May 5, 2005
Copyright © George M. Haddad
In our quest for finding the ways and means whereby our children can receive the well rounded and fundamental education for which we are paying the following events depict a sordid and sorry tale.
My friend Bill (as in Part II) had a teacher friend who after learning of his plight with his daughter’s tutor relayed to him a recent experience. One of her students approached her one day and stated that he was having trouble determining when to use “who” and when to use “whom” and was told by his instructor to just go with “who” since no one would know the difference.
It was at one of my Rotary meetings a few years ago and about two months before the anniversary of D-Day we were addressed by a CEO from the industrial and automotive industry. He related that one day while discussing the company’s plans for a D-Day celebration with a staff aide two of his MBAs came sauntering down the hall and happened to hear the word D-Day. They stopped and inquired “what is D-Day.?
In the May 2005 issue of HOUR magazine there is a short version of the life and WW II years of Marvin Eliot Schlossberg a veteran. His days and career years in the Southeastern Michigan and Metro Detroit area as Sonny Eliot are legendary. He settled there and revolutionized weather reporting. From the magazine here is a short excerpt of one of his experiences. Nobody, he learned when he got home, was very interested in the war. So he didn’t talk about it much. The years flew by. One day (in about the seventies) in chit-chat before a newscast, he mentioned that he had been a German prisoner of war.
“We had a war with Germany?” a young sportscaster asked. For perhaps the first time in his life Sonny Eliot was speechless. “Did we win?” the young man asked.
In our community we have a cider mill. It’s well over 100 years old and dates to the days when it was a grist and flour mill. Its owner has kept its general operations and its motif as close to those early days as possible. His clerks have no calculators or adding machines at the counter and are required to add and subtract with a good old fashioned #2 pencil and a pad of paper. He sells cider, doughnuts, apples, pies and sundry items which you expect in a cider mill. His clerks are upper high school teens and/or early college students.
You will see Jack quite often hovering behind this long counter as he walks back and forth checking and supervising. One day I asked him point blank — why? He replied that he found it difficult to find teenagers who could do simple arithmetic. They could not properly add and subtract with any degree of accuracy. “If I continue to lose 50 cents here and 50 cents there this place would become a non-profit company. I cannot afford that and I also cannot bring myself to compromise our cider mill with the niceties of modern technology.”
A couple years ago in the state of Michigan one of the legislators made a push to place in the hands of all students a free calculator. There was no way to determine where under God’s green earth this man was coming from. He was obviously entirely clueless as to the basic tools really needed in the learning process. He unwittingly wanted to keep them in the hip-hop-rumba-dumba phase of their education. He had no idea as to the number of students out there who still could not add or subtract simple figures in their collective heads. Giving them another crutch was his response to their education. This from a legislator whose state is financially insolvent and its school systems are unarguably dysfunctional.. How does this type of mentality get voted into office?
As noted in one of the Detroit newspapers, “public schooling has been a turf battle between competing special interests, including political parties, budget cutters, entrenched state regulators and teachers unions.” Tom Watkins, state school superintendent, who hadn’t been on the job for very long had been mandated to bring the hodge-podge to a cohesive whole and present a program which would raise the level of the whole system. In the nine-page paper, he called for a bipartisan review of current school district sizes, boundaries and expenditures — along with a study to determine how much money it truly costs to educate a child in Michigan. He needed to plot a baseline in order to prepare cogent goals and objectives. His recommendations did not conform with the sights of the power structure since they interfered with the status quo. He stepped on too many toes. He became the target in their cross hairs. He got shot down. He was pressured to resign. He crossed both the governor and the unions. Rigor mortis was preferable.
It has already been announced that a mission statement and a top priority for a new school chief would be to shake up public education. This is the very reason why the last one was unceremoniously fired. Everyone is aware that any move by anyone to present much needed revolutionary conviction, opinion, conception, principle or attempt to raise the standards beyond their present low level would find TNT under his britches and a number of groups waiting in line to determine who will light the fuse.. The first in line will be the teachers union from whom he would get his basic marching orders.
The state board of education is an ambiguous, redundant, obscure, weak, ill-defined, incapable bureaucracy. Its members are elected, ill-equipped and unprepared. It has no real justification for its existence and needs to be abolished. But just try to eliminate a department from a governmental chart of operations.
In Michigan a way has been found to meet the No Child Left Behind goals. In recent Michigan Education Assessment Program writing tests it was found that the 4th and 7th graders fell well below expectations. According to news reports the MEAP office has pulled back the results of the writing tests taken in those grades until officials can figure out a way to prop up those tests. They are working to revise the scoring scale so that the results are statistically comparable to past scores. In other words, cheat. No one has bored into the real heart of the problem. The classroom itself.
There is no real focus in public education to just sit down and use the schools to do nothing more than teach the subjects necessary to prepare children for the road ahead. Maybe it’s time now to close the loop and bring back McGuffey’s Reader. It might be able to clean up the debris. Schools like rubber bands can be stretched too far. They are into everything in the life of the child and neglecting the justification for their existence.
Our present education is like the plot in today’s TV and movie dramas - Smother it with special effects and everyone will lose sight of the plot. By doing this you can screw up the plot and the mesmerized will never notice the difference.
We have now perceived the results.
|George M. Haddad has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Social Administration with extensive work experience with the mentally ill. The former Executive Director - National Institute for Burn Medicine - affiliated with the University of Michigan. He is retired from the National Staff of the YMCA as a troubleshooter in financial management and administration and has worked as a management consultant to non-profit corporations. He has written frequently on medical, social and political issues and has many published articles to his credit. He currently writes from Franklin, Michigan and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
6 may 2005