Educators - Editorial 2
I am a New Englander - born and raised. Therefore, education has always been in the forefront of my life. I have also had the pleasure of teaching math and historio-geography. So I have a continuing interest in the school systems. For the past 30 or more years I have watched a steady deterioration in the quality of education. I have heard all the excuses. Three facts stand out. 1. When Latin was abandoned, the English departments did not pick up the need to teach English grammar. 2. The integration of truly disabled children into the classroom without preparing the teaching community for the challenge resulted in a decided bias towards the slower student. 3. The constant almost arbitrary changing of curriculums robbed teachers of their ability to innovate. They were too busy coping with orders from above.
No one of these factors stands out. But all together they have resulted in a steady deterioration in the quality of education. Right now, the young people teaching have themselves received an inferior education. And so it goes. My hat goes off to Massachusetts. After the long slide, they have stepped in and addressed the issue. And it isn't easy.
What to do? First of all, you cannot teach what you do not fully understand. Teachers who flunked the exams must go back to school - not to learn how to teach but to increase their knowledge of what they are teaching. Today, the number of special-ed teachers in school systems is appalling. If the quality of teaching were at the proper level, special-ed teachers would only be necessary for the truly disabled .
Hasn't it dawned on anyone that the so-called ADD epidemic is simply fidgety, bored children. The absurdity of refusing 5-year-olds into kindergarten has resulted in children old enough to learn being forced to wait an additional year before starting their education. 6-year-olds are ready to learn reading. But they are stuck in kindergarten.
Does anyone remember why arbitrary dates were set before children could start school? I do. It was because of the baby boom right after World War II. It gave the schools a one-year breather because the schools became so overcrowded. No one stopped to think that this was going to be only a one year respite.
Educators developed all kinds of excuses for keeping delayed school starts as the norm. It's time to put an end to it. At 4 1/2 to 5, children learn their alphabet. Between 5 and 6, they learn to read. Therefore they enter the 1st grade already knowing what the school system says they are ready to begin learning. The system is out of synch with reality. The children are not being challenged.
All the worry about self-esteem is misplaced. You only gain self-esteem by accomplishing challenging goals. You don't take pride in doing things that are easy. And that goes for adults as well as children. If ytou do the very best that you can, whatever your age, no one can make a dent in your self-esteem.
Class size. The workable number is between 15 and 20. Anything above that number is compromising the children. Invest in teachers. Fancy buildings are nice but quality teachers are better.
Every school group, whether public or private, needs a strong PTA. I know of no good school that doesn't have a strong PTA. If you do, let me know.
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