This post was prompted by an article in the local news. Virtual classrooms are off to a failed start, due to lack of laptop computers for students K-12.
Money, Greed, and the good ole boy way of doing things. That, has been the downfall of Alabama Education. Football, which perhaps once upon a time could be considered educational for teaching team work. Is the most important part of education in Alabama. It’s a cash cow. Football gets all the money it needs, while students in a pandemic, have to beg for laptops. I’ve watched the educational system here unravel for the last 40+ years.
Where did it all go wrong, Some History
I remember as a child of the 60s, going to a book store downtown. Our parents had to scrape up enough money, to buy our text books for the year. Finally, around two years later, the state provided the text books statewide. No longer did you have to go and purchase them. All the schools had the same text books.
There was organization and curriculum. Schools taught each subject on planned schedules. That way, if you lived in the northern part of the state, in March. Then moved to another part of the state, you would be within a week of the same subject and same book as where you left off. Now, If you make the same move, the new school may be using a completely different book, and far ahead, or behind, in the subject.
To further disorganize, schools are now controlled by county. There are 64 counties in our state. They each do their own thing. Different text books. Lesson plans, ideologies. In years past, there was a meeting called AEA, for two weeks each year schools closed and teachers attended in-service training. This was done statewide, and at the same time each year. Today? Each county schedules its own holiday breaks.
Now, if you move from to another county, you may have just finished what is now called “Spring Break”, and the new county is just starting Spring Break. You miss 4 weeks of school. No wonder they had to institute the crazy no-child-left-behind plan.
The list of reasons for failure is immense. Corruption, falsifying grades to maintain NCLB and testing.
Twenty years ago, our son was in the 8th grade. He was an A-B honor roll student, according to his report cards. Glowing compliments during teacher/parent meetings We almost failed him as parents because we trusted what we were told. Then one night sitting in a Ryan’s Steak Restaurant, the conversation turned to trivia while waiting on our food. We would learn he had no knowledge of the founding of our country, who the first president was, or any of the conflicts we have fought for freedom.
The Gulf of Mexico, is a lake “in Mexico”
We tried a few questions after staring at one another, keeping the conversation like a game to avoid blaming him for not knowing, as it was apparent he just didn’t know these things. When asked where the Gulf of Mexico was, he said it was a lake somewhere in Mexico. He had no idea what coast California was on, the location of either ocean that bordered the coasts of the US. He was never taught about the Declaration of Independence, nor the Constitution. Something in the conversation prompted him to name a bridge in Alabama, famous for the civil rights march (Edmund Pettis Bridge Selma, Alabama). He knew the date of the march, and some names that I don’t remember. I lived that time period!
He knew nothing of the indigenous tribes of Alabama, nor any Alabama Civics. We would even discover he had difficulty telling time on analog clocks. He could however, run circles around you regarding civil rights moments in Alabama. How do you in good conscience, fill out records indicating an A/B average, without knowing if a student knows where the Gulf of Mexico is, or what states border his home state.
We pulled him out of public schools at the end of that year, enrolled him in a home school charter organization, acquired the books and materials, and Michelle taught him at home.
His field trips for education were not to the local Mall, but to reenactments of the first settlers of Alabama and Native Americans. He loved local Museums, The Indian Mound Park in Alabama and the Hall or Presidents at Disney World. Those, were his field trips.
From 9th through the 12th grade he maintained a 3.5 to 4.0 average, when graded under independent testing. He soaked up history, science and math. Instead of music videos and Rap, we would find him watching the Discovery/History channels to learn more of what we were exposing him to. He loved running circles around his siblings, when discussing history and world events.
Michelle did a fantastic job of teaching him, preparing lessons and taking care of all the paperwork involved for 4 years. She managed that while dealing with disability due to a back injury.
It’s hard to find older teachers that care more about the students, than the amount of pay. Some of them are closer to the students age. Most of the dedicated, more mature teachers have been run off by the parents, students and administrations.
Is the education system better, or worse in your area of the world.
Comments always welcomed.