Graduation is not the end, only the beginning
Many parents ignore the alarming fact that some teachers are not properly credentialed in the area they teach; even more alarming is the fact that when schools can’t find a certified teacher for a specific subject, they hire what is euphemistically called a permanent substitute who may ‘teach’ for a whole school year. Needless to say, students receive passing grades without learning anything.
“Always push the student away with the left hand and draw him near with the right.”(The Talmud)
What are the criteria nowadays to offer scholarships to college candidates? Many much deserving students obtain financial help, a goal explained and supported by high school counselors. However, many more mediocre students apply and are accepted to college after they are approved for scholarships. The dropout rate from universities is appalling: 50% of freshmen do not finish college, a severe bloodletting in our educational system.
“Every student is a young plant which we, the teachers, must water and nurture to make sure it will grow into a magnificent specimen of our society” (The Author)
What’s with modern students? Is it me, too old to adapt or are the social mores changing so much? Even teen girls pepper their language with the f.. bomb, as if using an everyday term (it is for them, apparently) and none of the boys seems shocked or taken aback by such vulgarity. That’s for those who speak English with their friends; for the rest who use Spanish, the majority, the vocabulary is just as bad if not worse in a school that harbors 97% of Hispanic students .
The horror in Connecticut, the massacre of more than 20 children and teachers, is a reason to say ENOUGH. Our schools as a whole do not have sufficient security to prevent madmen and criminal elements from entering at their leisure, as I have witnessed on countless occasions in my high school. Adults without an official name tag circulate easily among students and nobody, least of all security guards, asks them for their business. Lucky for us that no psychotic or high on drugs gunman has yet taken his frustration on us. Drugs, yes, unfortunately. Bullying, yes also. But no shooting tragedy so far in my school.
Most politicians talk vaguely about new measures to control the sale of guns and the access to assault weapons, a no-brainer for anybody with common sense. And yet school killings seem to continue unabated, including the nightmarish Virginia Tech murders which held the infamous records of most deaths until now. What kind of deranged man, yes, man, as no woman has ever attacked a school as far as I know, can coldly shoot children in any setting? Only the religion-crazy Talibans can claim this kind of barbaric act with their suicide bombers and their shooting of a Pakistani girl just because she wanted to go to school.
But we are not a nation controlled by religious extremists, though I would rather classify them as freaks of Nature, as denizens of hell than human beings. We had our taste of nutcases with the characters of the Crucible (Arthur Miller’s masterpiece on the Salem hangings). But that was in the 17th century; I want to believe that we have progressed in wisdom and religious tolerance since. Was that gunman in Connecticut connected to Islam and/or the Taliban? If the answer is yes, let us immediately circle our wagons and protect our borders against the deranged Muslims and let us protect our school against anybody who tries to attack our youth.
Education … has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) British historian
Having observed newly minted teachers as well as highly experienced ones, I would like to attempt a description of what makes a good teacher; not great teachers, they stand apart from ordinary mortals and thus defy precise comparisons. Just good teachers, of whom a dearth exists unfortunately in these beautiful United States. Continue reading
This article is dedicated to all Mexican and Central American young people who came to this country illegally, albeit without knowledge of their condition, and attended the American school system. They became Americans in spirit if not on paper; I met a few in my high school over the 11 years I have been teaching and so far, all have shown a strong desire to excel and become officially American citizens. Like me, they spent their first years in a different country, spoke a different language, and observed different ceremonies to honor their heritage. But today, they speak English better than their native tongue, mostly Spanish, and know more about this country’s history than many of their classmates. The fact that the school districts have, for the most part, refrained from demanding immigration status when registering them the first year is a testimony that educators are not politicians, luckily. The teachers see some kids who want to learn and that’s all that matters.
The will is infinite and the execution confined. The desire is boundless and the act is a slave to limit (Shakespeare)
Every year, in France, there is an increase in the number of single teen mothers. England has the biggest problem in Europe with 30 pregnancies per 1,000 teen girls, while France has 15/1000, Germany shows 20/1000, Holland, on the other hand, is doing a better job of informing its youth with 7/1000. It also seems that puberty in girls is showing up more frequently at an earlier age (9 years-old) while it used to be not long ago between 12-13.
School reform, the public kind anyway, has always been met with skepticism by the population in general and by education experts in particular. They cite union resistance, tenured teachers’ reluctance to change, and the apparently poor results obtained by American students as compared to the power nations such as Singapore (5 million), Finland (a small country of 5 million), and Switzerland (another small country of 6 million people). South Korea and Japan are two more areas mentioned as having better academic results, but we forget that these two Asian countries are culturally homogeneous, meaning they don’t have to deal, in the classroom, with many different backgrounds and languages. Continue reading