... and some thoughts on education.Hard Times at Douglass High: a No Child Left Behind Report Card
was on a few nights ago and I finally got a chance to watch the whole thing. Here is its official website.
I remembered some things my mom said about teaching in high school as I was watching this:
1) No Child Left Behind doesn't work. It only provides for sanctions; it doesn;t do much of anything to aid schools.
2) If the parents aren't involved, the children won't be.
3) On parent-teacher night, mom never saw the parents of the children in trouble. (O, as she put it "The ones she needed to see.")
And this was in a working class suburban school district.
Unlike the documentary which is about a high school in inner-city Baltimore. Here the problems are worse:
1) Families have disintegrated. Most of these kids are either in one-parent households or are living with grandparents or guardians. And some of them are parents themselves.
2) Lack of resources: for example, in a geometry class, there is a sum total of 16 books. Which means that there aren't enough books for each student to have one of their own AND, since there are only 16 of them, the students can't take them home to work on them.
3) Lack of teachers. There is a huge teacher shortage in Baltimore. And, frankly, from what I've seen of it, teaching high school has a high burnout rate to it, regardless.
4) The kids frequently don't want to learn, and the school lacks the wherewithall to force them to. In fact many students hang out in the hallways.
5) Or, if they want to learn, the lack the skills necessary.
It's an ugly situation. No Child Left Behind isn't helping. And frankly, I'm not sure what would help. Part of it is a matter of funding, but it has to be specifically directed funding. We may have to overhaul education in general.
The students' attitudes didn't surprise me because they mirror what I've seen here at my urban community college. Most of our problem students tend to be the ones who just came from high school because they lack the maturity to take responsibility for what they do or don't do (as in attend classes).
And the basic skills are lacking: reading, writing, public speaking: all problematic. Now granted, part of that comes from the number of immigrants we have as students, but the issues are not all linguistic in nature. Argumentation, for example, differs from culture to culture. What we in the West consider plagiarism isn't necessarily the case for some. While Americans prefer direct discourse, many cultures prefer to use more indirect discourse strategies.
But the attitude of some of our students -- the "What do you mean I don't pass? Just because I didn't go to class and turn in assignments?" -- matches some of those in the documentary.
An interesting documentary. If you get a chance to watch it, do.
Meantime, my brother and I were talking about bilingual education.
My brother pointed out that the main proponents of bilingual education in America are those who already speak Spanish and the politicians who pander to them.
I actually think bilingual education would be a good idea, in theory, anyway. Having said that, Spanish isn't going to be the language for everyone. Some places, other languages make more sense. French in Louisiana and New England, for example. In Pittsburgh, it would probably be Russian. Or maybe Polish.
I'm not sure what it would be in NYC.