Thursday, May 9, 2013

The New Normal

The "new normal" is a phrase often tossed around by politicos on both the left and right.

From the right, the mantra has come to epitomize large government and a grudging acceptance of a stagnant economy coupled with higher-than-normal unemployment rates.

The left sees the "new normal" as capitalism run rampant, where big corporations have replaced the robber-barons of the 19th century.

They control our finances from Wall Street while doling out minimum-wage jobs to vast swaths of our citizenry toiling at Walmart or McDonald's.

Both sides have valid concerns about what we as a nation have come to accept as normal.

But none of that will matter if our future denizens are unable to read, much less write, something as simple as this blog piece.

It's an issue we talk about often-the decline of our nation's public school system.

Here is what the "new normal" looks like from my perspective:


  • High school graduates who have never written a term paper.
  • Open book tests are the norm rather than the exception.
  • Test reviews and "study" guides that basically tell students what will be on each test.
  • Absolutely no grammar skills.
  • The use of slang and "words" like "gonna" or phrases such as "America is all pissed off and messed up" introduce the theme of an essay.
  • Forget calculus. Many high school graduates can't compute the area of a triangle or even a square, nor can they calculate percentages.
  • In one class of fifteen students, not a single class member understood the word "mandate."
  • Textbooks are never read and are seldom brought to class.
  • The vast majority of students I meet have no idea how to use a library, even one "online"--- to research a paper. They freely "cut and paste" from newspapers, Wikipedia or articles they stumble upon via Google with no understanding of what they are 'writing'.
  • See the preceding bullet point. They don't understand plagiarism either. 
Go to any college website, especially community colleges or commuter-based four-year institutions and browse the online course catalog for "Developmental" courses.

You will find these courses often comprise the single largest component of the catalog. These courses are generally offered in English, writing, and math and are, quite frankly, geared to what most of them should have been taught before they left middle school.

Because of all of the above, many students must spend their first two or three semesters taking courses that carry no college credit and are offered to bring them up to a skill level their state-issued high school diplomas imply they have already mastered.

What is interesting is that only a few students really complain about the workload in college being "too hard."

If you sit down and converse with these young folks, you'll find many, if not most, are appalled and angry once they attempt to read a text or follow a college lecture and realize, to put it in the vernacular, they've been ripped off by their public school systems.

School systems across the country tout their "test scores", which seems to satisfy voters and justify huge salaries for school system administrators.

Teachers, on the other hand, are still relatively underpaid and contrary to media stereotypes, they are as frustrated as I am with the quality of the product they are turning out.

But their hands are tied. Test scores mean more than critical thinking, discipline, or holding students to even "average" performance standards.

While our public schools wallow in political correctness, standardized tests, and self-interested parents who worry more about material possessions, our kids are suffering the consequences.

In my generation, there was no global economy. I didn't compete with high school graduates from Poland, India, or China for well-paying jobs with companies who operate across international borders.

Our kids will compete in such an environment.

And they aren't ready.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why our public schools underperform...

High school graduates have never seen a footnote, written a term paper, and are baffled by simple arithmetic such as calculating a percentage or the area of a triangle.

But our school teachers are well versed in free speech (as practiced in authoritarian regimes) and Dr. Phil psychology.

Which is why our family home schools its pets.

http://www.wrcbtv.com/story/22050127/suspended-for-wearing-nra-t-shirt

http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/local_news/suffolk/boy-who-held-pencil-like-gun-suspended

"A pencil is a weapon when it is pointed at someone in a threatening way and gun noises are made," said Bethanne Bradshaw, a spokesperson for Suffolk Public Schools. 


What is really scary is that a Suffolk School system employee not only "thinks" this way, but repeats those inane thoughts in public, and most likely, will never be fired by her employers or feel any pressure from the public.