Sunday, December 30, 2007

Howling at the Moon, Indeed

If you want some insight into the reasons for the decline of education in our country, read "Howling and other tips for educators" by retired elementary school principal Mike Schutz. You can find it here: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=701346.

Shutz maintains that the "good schools," those with high standardized test scores, "are made up of students who come from families with well-educated parents who value education." Shutz adds that schools have no control over this variable.

But schools can control other factors. Many of these factors "are intangible and not measurable by a standardized test, according to Shutz. Shutz has "no expectation that these will raise test scores. But they just might make a child's learning experience more meaningful."

Shutz believes that we need kindness in schools. We need playfulness. We need to slow down. We need to let kids be kids. We need good relationships in school. And we need to let teachers teach.

Now there is nothing obviously wrong with Shutz's suggestions. It is not what Shutz wrote that bothers me. It is what he didn't write.

I think the most important job of a principal at an underperforming school is to accept no excuses. You know, like the one Shutz and so many others offers, the one that goes like this: "We can't help it if these kids have parents that don't care about education."

Poor children and children with imperfect parents can learn. And it is the schools job to teach them. If you can't do it, let another school give it a try. Stop making excuses. And teachers who continue to make excuses should be fired. Not transferred to another school. Fired.

Shutz used to lead his school in "howling at the moon" for no apparent educational purpose. That might be fun, but our schools need more than pointless futile gestures.

9 comments:

Brenda said...

Thank you for your thoughts.

Frankly, I was beginning to think I was the only one tired of the excuse that children from a lower socio-economic cannot excel in school.

Anonymous said...

Still Separate, Still Unequal:
America's Educational Apartheid

by:JONATHAN KOZOL

http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/American-Apartheid-Education1sep05.htm
http://dir.salon.com/story/mwt/feature/2005/09/22/kozol/
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20051219/kozol
http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl/9781400052448.html
http://www.amazon.com/Shame-Nation-Restoration-Apartheid-Schooling/dp/1400052440

Many Americans who live far from our major cities and who have no firsthand knowledge of the realities to be found in urban public schools seem to have the rather vague and general impression that the great extremes of racial isolation that were matters of grave national significance some thirty-five or forty years ago have gradually but steadily diminished in more recent years. The truth, unhappily, is that the trend, for well over a decade now, has been precisely the reverse. Schools that were already deeply segregated twenty-five or thirty years ago are no less segregated now, while thousands of other schools around the country that had been integrated either voluntarily or by the force of law have since been rapidly resegregating.

Mindfully.org note:

We see the actions and policies of everyone from the president on down to Endicott, and further down to the individual citizen who allows the actions and policies to pass without challenge as the enemies of the state. For the purposes of this comment — the state is any and all people who are citizens, and for simplification, excluding noncitizens.

All people are due equal education and everything else that goes along with maintaining a healthy society. All must have equal health-care, food, water and environments to live in.

In short, nothing less than a paradigm shift is required to facilitate the well-being of society in the USA. All must be free or none will be free.

This may not agree with the reader's opinion , but as we see it, the inequality that exists presently must end if this country is to survive.

It really does come down to that — if the rich continue to hoard wealth and abuse the other 95% of society, then they continually make themselves superfluous. By doing so, they receive the same treatment that they dole out to the less fortunate. This effect is clearly seen throughout the US presently as life as we know it is disintegrating before our eyes and chaos increasingly rules

Those to blame are everyone from the president on down to individual citizens who allow these actions and policies to pass without challenge.

"You're either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem."

— Eldridge Cleaver,
Speech in San Francisco, 1968

In Chicago, by the academic year 2002-2003, 87 percent of public-school enrollment was black or Hispanic; less than 10 percent of children in the schools were white. In Washington, D.C., 94 percent of children were black or Hispanic; less than 5 percent were white. In St. Louis, 82 percent of the student population were black or Hispanic; in Philadelphia and Cleveland, 79 percent; in Los Angeles, 84 percent, in Detroit, 96 percent; in Baltimore, 89 percent. In New York City, nearly three quarters of the students were black or Hispanic

Anonymous said...

So you can copy and paste anon. Why don't you tell us what you really think?

Common Sense for the Ages said...

Me thinks both the author and Denis get it partially correct:

1. "Students who come from families with ... parents who value education" tend to do better in school. Doesn't matter the parent's education level, but their attitude towards education. Recent immigrants may be under-educated but they recognise "free" public education as an opportunity for their family. Conversely American families mired in poverty over multiple generations often have given up on school (among other things).

2. The "most important job ... at an underperforming school is to accept no excuses". Fair enough, the right attitude in almost all situations. But reality does intrude and provide context. If 10 - 25% of an oversized class is misbehaving, a teacher's great attitude will not typically overscome that hurdle. That reality rises largely from families that do not partner with schools.

A suggestion and potential New Year's resolution for all of us armchair school critics, sign up to be a substitute teacher for the schools in which you have the greatest interest. In many circumstances you only need have a bachelor's degree. Go inside and get a closer current look. We all seem to get emotional about schools quickly (our kids/our future, our taxes, our community) but most of us have only limited school experience from years ago when we weren't really paying that close of attention. So have a look from the inside and then lets hear what you have to say. Careful though, I'm guessing the experience will have some "howling at the moon".

Anonymous said...

Blogger Anonymous said...

So you can copy and paste anon. Why don't you tell us what you really think?

1:03 PM
--------------------------

Because, unlike you, I can recognize when man like Jonathon Kozol, who has WALKED THE WALK, has more to say than I.

Take a hint...

Anonymous said...

"Because, unlike you, I can recognize when man like Jonathon Kozol, who has WALKED THE WALK, has more to say than I.

Take a hint..."

Then that would appear to put him in the same category as just about everyone else on the planet.

Take a colonic...

WhiteKnight said...

I agree with the exception that children can be adversely affected by their home environment. I "agree" because this is not an excuse for the school, but something for them to address. As children grow they can grow-out of poor child-rearing through encouragement tempered with kindness as mentioned. (Overcrowding, as mentioned, is still an unfortunate reality.)

We are the sum of our relationships. We develop as we interact. Some are affected more by outside sources such as teachers, parents and media while some (ideally) are affected by their own reasoning of things presented by said sources. We become our own information filters. This is a critical and underlying necessity to overcome the issues we're discussing here.

Caledonication said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caledonication said...

Resulting from previous teaching at a private school and currently having my kids at a public school, the greatest issue I've experienced is overcrowding. I believe most of the symptoms stem from this problem alone and are eventually reflected through the students. I say this from the perspective of what is the school's responsibilty versus the parent's responsibilty. One of Schulz's comments I found rather amusing, "Let teachers teach". From my experience, teachers are at odds with the principal the majority of the time. I also disagree with his statement, "Kids' play is their work". I've taught my kids that play time is play time and school is their job (and I do use the term job). Depending on how well they do their job, determines how much time they get to play and what they get to do. If they are not doing as good a job as expected, we look into why and what needs to be done. Seems to be working out well for us. Obviously, I'm not suggesting that kids shouldn't have fun at school, I encourage that as well, learning should be fun, but that doesn't mean it is play time.