“The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first… but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me.”
(Chapter 4, Voice of Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee)
These words have pierced my soul a time or two this summer, as I re-read this forbidden novel with my two high school aged sons. The tone was cynical music in my ears, yet truth rang through each syllable. Even though this was written over 50 years ago, with the story taking place over 80 years ago, somehow the tragedy of forced education is surfaced through a child’s memory, embedded in disgrace and bitterness while yearning for real life.
I used to be envious of the stories that I would hear of the past century. Although life in general was much more difficult back then, I enjoyed listening to the pastimes of lazy summers that bled into a new school year filled with patriotism, prayer in school, and learning the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic. I thought that the “happy days” of the 20th century were truly happy, but if one were to dig deep into the archives of education, she would see that not much has changed in its mission.
As I ponder over the direction of education in the 21st century I want to be that mom – that advocate – who fights for putting the basics back into real education! I don’t want to hear about “no child left behind” or the new “common core standards.” I want to know that the schools are teaching the children how to read properly; how to perform the four foundations of mathematics; and, how to write in both styles: print and cursive. My knickers are in a twist of the recent awareness that the new nationalized standards will not be teaching cursive writing. And, the icing on this political scheme of a cake is that the experts are more concerned about teaching the “process” rather than finding the correct answer! Really? 2+3=5 is not necessary as long as you know how to discover your own path. I sure hope that these children do not become surgeons or pharmacists or rocket scientists. We will be in a world of hurt if the right answer is not necessary.
I had to take a moment to vent about this change that will forever alter our children’s future. I can’t help but think that there has to be more to these standards than test scores or trying to fit all children into one common mold. It will be my new plea, rather, a new passion, to encourage all parents to teach as much of the “old” style of learning at home. Forget the matrix of multiplication… teach them how to multiply the old school way!
I know there is no perfect school out there. As humans we will always error when it comes to human-made institutions. And yes, the current educational system is bleak at best. But, please, don’t make it worse by further dumbing down the children. Take back the control into the local schools, by starting in your own home. Read to your children every night. Do the math flash card practice. Play a board game to strengthen the logic skills. Print out and copy some cursive practice words.
There’s one thing that cannot be taken from you, and it is your intelligence. Just don’t let some “expert” tell you what and how much of that intelligence will be allotted to your child. That type of progress, that type of control, that type of spreading-the-wealth… it’s not healthy, nor is it good for our future.