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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Educating the Masses

“No man who worships education has got the best out of education.... Without a gentle contempt for education no man's education is complete.” ~G.K. Chesterton

A few years ago, prior to having my life sucked out of me from working on a campaign, I had made the decision to attend graduate school. It wasn’t one of those half ass decisions – I don’t make half ass decisions – it was an in depth look into roughly 15 graduate schools that had education policy programs. Like, I said not a half ass decision or a “this looks interesting, why not waste another hundred grand…?” it’s something that I’ve always had a deep interest in, the basis of which, I’m still unable to put my finger on. It’s like my fascination with Congress, it kind of just happened at a fairly young age. I don’t understand the concept of not pursuing something that you’re wholeheartedly interested in. It just doesn’t make sense, but that’s another pet peeve for another day.

People asked if I wanted to teach thus the choosing of such a program. I want to teach, but not for the rest of my life and honestly, I couldn’t stand doing a job in which there is so little credit for an enormous amount of difficult and sometimes painstaking work. Last night I spoke with a friend of mine who is a teacher. MKeg teaches in a public school in Albany. A public school that she attended many years ago and had always looked forward to teaching at. It’s a public school that has changed immensely over the past 17 (GULP!) years. Though many of the teachers have hung on via their tenure, the parents are now unconcerned with the welfare of their children and a school in which violence and pseudo gang fights were pretty much the norm. She told me the story of a child who had had a seizure in school. When the nurse called and told the parent about it, the mother said that she couldn’t come retrieve her child because she needed to sleep before working all night. The hell?

Now, we’re not talking Kozol-esque terrible. This is upstate NY not the South Bronx, but still terrible nonetheless. MKeg’s concern is that if the parents don’t care, then the children don’t care thus making her job that much more difficult. It’s sad but true and so now she is applying for positions at other schools in the area, where parents tend to put more into their children’s education. This would be an excellent time to mention that due to No Child Left Behind standards that schools need to comply with, has caused budget cuts at many of the area schools (if the budget is raised then property taxes are raised by double digits) which are now forced to lay off teachers. It’s like a vicious perpetual cycle in which things have to get worse before becoming better and in which the parents don’t care, so the students don’t care and the teachers are pretty much shit out of luck as are the students.

It’s frustrating and it angers me. I have no reason to be obsessing over such things, but I do, because if I do decide to have children, I am forced to think really hard about whether or not I can live in this area and afford to send my child to GDS where kindergarten is $19,000. It’s just disheartening knowing that most people could care less about such things. Or am I mistaken? I was extremely well educated and I feel like everyone should have the same opportunities; the opportunity to turn into well adjusted (HA HA HA) adults who can obsess about the inane and the important, within a 24 hour period. I suppose we can chalk this up to another one of my peeves. Right up there with asshats.


Blogger Diet Coke of Evil said...

While I agree that the state of public education in the US is deplorable, I don't think the only solution is in sending your child to an expensive (nay, unaffordable) private elementary/high school. You already mentioned the solution in your post - BETTER PARENTING. I grew up in a town with mediocre public schooling (and NO private schooling) and could have fallen by the wayside like many (no, check that, MOST) of my elementary and high school classmates. Instead of finding myself working retail, married and with children at age 23, however, my parents really pushed me to do well in school, made me make the most of my education, and kept me under control. Because of good parenting, I ended up at one of the best schools in the entire country, despite having a crappy public school education.

So you're right, but I think the biggest problem is parenting, and that if the parenting is good, a public school isn't the worst thing to happen to a child. Unless, of course, the public school is UNSAFE, which is an entirely different situation than one that is just underfunded. I would never send my child somewhere where their safety was in danger.

Also, instead of GDS, why not move over to NoVA and hit up some nice free schools? :)

Don't you love waxing about potential children someday?

12:02 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Sorry. Wish I had a better comment, but I am still reeling from the fact that GDS is in Wikipedia.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Heather B. said...

DCOE: I agree that better parenting is needed, but here in DC better schools are needed as well, thus my looking into GDS. Which holy hell? Kindergarten shouldn't be that expensive. Of course I have no idea what I'll do in 20 years, so we'll see about all of this.

Kris: I know right?! Why is GDS in freaking wikipedia???

1:04 PM  
Blogger Diet Coke of Evil said...

I bet GDS is in Wikipedia b/c all of the snooty GDS alumnae (I only know two, but they fit that bill, I hope y'all didn't go there!) wanted the world to know about how great they are.

Just a guess. :)

And in DC, the public school problem is way beyond that of anywhere else I can comprehend. You're right on that count!

1:27 PM  

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