Sometimes I write taglines with the intention of provoking readers a bit, but usually they don’t rise to the bait. Other times, I’m astounded at what does trigger complaints. A good example of the latter is this story from the 15 February 2004 issue:
Police in New York have tied together a string of bank robberies, saying they were all likely committed by the same man. Their evidence? The robber’s demand notes are rife with misspellings. They announce a “robery” or “robrey”, call the cash drawer a “draw”, and caution tellers not to slip a “die pack” in with the money. One teller laughed at the robber’s spelling ability; in that case, he walked out empty-handed. But police caution that the “Spelling Bee Dropout” bandit may not be dumb. “It’s possible that he’s pretty smart,” says Suffolk Police Detective Vincent O’Leary. “I’d have to think he’s attempting to disguise himself.” (New York Newsday) …More likely he’s the typical product of a public education.
Other than one mild thumbs up, the initial mail was quite negative:
- I think you could have come up with something better than the cheap shot you took at our public school system. –Steve, Ohio
- I doubt you’ll print this without mocking me, but I think the tagline was a cheap shot, and you could have done better. –Jennifer, California
- As one of those public school teachers, Randy, please allow me to respond to you with this comment: Plplplplplplplplpl!!! –Nathan, Missouri
Nathan was one of quite a few who were upset that I was “belittling” “teachers,” even though the story said nothing about teachers. But he was the only one to write back when I asked him to point to the exact spot where I did.
He replied: “OK, you didn’t say ‘teachers’. Unfortunately, the usual implication is to make the teachers responsible for everything that goes wrong in the classroom. Students, parents, administrators, legislators, and the voting public seem to always find a way to place full responsibility for every aspect of a child’s education on the classroom teachers while absolving everyone else of any responsibility.”
So I do find it interesting that so many teachers thought I was talking about them. The bottom line, though, is my comment does reflect public attitude. Teachers (most of them, anyway) are doing more than their part. Public spending on education is probably at an all-time high.
That means teachers are extremely well paid, then, right? Not particularly; not most of them. But how many more layers of “professionals” are there between the pot of cash and the students? And what value do they add?
When I asked that question in the 22 February issue, the readers were happy to respond. See the Comments below.
I wonder how many parents whine and moan about “the system” (or actively work to thwart it), yet never lift a finger to find out what’s really going on in their childrens’ schools. Parents say that their kids are the most important part of their lives, but then do anything but drag themselves to check out the schools that they entrust their children to. And flipping a coin to see whether mom or dad goes to “Parent’s Night” definitely doesn’t count!
When even a member of a local school board (in the Comments) laments that they have no control over what goes on in the schools because “our hands are tied,” well, no wonder the trend toward home schooling is growing and growing and growing.
I know a lot of my readers are teachers, and I’ll bet most of them nodded through most of this page. As for the others, if you think this is a bum rap, fine: educate us on what you’re doing to change things. As you can clearly see, whining “Cheap shot!” isn’t going to change anyone’s mind.
I think all citizens should have access to an excellent education, because all of society benefits from that. And I agree that “throwing money at the problem” isn’t guaranteed to improve anything; indeed, that’s what we have been doing when it comes to education, and the result is clear: education is far worse than it was.
Obviously, then, something is gravely wrong, and money isn’t it. We all want better education, and just about everyone agrees that bank robbers who can’t spell is an indication that a fundamental part of our society — schooling — is broken.
|A Teacher Who Cares — But at What Cost? I must say that I found myself agreeing with many of the comments you posted on [this] page. I’ve been teaching 8 years, the last 5 in first grade. As a male first grade teacher, I am a rarity. You did ask teachers to comment on what they are doing to change the system. These are just a few things I do:|
Yes, you can probably surmise that a lot of my life is wrapped up in my job. I happen to live in my school boundaries so I deal with the parents in public, go to church with them, etc.
I am an idealistic teacher and believe that change can come about through people working together with the right attitude. If students, the public, legislators, teachers, etc. all had the right attitude, great change could take place in education without spending hardly anything. Such was the case in my hometown in Washington State in an area that has a large minority population. One neighborhood’s parents got involved in the school built out there which led to the neighborhood being beautified, school achievement, low crime, etc. When society works for positive change, great results happen. Unfortunately our society is demanding, self-absorbing, and blames others for its problems today.
In Utah, we have the highest number of kids per class and the highest student to administrator ratio in the nation. We also spend the next-to- lowest per pupil in the nation (and that amount is going to be even lower next year). I have never had a teacher’s aide and we don’t have the specialists that many states have. Our average city high school has 2300 students. My own elementary school has about 1000 students. If we got down to 700 students, they probably would close the school and move the students to other areas. The secondary schools often have 40 students or more in a class. The pay? Not the worst in the U.S., but I can’t support my wife and me, much less buy a house, on just what I make. And I haven’t gotten a raise in about 4 or 5 years.
Yet, Utah students still score above the norm on standardized tests year after year and the participation rate in public education (about 90%) is among the highest in the nation. Utah students are prepared for college the third best in the nation. Salt Lake City was rated to be the second best environment for education in the U.S. among large cities. The high school dropout rate is among the lowest in the nation and the rate of participation in Advanced Placement and accelerated classes is among the highest, if not the highest, in the nation.
Yet, we still hear complaints here. There will always be those, I’m afraid.
I am doing my best to promote positive change and love my job.
Sounds terrific, and no doubt you’re making a big impact, but I hope you don’t burn yourself out! -rc
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