Service a mistake
From: Maury Chaput
"Mandatory volunteering" -- how many high school students recognize this phrase as an oxymoron? I'd bet very few. Yet the geniuses on the Maryland Board of Education believe that it is crucial that precious teaching time be used to administer a "public service" program.
Public education no longer fosters a value system that would instill a desire to be willingly charitable with time, talent or money. The simplistic solution is the "gun to the head" approach. There are never long-term benefits, but that doesn't seem to matter. (How many adults are reading this who haven't touched a keyboard since the last piano lesson their parents made them attend?)
Make no mistake, this is simply one more intrusion into our private lives. The zealots' quest for social justice (read "socialism") knows no bounds. In the beginning, the list of approved activities will be fairly broad. As soon as the program becomes a relatively accepted affair, the socio-Nazis will begin to sanitize the list. Religious-affiliated organizations will be the first to go. Then the Boy/Girl Scouts (sexual discrimination, you know!) will be next -- and so on until the real agenda is met.
Support for schools
From: Thomas J. Paolino
President, Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County
I am writing to alleviate some of the confusion you expressed in your column in the Anne Arundel County Sun, 7/5/92 ["An educated guess: Our schools not up to snuff"]. I hope this helps.
You expressed concern, "that something is not up to snuff in the education business." I couldn't agree more. However, you make the all-to-common mistake of laying the blame solely at the feet of teachers. The problem is not because of a lack of commitment of teachers but a problem of a lack of commitment of the public and government officials to fully support and fund public education. This past school year clearly showed this lack of commitment. Last year, the public sat back and watched while education budgets were slashed, teachers were furloughed, programs were eliminated and class sizes were increased. Yet it was teachers alone who were faulted for low student test scores.
Teachers work 190 days and get paid for 190 days. We don't get "paid" holidays, weekends, summers, or even snow days. All this time off that many people like to try to blacken our eyes with are unpaid days. Granted, many teachers use this time to supplement their income with second and even third jobs. Others use their summer "vacations" to go back to school for recertification or to get advanced degrees usually at their own expense and for their students' benefit. Still other teachers use this time to cinch their belts a little tighter so they have time to spend with their own children rather than the children of others. Sadly, it is their own families who are forced to take a back seat because teaching is not an eight-to-four job. There are always papers and tests to grade, plans to write, phone calls to parents to make, forms to fill out and reports to write and bulletin boards to plan and prepare. These things and many others consume most evenings and weekends.
As for the teacher to whom you referred in your column, I certainly would not want my child in her class since she has not changed her plans since she started teaching. What about curriculum changes, the new state tests and, last but not least, individual student differences? And as for her science classes, what about new technologies, discoveries and advancements?
Does she bother to incorporate them into her lessons? I have been a teacher for 22 years and never had a 40 minute lunch -- usually 20 to 25 minutes and a seven-and-a-half hour day. As for teachers wasting an enormous amount of time, it is obvious that she never taught in an elementary school where many days these teachers get no breaks at all, not even lunch.
I truly regret the unfortunate experience you had with a principal. However, I know many principals who would love to have you as a substitute if you meet the requirements and are willing to undergo a background check. . . .
The original purpose of the public schools was indeed to teach the 3 R's. However, we are compelled to meet the immediate social and/or special interest needs at the expense of future academic needs. The dictates of society no longer allow us to just teach the basics. Society has turned public schools into a clearinghouse and first aid center for society's ills. We are now expected to correct all of these ills: social diseases, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, smoking, water safety, bike safety and provide, in many cases, parenting.
As for "America 2000, An Education Strategy," as a public school teacher, I couldn't agree more with the President's goals for public education. However, these are goals that cannot be met by just public schools. They must have the total support and commitment of everyone if they are to be met. Government (local, state and national) must provide the financial resources necessary to meet these goals. I won't go through all six, let's just deal with goal one, for without it the rest fall like dominoes. Goal one -- all children in America will start school ready to learn. To achieve this goal we must provide each and every child with basic health care, both pre- and post- natal. These children need to have parents who are healthy and drug-free. They need to be raised in a caring and loving environment, not one of abuse and neglect. They need to be well-nourished and well-rested physically, mentally and emotionally. They need to be encouraged and supported academically. And all of this needs to happen before that child ever steps into a public school classroom and encounters their first public school teacher. If this goal could be met, then the other five could be accomplished. Yes, the six goals are indeed noble. They say to me that education is everyone's responsibility and that if public schools are to succeed we must all take an active part. However, none of these goals will be met if we continue to make education and educators the scapegoat. We must stop local, state and federal governments from paying lip service to the importance, while cutting aid and funds to education. We must stop boards of education from transferring funds for books and materials to other areas of their budgets and we must stop furloughing and further demoralizing teachers. We must all accept our responsibility to make quality education a reality.