressed her frustration with me and put her face close to mine and asked, “Do you realize what a talented artist you are?” No, I hadn’t, until she put the idea in my head. In Junior High, I had a huge crush on my art teacher, Dael Peralta. She took all the tiny brushes I used to paint with and made me paint with big fat ones to get me out of my too-tight style. She also introduced us to Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, playing their records while we worked. Me and three other students remained friends with her for many years after we’d graduated, eventually all bringing our children to visit her.

In high school, I joined the acting class and was always in the school play. The teacher, Bill Gordon, held acting classes in the summer too, and we would rent a real theater to put on plays. His philosophy was that high school plays should never be those considered to be “appropriate for teenagers,” so we put on plays like Arthur Miller’s “After the Fall.” He worked with each if us on the Stanislavki Method, helping us reach inside ourselves to find the emotions driving the characters. And since this was the 60’s, I once ditched school to attend an anti-war rally in downtown LA. As luck would have it, I was interviewed by the local news station and that night appeared on TV. When I went back to school the next day, everyone—including the principal, had seen my interview. I could have gotten detention for playing hooky but instead, the administration looked the other way and when I went to class, each teacher congratulated me.

My education was far from perfect, and some of the pedagogy of the times didn’t serve me well. For example, it was decided that I was college material. In those days, Junior Highs and High Schools had guidance counselors, and they chose all your classes. Since I was deemed to be headed for college, I was forced to study Latin, while my friends learned Spanish or French. Actually, Spanish was only offered for the “slow” students. Imagine that bit of racism holding up today! Also—and this is something that really irks me to this day—I was not allowed to learn typing. The theory about that was explained to me thusly: “You don’t want to be a secretary do you? Only secretaries need to know how to type.” I understand their impulse, but, HUH? Did they ever consider how much typing would have helped in college?

When my son was ready for school, my husband and I had heard that the schools were not as good as they were when we attended. We lived in the San Fernando Valley, and at that time there was a large influx of kids who spoke only Spanish. Classes were to be taught bi-lingually. We had absolutely no problem with that. However, in Kindergarten, we learned that our son had a slight learning disability based on some issues related to his eyesight. It’s a long and complicated story, but bottom line, he really needed smaller classes. We enrolled him in a private school. But many of his friends were in the public school system and from what I could see, many of the programs that I grew up with were cut and class size was bigger.

I should pause here to talk for a moment about the state of public education in my parents’ time. They went to schools back East, in the 1930’s. And there were many, many immigrants from all over the world in that time and place. In those days, the concept of the “melting pot” was the norm; the notion of the “salad bowl” had yet to be considered. Public schools embraced the melting pot and served as giant cauldrons of assimilation. There were no ESL classes and everyone learned English. But not only English—multiculturalism was unheard of. I see this as a net negative, but I will say this much: kids learned American history (albeit not Howard Zinn’s more authentic variety). There were shared values. I am not romanticizing the good old days—there was PLENTY wrong with segregated schools and with the nativism that was engendered. But I believe that on a purely scholastic level, the public school system was up there with some of the best.

Fast forward twenty years, to when I remarried. My husband has two daughters, and at the time we were married one was in elementary school and the other in Middle School (the new name for Junior High). They attended schools in strictly middle class neighborhoods. (I mention this because, in California at least, schools are funded by property taxes. That funding guarantees that schools in poorer areas will be sub-par, unless they get extra funding. One would assume that in a Middle Class district there would be sufficient property taxes for decent education. In my opinion, that should be illegal and unconstitutional, based on the Equal Protection Clause.) Their education is appalling.

For one thing, the school day is shorter. I went to school from 8am to 3 pm, and the only days off were national holidays. The girls’ school day now ends at two o’clock. There are more holidays, and worse, about a dozen or more “teacher days” each semester during which classes are canceled. My first clue to just how dire the situation was occurred right after I moved in with my new husband. I have shelves and shelves of books and of course a few of them are dictionaries. One day, the older girl (then in Middle school) pointed to the thickest book on the shelf and asked me, “Is this whole book all about random houses?” I’m not kidding—and neither was she. She thought the Random House Dictionary was a book on architecture! Now, of course I blame her parents. My husband especially, because their mother is from a very small farming area in Spain, and doesn’t speak fluent English. But you would think that before she got to Middle School someone would have introduced her to a dictionary. Another time, the daughter in high school asked me (while measuring pancake mix) if 1/3 was smaller or larger than ¼. At the same time, what’s completely mystifying to me is that in elementary school, they have more homework than I did. Hours of work. Yet when I read the assignments I am shocked to see the grammatical errors and poor instructions from the teachers. THEY have received a bad education too. It is really a case of the blind leading the blind.

There are no guidance counselors. In the elementary school there are rarely field trips; these girls have never been to a classical concert. There are no sports teams, no band classes, no art instruction. And the high-schooler had one period a day where she “works” in the office—no teaching. They are not unintelligent—just amazingly uneducated.

I realize that all of this is purely anecdotal, and merely based on my personal observations. As such, it tells us very little about the state of education in the United States. But we have read the statistics:

In the year 2000, there were 76.6 million students enrolled in schools from kindergarten through graduate schools. Of these, only72 percent aged 12 to 17 were judged academically “on track” for their age.

In 2008, there was a 77% graduation rate from high school, below that of most developed countries.

Among the country’s adult population, 27 percent have received a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The 2010 unemployment rate for high school graduates was 10.8%; the rate for college graduates was 4.9%.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_United_States

In math, our 15-year-olds’ scores now lag behind those of 31countries. In science, our eighth graders’ scores now lag behind their peers in eight countries that had also participated in the original assessment. In reading, five countries have improved their performance and surpassed our 4th graders.

http://www2.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/08/08182009.html

The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5juGFSx9LiPaur6eO1KJAypB2ImVQ?docId=CNG.5337504e8f65acf16c57d5cac3cfe339.1c1

One last observation. I went back to school to get my BA when I was 50. I was terrified that I would be unable to compete; that I would find myself too rusty. It only took me about a week to find out how preposterous my fears were. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I was one of the VERY few students who could write a grammatical sentence. Now, I didn’t attend a prestigious university. I went to California State University, Northridge. However, the California State system used to have a reputation for being among the best in the nation. I really hope that is no longer the case, because if so, we are in deep trouble. Most freshmen enrolling need remedial classes in writing and math. There are tests we all were required to take to determine that. Ask any professor there and they will tell you how woefully unprepared students are for university classes.

There are myriad reasons given for the dismal state of education in America: Lack of funding, parental involvement, the expectations of teachers and of society, poor pedagogy, and even anti-intellectualism. I am sure those all play a part, but quite honestly, I am not sure that any of those factors are demonstrably different than they were when I was a kid. Maybe what HAS changed is not anything specifically related to education, per se, but our entire way of life, with the toys and distractions and media noise. And perhaps a loss of hope that a good education will secure for us a better life. If that last thing is true, we are a very unhealthy society. That is some serious pathology.

The implications for the health and welfare of our country are alarming. We see it every day in the news—a downright ignorant electorate.  An electorate with no critical thinking skills, an electorate that reads no news, is an electorate that is fat and ripe for becoming a society of peasants. And by peasants, I am not speaking of some sentimental ideal of salt-of-the-earth primitives who are close to the earth, living in harmony with nature. No, I am talking about the reality of the real peasant life: Crude, boorish and fearfully superstitious. Nativist and racist. Groveling at the feet of their corporate “betters.” And the Right knows this and is at this minute working to dismantle the Department of Education—working as I write this to give total control of our nation’s future to states like Texas, which has literally re-written history texts to conform to Conservative lies. That is the future we face unless we wake up and expend the determination and energy required to turn this around. It is not hyperbole to say that our very democracy depends upon it.

President Obama has made education reform one of the centerpieces of his Administration, and I feel guardedly optimistic that it will have an impact. He is not proposing phony quick-fixes. To learn more about what the President and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are working on you can go here.

“Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” George W Bush, Florence, S.C., Jan. 11, 2000

Mr. Bush, your very election to the highest office in our land has already answered that question.

Categories: Education, Society

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

34 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    Separation of Teaching and Credentialing

    Matt Yglesias of Think Progress makes an interesting point:

    Another thing to consider about college costs is the strange way that we’ve fused the instruction and credentialing functions. The supply of prestigious credential-bestowing institutions is necessarily constrained because that’s what it means to be prestigious. But there’s no reason to think that it’s necessarily expensive to operate a prestigious credential-bestowing institution. MIT isn’t prestigious because its TAs are unusually competent at grading problem sets. Teaching by contrast seems expensive to do properly but also in principle open to unlimited competition.

    But right now a lot of our conventional practices are upside down. For example, Paul Krugman and Greg Mankiw are both high-profile economists attached to prestigious institutions (Princeton and Harvard) who both have introductory economics textbooks. One is a liberal and one is a conservative. Now suppose that instead of having competing economics textbooks they came together to collaborate on creating the Mankiw-Krugman Introduction to Economics Certificate.The MKIEC would be a test, basically, administered on regular dates and it would say “hey, these famous guys say people who get a good score on this know introductory economics.”

    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/2011/02/separation-of-teaching-and-credentialing/

  2. ghsts says:

    Cher you were blessed with a good education that is for sure, a brief moment of clarity because of your school. The textbooks you describe that have “literally re-written history” have little significant change in being fiction to the ones that most Americans were exposed. Our generation learned to dissent, something that wasn’t even expected of most, there is a constant struggle for the minds of children, what is sad is it happens so quickly right under our noses as if there is nothing we could do to stop it.

    As many have pointed out, quality of education has always depended on what side of the tracks you live and there is only one side growing larger.

  3. ParadisePlacebo74 says:

    This is a great article, and it’s inspired me to tell my own story (as you’ll see below). I believe that the most important thing that can be done, out of a long list that needs to be done, is to create a nationally standardized cirriculum in in the areas that don’t pertain to individual state histories — math, science, reading and writing, and a consensus on the factual history of America. No more would Texas control the cirriculum and standards just by being the biggest customer. They can teach Texas history as backwardly as they want, but not the history of the entire country. California, and the rest of the “left” coast, doesn’t use Texas school books, and I believe that it’s a major factor in why progressivism is still alive and well there.

  4. ParadisePlacebo74 says:

    I apologize for this being such a long comment, but it’s on topic, and it’s a long story:

    I was born in northern Alabama in the mid 1970’s, and went to grade school there until the sixth grade. I was tested for and deemed “gifted”, but my mom was persuaded by her sister, “the educator” [spit], that I would become “socially stunted” by being seperated from the “regular” kids (my mom — who isn’t very good at any form of logical thinking — never understood that my aunt was subconsciously competing with her, making sure that only her children had a chance at being “the smartest”), so I stayed in the normal classes, bored and restless. I had good teachers, but it wasn’t a good situation — not that I understood any of that at the time.

    Then, when I was twelve, my family and I moved to central Florida. It was absolutely depressing. There I was, the only one with a thick southern accent (the further south you go from the state line, the less “southern” the culture is), and it immediately made my new classmates assume that I was a moron — but it became clear rather quickly that it was the other way around. I was at least two years ahead in almost every class based on their state curriculum, but since I hadn’t been in any advanced classes before, they didn’t see any reason to change things. So, with the “dumb kids” (my own label for them at the time) I stayed. My math teachers used a grading curve to determine test scores (which I had never experienced), and I would easily ace every test — causing my peers to become hostile because they couldn’t keep up. I was so bored by the lack of a challenge, and intimidated by the lack of acceptance, that I just stopped caring. I floated along, paying attention in class and continuing to score all A’s on the tests, but I just stopped bothering with homework. Since I “got” what was being presented the first time around, I didn’t see the point of all the repetition. Eventually, at the end of my last semester in the eighth grade, my English teacher called me in to say that he had “lost” all of my paperwork — it turned out that he based the majority of a final grade on homework, and since I had made straight A’s on all the tests without doing any of his “ridiculous” homework, he had decided to pass me so that I wouldn’t be held back from moving on to high school. He had done me a huge favor, but I didn’t realize it at the time. It was a near miss — but unfortunately, I still just didn’t care.

    I kept floating along through high school — making mostly average grades with less than average effort. That first year, my school district decided to institute a new hardcore anti-truancy policy, stating that a student could only miss nine days in any class during a semester, and anything over three had to be backed up with paperwork from an “official” source — otherwise the student would automatically fail the entire semester of that class. I wasn’t bad about missing school, so it didn’t effect me as much as it did so many others (the failure rate became insane, but the school board didn’t seem to care). They also didn’t care that there were upwards of forty students in almost every class (rendering individual attention impossible), and a student body of over five thousand in a school originally built in the 1950’s, but I digress. Then, in my junior year, the powers that be decided to introduce new math textbooks for the class I was taking — but these weren’t just any books, these were “a new way of learning” based on “the new math” (remeber that? I certainly do). I, like so many of my peers, was completely lost. I had no idea what the hell the book (or the suddenly confused teacher) was talking about, so I failed test after test, and finally just stopped going to that class altogether — gauranteeing a failed semester. The next semester I had to take “general mathematics”, the class for the kids that couldn’t even keep up with the regular curriculum. It was horrifying, but I had no alternative. I started to care even less, and ended up auto-failing some more classes. I forgot to mention that around the same time the school board decided to change the truancy rules, the state had decided to raise the graduation standard to TWENTY-SIX credits (you could only earn twenty-eight in four years on a regular schedule). Most of the rest of the country had an eighteen to twenty-four credit requirement, but that didn’t seem to matter to The Great State of Flori”duh”. By the time I finished the first semester of my senoir year, I knew that I would be one credit short at the end, and I’d have to return the next school year to meet the requirement — so I quit. I was eighteen years old, and my parents couldn’t stop me, so I signed some papers and moved on. I officially became a high school drop-out.

    Later that year, things finally got better. My dad (a travelling IBEW wireman) had been working in western Washington state, north of the Seattle area, and my mom decided that since my two older sisters and I had moved out and/or away, she was going to finally start travelling with him (meaning they would live wherever he found work). I was staying with friends and between jobs at the time, and they asked me if I also wanted to make a change — so I moved to the other corner of the country with them, and it turned out to be glorious! The people there were so different from what I was used to. They were kind and friendly, and they seemed to be so much more accepting of other people and cultures. So, I decided to look into getting my diploma. It turned out that I already met their much more sane credit requirement, except for a single-semester, tenth grade class on Washington state history. I braced myself for a final semester of being the “too-old-for-high school new kid”, but they said it wouldn’t be necessary. They had an alternative school for kids with various “issues”, and I could take the class there — at my own pace! In other words, I could blow through the class as fast as I could absorb the material, complete the assignments and pass all the tests — which I did in about three weeks. I then recieved a ceritificate from the alternative school stating that I had completed all requirements, and I was officially a high school graduate! Yahoo!! The only downside was that I would have to wait until the end of the regular school year to recieve my official diploma (they only printed them once per year). So I got a job and moved on with my life. Later on that year, I got a package in the mail, and it was my official high school diploma! The wierd part is that it’s from a school that I’ve never set foot on the grounds of, and probably never will (when people I met would ask, “where did you go to high school?” all I could say was “uh — it’s a long story”). I can only image how my life would be different if I had grown up there — and getting my compulsory public education hadn’t been such a shitty experience.

    I’ve never been to college, so I don’t really know what it’s like — but almost twenty years have passed, and my nephew has just started a new quarter of his first year in junior college — and the more he tells me about what it’s like, the more I’m buying into the idea that “it’s never too late”. I guess only time will tell…

    • Abbyrose86 says:

      Fascinating story…thanks for sharing.

      Maybe you should consider going to back to school, you might find it really suits you now..it’s never too late.

      I went back 3 years ago, after 21 years out of academia for another round!

      It’s actually a lot of fun and you get so much more out of it when you are older.

      :)

      • ParadisePlacebo74 says:

        I’m almost certain that i’d enjoy it, and get a lot out of it, but the timing sucks. It’s a much bigger decision in this economic/political climate than it should be. There are thousands of college grads out there with absolutely no prospects for finding a position anywhere. The time investment I’m not worried about (one of the odd perks of getting older), and the money is just money — it comes and goes. I think it’s the long term hope that could come to nothing that’s the truly scary part. I’ve already been forced out of one line of work because it was outsorced into oblivion. I don’t think I could handle putting a huge amount of time, money, and effort into a chosen career field that just goes *poof*. I guess I’m having hard time with optimism in the age of ignorance. 😕

        • Abbyrose86 says:

          I can certainly understand that…the uncertainty of choosing a career and having it not pan out…can be an issue.

          I’m partly back for a change in career but I’m also back for me…to learn new things and ideas.

          I know a lady that is back in school, just to fulfill a dream. She’s in her 60’s and really doesn’t have a career goal in mind. It wasn’t about that for her…it was simply for the education and learning new ideas and concepts.

  5. cyrano1 says:

    Another great article! Thanks so much. I’ll add to the kitchen sink of “what’s wrong with our schools” with another issue which I find very alarming: the already disturbing trend towards privatization of our schools. With de-funding of public schools increasing due to state cut-backs, more and more parents who can afford it will move their kids to elite private schools. Those who can’t afford those may find religious schools to be a better bargain and more to their liking. Which leaves our poorly funded and staffed public school system as the only option left for the have-nots or the don’t cares.

    This trend will lead to the acceleration of our already increased class divisions and lack of diversity: racial diversity, economic diversity, and the all important diversity of thought, the very glue which gives us commonality. Won’t our claims of providing an even playing field for all take another severe blow through increased economic segregation? Our race to the bottom seems to be getting fresh wind.

  6. whatsthatsound says:

    Cher, not sure where you got the preview image from, but it reminded me of the incredible photo series of Detroit’s “beautiful, horrible decline” that TIME ran a while back.
    http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1882089,00.html

  7. 2garden says:

    I so appreciate this article.
    Thank you Cher for your wise words and perceptions.

  8. Abbyrose86 says:

    Another excellent piece Cher!

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement:

    “Maybe what HAS changed is not anything specifically related to education, per se, but our entire way of life, with the toys and distractions and media noise. And perhaps a loss of hope that a good education will secure for us a better life. If that last thing is true, we are a very unhealthy society. That is some serious pathology.”

    I truly believe our current society coupled with today’s media is part of the culprit for much of woes, in education as well as our culture as a whole.

    While certain curriculum issues exist and lack of quality educators exist, in addition to students and parents who are not motivated or involved enough;I think that those things probably always did exist and now combined with our way of life and modern media, at all levels, we are seeing something more disturbing occur as a result.

    When I was a kid in elementary school, reading was considered a good thing. We used to go to the in school library every week…it was actually a class, like music, art and gym. I used to love going to the library, so much so, I can tell you to this day who the librarian was…Mrs. Bell…and SHE would save books for me that she thought I would enjoy reading!

    My parents read all the time. My father read the paper every night after dinner, while he had the news on in the background, while my mother did her crossword puzzles, and we kids cleaned up after dinner. My mother was addicted to crossword puzzles. (She passed that addiction on to ALL her daughters!)

    Dictionaries were literally throughout the house. My mother first language wasn’t English, so she was very big on dictionaries.

    I remember in the summer going from 6th grade to 7th grade, I was bored and decided to read the dictionary for fun.

    I remember it being considered a GOOD thing to be smart and well read. I remember that was something to strive for…when did it go out of style to be well informed, well read and to aspire to a higher level of consciousness and not just aspire to a higher income level?

    When did it become “in” to be ignorant, arrogant, materialistic and willfully informed, centered only on immediate gratification of hedonistic pursuits and childish whims?

    {sigh}

  9. Questinia says:

    On Sunday I am having dinner with a woman who is a teacher at a school where they begin teaching Chinese in kindergarten. By the time they are in eighth grade they read, write, and speak nearly fluently. On the other hand, they’re not teaching script anymore, so I suppose the same kids wouldn’t be able to read a letter from Grandma.

  10. whatsthatsound says:

    Great article, Cher!
    Living and teaching in Japan, I often commiserate with my students about how hard it is to learn English, because of all the exceptions. For example, the words “cough”, “rough”, “dough”, “through” and “bough” all end with the same four letters but are pronounced differently. Spelling English is a bear! But at least the folks here try! In America, spelling seems to be almost a lost cause when you look at some of the writing that isn’t professionally edited.

    At a time when the English language has become THE means of international communication, we are actually falling behind. I mean, yeah, maybe we can accept (though I would disagree) that we are outmatched in cars and cell phones, but in our own language, fercryinouloud??

  11. jdmn17 says:

    Cher

    I feel like a real heel because I actually went to a great public school. I grew up in Minneapolis and had a wonderful, if not terrifyingly boring educational experience. My older sister was a model student, me? Not so much. I was often dragged out of class to the Principals office where my IQ score and my sisters were waved under my nose as a pounding point (my ego taking the hits) of why she did so well when I was doing so average. I made the mistake of telling the Principal and the stern looking “Guidance Counselor” that I was bored and the curriculum wasn’t challenging me (I know, I never learned to keep my mouth shut). So in each and every class from 11th grade on I got “extra work” and even had to teach the portion of American history on the Civil War and WW II. I was shy and not terribly outgoing so I almost fainted having to present to my classmates and snickering, sniveling friends who coughed “bullshit” until the teacher threw them out.

    My children went to public school in St. Paul. Their elementary was a magnet that was quite varied in curriculum and actually spent so much time prepping them for Middle School they were both bored the first year. On to middle and high school they went to a school that was small in enrollment and “highly recommended” parent involvement with the result being it was one of the most highly sought schools in the city. They were challenged by enrolling in advanced coursework allowing them both to get accepted into two of the best colleges in the Midwest. Their friends from there were of the same outcome.

    Having said that I have looked at test scores in MN and both Minneapolis and St Paul have dropped a lot in the last few years. That means I was isolated from the reality because of my own children and their friends.

    What to do? Or more importantly, why have schools fallen away from their mission to educate our children? I used to think it was simple. Because “slower” children were mainstreamed did teachers simply teach down to the lowest common denominator? I asked my kids and they said they thought that was it because some of their courses were not College Placement and they were bored out of their skulls.

    Did we lose great teachers because the pay was low and the classroom size destroyed their motivation to teach? I read something on HP about how teachers were “not productive” for the economy so it justified not paying them better. As though output that’s measurable is the only criteria?

    I think this country is in serious shape in so many areas. Much of that comes from, IMHO, from the decline in education. It is much easier to brainwash people who lack education and the curiosity to learn more when confronted with information.

    Crazy….

    Thanks for your post, awesome as always

  12. SueInCa says:

    Cher
    Like you, I am a product of Education in California. I was entering High School as you were graduating(67-68 freshman). After my freshman year our school changed dramatically. Like you, in my freshman year, my guidance counselor told me I was college material and put me in “Honors” classes. I did well in every one except for Algebra, something which I have had a block for all my life. As I entered my sophmore year, we were allowed to take more electives and they were also more interesting, Humanities, Political Science, English Literature, among others. I took advantage of all those classes and by doing so I think I came to an open mind earlier than some others that were around me. One thing, I DID NOT WANT to go to college right after high school. I wanted to get out in the world and experience it first hand, which I did.

    Like you, I entered college late and like you I am amazed at the minds of some of these kids. A year ago I was taking Administration of Justice and Community Relations classes, both having to do with law enforcement. I found the classes very easy but I found some of the kids incredibly naive. We had many discussions in class and I was amazed at the way these kids thought, for instance:

    “But I live in Granite Bay. Everyone is pretty well off there so I know there are no domestic violence or molestation cases there” (on issues the police face they are still learning how to deal with)

    “Well, what do you expect? Of course they are going to be gangsters, living in East LA like they do” or “Why even try to stop gang violence, they learn it when they are young”. On police trying to form community groups to reduce gang violence.

    When I spoke up and suggested that perhaps police and community catch them when they are young, I just got blank stares. When I asked the young man, “And because they are well off, there is no violence?” he just responded that “no, there is not”. They were pretty naive. It got to where our Professor would begin a question for discussion, “And pretend you are not from Rocklin or Granite Bay when considering the options”. I never lived in bad areas either but I educated myself to different cultures and lifestyles so I knew what was going on, these kids did not. And these kids are the ones who want to be your police officers and judicial representatives.

    My grandson is in a private school that we help pay for. He is in the fifth grade. He has been to the SF Opera, stage productions and museums. He was here a couple weeks ago and the protests in Egypt were on the news. He asked about them and I told him what was going on. He proceeded to tell me all about countries in Africa and what each country was like. I was amazed he knew all of that at 10(almost 11). He talked about Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya. He knew the United Rep of the Congo used to be Zaire. He knew about Morocco, Niger, Botswana. But then there are only 15 children in his class. Sometimes I worry he will not assimilate into the culture where he currently lives when he is older, but he sure will end up with a superb education.

    I am still in school and this semester taking Psychology and the dreaded Algebra. I am taking it slow, I have time, but now I have a tutor in Algebra and am doing much better LOL. I will finish, on my own time and for me that is good.

  13. When I went to school, in a small farming community in Northern Michigan (not scholastic central, obviously), the school was mandated to teach state history for one quarter of 7th grade. Since all of the schools were on semesters, that left one quarter unfilled.

    That quarter was spent teaching some very basic information. We learned how to fill out a W-2. We learned how to balance a checkbook. We learned how to fill out a job application, using actual applications from area businesses. We learned how to fill out a 1040-EZ (the “easy” tax reporting form, for those of you in other countries).

    I was amazed to find out that class was not universal. It is certainly not taught today.

    I think a large part of the problem is that politicians have stuck their thumbs into the curriculum. From what a friend of mine told me about a visit to his son’s middle-school science class, the teachers can’t teach these days, because they are not allowed to. They teach the kids how to parrot facts and to take the standardized tests, because according to the politicians, that is their job.

    As long as facts are up for debate, and opinions can be legislated, this is the state of our education.

    Regarding the Texas State Board of Education and their gerrymandering of textbooks, the strange thing is not that they did so, but that they waited so long to take advantage of the power they gave themselves.


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