Today is my daughter’s birthday, and it is also her last day of school for the 6th Grade. In a way it’s a very big day for her. She has entered the last of her twener years–and is looking ahead to her first teen year–and she will be leaving the self-contained coocon that is the 6th Grade, because in her middle school they try to keep the 6th Graders separated from the 7th and 8th Graders to allow them the time to adjust to a much different world.
All this year she’s been a member of the 6th Grade Honors program, which means throughout much of the year she’s been doing math and science at a 7th Grade level. Not that she’s slacked off on the other classes: she’s had 6 classes every one of her 4 grading periods, and throughout the entire year she has scored A’s in all classes–the only exception being one B in a literature class during the second grading period.
Not too shabby. Particularly when you consider she did all this while, at various times during the year, as a member of the School’s Spell Bowl, a cello player in the 6th Grade Orchestra, a sprinter in Girl’s Track, and taking taekwondo twice a week and reaching her last belt before moving on to 1st degree black belt.
And all of this is happening at a time when Indiana, like maybe states run by crazy scumbags–I’m sorry, I mean, GOP governors and legislators, are pissing and moaning about how the public school system is broken and is should be replaced with something better–like charter school that are run like businesses and have about as much accountability.
It is no secret that my daughter has an advantage a lot of other students don’t: she’s a member of a special program that sort of sets her apart from others. But don’t imagine for a moment that she’s going into classes with only a hand full of other students. I’ve met her teachers and see her classes. The class load is no different than others, and her teachers aren’t super geniuses who have found a magical way to open up her head and pour in all sorts of magical learning.
And, yes, I have helped monitor her progress. I have checked her progress online and saw when she was starting to falter and gave her encouragement to help her alone–and, yes, I even bribed her a little with the promise of payment in return for improving her grades.
(And before you get your knickers in a bind, here’s the payment: books. Whenever she brought her grades up or managed to keep them at the same level, we would head off to the local Barns & Nobles and she would buy her choice of books. And that was picked because she loves to read. So there.)
She worked very hard to get to where she’s at this year, and even though there was some involvement on our behalf, really, it’s all on her.
She is a product of the public school system, and I’m proud of them both.
And though it might sound like the school system where I live just rocks to hell and gone, it has problems. One of the biggest issue here is the age of the schools. For example: my daughter’s grade school is one of the oldest in our town. It was original build in the early fifties, and was expanded in the late 1970′s. It’s class load is actually higher than then average for other elementary schools in the stat. And it’s very ill-suited for the 21st Century, with tightly packed heavy brick and steel walls making it difficult to wire the building for full wireless use.
School infrastructures fail students. A lot of the schools where I live were built in the 1960′s and 1970′s. Even the high school, which was built huge to accommodation a growing population, is over 30 years old and starting to show the strain of aging facilities and a large student population.
And yet, going back to my daughter’s elementary school . . . that one is not only considered one of the best in the state, but one of the best in the country. That probably pisses the hell out of those people in Indiana who probably think the 300 students packed in there should be forced into a non-public environment where they can get a real education. Sure. Because we know everything run like a business is an Epic Win every time!
Another thing our system does is keep parents engaged. We hear from the schools all the time, whether it be through news letters or automated phone messages, the various after school meetings and functions, or thought the various online sites, one which allows parents to monitor their child’s progress online. Now, I am not a helicopter parent who hovers around making sure my daughter does everything the right way, but I did keep up on her progress, and when I saw she was having issues I helped where needed. I didn’t do it for her, because by only helping she still learns.
And that’s another important lesson; your kid has to learn on their own. They have to be shown how to take in the information they are taught and apply it to their work. ’Cause if all your kid is going to do is sit around and scratch ass all day and not give a shit, it doesn’t matter if the instructor is Albert Einstein–Little Johnny ain’t gonna lean a damn thing. And in order for Little Johnny (or Jenny, I’m all for equal opportunity) to figure out how to do this, they need help from the parental units.
But if said parental units are unable to give a shit; unable to get up off their own asses to help where needed; unable to give encouragement where necessary; unable to do anything but piss and moan about how the “teachers ain’t learnin’ Johnny anything!” and how we needs to simple shitcan the public school system and replace it . . . well, folks, to put it bluntly–Little Johnny/Jenny is fucked.
Any time you want to cut funding for school programs that might enlighten your child and stimulate their imagination, you have fucked them. Any time you take the disingenuous position of the schools have totally failed because your kids spends all their time watching TV and playing video games and you can’t understand why, you have fucked them. And–a personal peeve of mine–any time you, as a parent, think the most important thing your local school can have is a brand new $30-40 million dollar football stadium–because you view football as a “religion” and see it as the only ticket out of your town–then you have no only fucked Little Johnny/Jenny, you have fucked every kid in your local school system.
You want your kids to find a way out of you town. Then take that football money and spend it on science and math and literature classes, ’cause your kid has a hell of a lot better shot of getting out of Podunk Shithole, TX, by being a researcher or an engineer or, hell, even as a teacher, than they do as a future quarterback for an NFL team. (And notice: where football is seen as a way up and out, it’s only for the boys–’cause we all know girls don’t need to be lifted up and out, yeah?)
Like everything else, you only get out of something what you put into the effort. My daughter has gotten a lot of her school, and she’s told me that next year she wants to forgo Spell Bowl and Track because she wants to concentrate on her school’s Science Olympia program. As she told me, “Yeah, I’ll have to study for it every day (after school), but on Saturday they let us come in play!”
Sure, they work all week and the school lets them cut loose on the weekend. Sounds like fun.
And it will be.