An interesting experiment is taking place in the U.K.: They call it the Nanny Intervention, appropriately, since an actual trained woman is sent to dysfunctional families or to parents incapable of educating their children properly. The goal is not to separate families as happens with the foster system, often with traumatic consequences. The lady, a mother herself, is charged with helping raise the kids while educating parents at the same time. I have seen my ample share of incompetent parents, from the very young ones (kids having kids), to the careless and totally inept. Depending on the situation, the nanny will stay for days, weeks, or even months. Of course, this is government intervention at its worst but it has the merit of leaving children with their original creators whenever possible.
Why do so many older minds waste so many young minds?
Have you ever asked yourself why we continue, after hundreds of years, to use the same classroom format in our public and often in our private education? The same drab four walls, the same omniscient and omnipotent (irony intended) teacher, the same one or two black or white boards, the same boring posters about the benefits of studying and obtaining a high school diploma, the same instruments of torture we call desks, into which no self-respecting linebacker would fit, the same droning lectures that would beat any sleeping pill without the nasty side effects, the same uninspiring school books or (already prepared) hand outs, the same boring benchmarks and testing reviews, all this for very mediocre results.
In some inner city schools, many teachers fear for their life, aware that some of their high school students belong to violent gangs (is there any other kind?) They therefore do their best not to make waves, i.e. not to upset their mean looking and tattooed pupils. Entrance to the schools is blocked by cops and metal detectors, but even then, the bad guys manage to sneak some weapons into the classroom. Of course, education and learning suffer greatly, but even then some students manage to graduate while many others drop out to explore illicit gains. That is one dark side in education; the other one can be called politics and mismanagement, which is the one I plan to discuss in this space.
very young gang members
Employers also have noted that many recent high school graduates do not possess the basic reading, writing, and mathematics skills they need to function on the job; and providing remedial training to address this problem costs employers millions of dollars each year (The American Diploma Project [ADP], 2004).
The eternal question is: Is a high school diploma a guarantee that the student is ready to either hit college or perform a job with a minimum amount of skills? The answer, of course, is no; from my own experience and according to national studies, more than half the high school graduates need remedial classes in English and Math. The above quote is from 2004, but the problem continues nowadays and the causes are not found so much among students but rather among educational authorities.
I will never forget the day I scolded a student in front of his class for not paying attention first, and then for not answering with courtesy. I learned later that the teen, a very smart kid, lived with foster parents because his natural ones had abused him so much that the court had assigned other adults to care for him. He hadn’t known what love and care were until he reached his new home at the age of 11. And there I was treating him like a spoiled brat. The next day I took him aside and apologized for losing my temper, although in truth the whole classroom was a tsunami of bad behavior. Of course, that was no excuse for singling him out without knowing his past. That boy was such a noble character that, in spite of his severe emotional trauma, he actually apologized to me. I later talked to the foster parents who graciously accepted my regrets: “It’s happened before”, they added, “and we understand that a teacher cannot be aware of every single detail in the life of his students.”
They are wrong; no matter how much work we have as teachers, we must make a special effort to know the circumstances of every student in our classroom because we have access to their academic and personal history. We can never assume that every kid is able, stable, and willing to learn. I had a loving mother, though not a father, and that gave me a rock solid foundation of self-esteem. What the heck do I know about being sent to one foster home after another? That boy had been profoundly hurt emotionally and to add insult to injury, had to be separated from his siblings because no foster family could accept all five of them.
After reading with great pleasure the various comments posted on the subject of a new teaching system, I felt like keeping the fires going.
Let’s continue this train of thought, changing the usual classroom format, and imagine a series of learning stations manned by educators who, instead of lecturing, would answer questions, counsel, orient, and guide the young people’s progress.
Practice no sloth, so that the duty and good work, which it is necessary for thee to do, may not remain undone (Zoroaster)
There is a revolutionary teacher on YouTube called Salman Khan; I just ran across his educational (free) videos which teach everything from basic fractions to advanced biology. But his major contribution is a revolutionary concept that has upset teachers all across the nation. More in a moment. He is talking, and some famous billionaires are listening. Khan has a collection of advanced degrees from prestigious universities such as MIT and Harvard, so we know that he is smart, very smart, very, very smart. He was born in New Orleans, but he personifies our urgent need to allow ambitious and motivated immigrants to enter this great country. Salman’s father was from Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, and his mother was born in India. Khan, 35, got tired of making money (!) as an analyst in a hedge fund and decided that posting free classes on YouTube was much more rewarding. Continue reading
Time for one more post before the scalpel does its work:)
“A youth, when at home, should be filial, and,
abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful.
He should overflow in love to all, and cultivate the friendship of the
good. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these
things, he should employ them in polite studies.”
Just finished another round of testing, this time with the new state assessment for the state of Texas dreamed up by idle bureaucrats; the last one was perfectly O.K. It gave me however a chance to talk to freshmen from all walks of life once they finished testing. It’s amazing how much information and interest a teacher can elicit in a couple of days in open and frank exchanges. As usual, we had 3 hours with nothing to do – nothing allowed of course, except talking, till the gods of education decided to let us go to class for the last period.