Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Death of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Resurrection of Creativity

So I guess this blog has been less about my adventures in writing and reading and more about my opinions on life and hot topics of today.

I'm fine with that, but I guess I should probably separate blogging for writing and reading only and another blog where I can actually state opinions on a wide variety of topics.

To jump right into it, I've been increasingly more concerned that many Americans are becoming more and more concerned about certain types of flags being flown from the South, lions being killed in other countries, and celebrities getting their iclouds hacked than real and incredibly crucial subjects that are directly affecting us as a culture, as a society, and as a country.

In reading many articles from the Huffington Post, the Smithsonian Magazine, and watching TED talks, I've become increasingly concerned about the decline, or better yet, failing of our public school systems, and even some of our colleges.

I call for a revolution, and I call for it right now.

Here are the things I do not agree with as far as education goes, and some of the reasons for why education needs to be changeed. Later, I'll actually write down a list of my ideas I've gleaned from Sir Ken Robinson, who's written books and assisted school districts & other school systems in reforming education, as well as from Finland's education system that has been in the top five ranked best education systems in the world.

But first, I'll tell you my reasons for why I want a revolution in our education. And I'll start with two stories to show you from my own experiences in middle school for a sampling of what is wrong with the way we educate.

1. I was 12 years old, in my sixth grade sex ed class, with an atrocious P.E. teacher. Hard-nosed, narrow-minded, monotonous woman, but I didn't really think much of her until a particular day when we were discussing, with wonderful detailed pictures, the effects of gonorrhea and chlamydia. I was even more grateful that this class occurred just before lunch! Anyway, I was blissfully ignoring this woman who was talking about all manner of disgusting things. Because I had already been taught about sex from my parents, I figured the lesson didn't apply to me and had my nose buried in a library book. It was a wonderful mystery book entitled The Doll in the Garden by Mary Dawning Hahn. As I was reading, I noticed that it was eerily quiet around me, but I was so enthralled in the characters I hardly notice if there's a mushroom cloud outside my window, let alone if a teacher is staring daggers at me. Which this teacher was. I finally realized what was going on when a classmate poked me in the side to get my attention. This "teacher" said nothing. Just stared at me till I closed my book. She didn't gracefully come over to my desk, whisper in my ear for other classmates not to hear, that I should refrain from reading till the end of class. She didn't wait till the end of class to pull me aside privately to let me know that though reading is admirable, there's a time and a place for it like Miss Stacey did with Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. Oh no! She treated me as if I had just committed a criminal offense. For reading a library book. In the middle of a nauseating sex ed class. Now I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with sex ed and I'm not saying that me reading during a class is at all admissible. What I am saying is that when a good student who never gets into any fights or has never seen the inside of detention is found reading a book in the middle of a class that is obviously uncomfortable a little slack would be appreciated. Not to mention the fact that I'm sure if I were a teacher, I would kill for those types of "behavioral problems" of reading a book in class instead of paying attention as opposed to throwing paper airplanes, fighting, talking over me, or pulling pranks. Please. This teacher had no idea how to handle a classroom situation of the like, and would rather that I stare at the effects of crabs on a projector, than increase my vocabulary and broaden my intellectual horizons and as a result, strengthen my self-awareness, self-confidence and self-worth that is needed in situations that could PREVENT me from making bad choices like irresponsibly sleeping with a guy I don't know. I speak for myself, obviously. The point is, (sorry this became more of a rant), where are our priorities? On education or indoctrination? On lesson plans or learning?

2.) This is a more positive story (though sad when you think about it). I was 14 in the same middle school, in the eighth grade. I had found a marvelous English teacher whose name I can't recall, but I will never forget her. She engrossed me in every lesson, and I waited with baited breath to learn from her and to do her assignments. She was a fantastic teacher, very young and knew how to relate to us. She had started the lesson of that day by asking how many of us (in the class) knew what the Holocaust was. I was the only person who raised my hand. In a class of 20 students. Needless to say, my teacher tried to hide her mortified look unsuccessfully as she proceeded to teach an impromptu lesson about the Holocaust and World War II to a bunch of teenagers who should've been taught that long ago. She saw the need to educate the class on the Holocaust & World War II and instead of sticking to her lesson plan, taught us according to our needs. THAT is a teacher who deserves a major award. And a bonus.

So what do these two experiences have to do with each other? Other than the fact that they happened while I was in middle school? First off, from the first story, I believe that the education system has become too industrialized. It's preparing children to be factory workers and farmers! That's why they have summers off, so they can work in the fields to plant crops. That's why children have to march from classroom to classroom when the bell rings because that's what happens in a factory. That's why they have close to eight hour school days! We have an assembly line mentality that we have to feed children through K-12 as fast as possible and treat them all exactly the same way, forgetting that every child is different, and every child learns differently.

This has to stop.

Not only is it debilitating, it's destructive. Children get into their minds that if they don't meet the status quo of standardized tests or the narrow incredibly selective path of careers and education, that they are stupid and somehow abnormal in a bad way. I believe that this leads to behavioral problems and even in later years, criminal activity.

Children who are told that they must learn to take a test are far less likely to excel and find their talents and abilities than children who are simply encouraged to learn.

Aptitude tests, ACT/SATs, etc prove only a minuscule portion of a child's intelligence. And yet we use these tests to determine what direction their lives will take and if they are "smart" or "clever."

Another alarming thing I've found disturbing, apart from the streamlining children in education, is the fact that there is a hierarchy of subjects in schools. Mathematics, science and literature are at the top of the list, whereas the arts, music, dance and theater are at the bottom of the rung. Education is more about conformity and less about diversity. It is more about dumping information into the brains of children, instead of letting them explore and develop their talents. Many people go through school not finding what they're good at because they don't excel at the things that society or that schools believe to be "important" and therefore never figure out where their talents lie.

Why? We, as a society, are craving, and more so need, children nowadays to become the next Van Goghs, the next Shakespeares, the next Einsteins, the next Mozarts. How can we do this? How can we have children become creators of masterpieces and innovators when we are deliberately stripping them of their possibilities and opportunities through our old-modeled education systems?

The education system was invented in the 19th century to accompany the Industrialist Age. It is literally two centuries old. It is outdated. How is it that we have made incredible leaps and bounds in technology and medicine, when we have not made a single step in the advancement and transformation of education? How? How is that possible?

Another observation I've made in regards to education in correlation to its quality, is the stark divergence between wealthy school and poorer schools. Now, I don't believe that everything in this country should be free, and I'm very much of the mindset that socialism will not work in this country as it can in countries like Canada, the UK and others. However, I do strongly believe that education should be one of the things that should be free and equal to everyone and that there should not be a disparity between the quality of education in poor and rich areas.

If our children are the future, should we not give all of them equal opportunities to succeed? How many Beethovens, Reagans, Rembrandts, Hawkings and Dickens are we overlooking simply because they are born or raised in disadvantaged circumstances? Why is it schools are better in richer areas than in poorer areas? Why? How on earth is that in our best interest?

I believe that not only should the federal government keep their noses OUT of our school systems (as far as policies go). The only "help" the federal government should give to schooling is money. Equal money to all schools regardless of location, rank or poverty level. Sound a little hippie-dippie socialist? Sure it does. But I'd MUCH rather the feds give money (and LOTS OF IT) to K-12 schools than free healthcare, including free abortions. I'd trade that all day everyday, especially if it means that children will be educated better to become BETTER doctors. See what I did there?

I believe that teachers should be given additional training in Masters degrees, if they have not already received one, and collaborate with other teachers in how to improve their teaching methods.

How often do good teachers know what their students need, but are unable or greatly restricted in helping them because of the red-tape bureaucratic bull crap that they have to put up with inflicted by our beloved federal government? And why are lawmakers, who are NOT teachers, making important policy changes on education when they themselves are not the ones to enforce them in the classrooms and will never see its far reaching effects?

Francis of Assisi said, "Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance." Emma Goldman said, "The most violent element in society is ignorance." So what is the cure to violence in society. Knowledge. And I have a plan as to how to rectify our education system.

I have a proposed plan on how to completely redefine education. It may seem crazy, but if we're to believe that children are the future, and that in the long-term we'll cut down costs of prisons and rehab centers that most of these children in poverty will face because of the bleakness of their own future, I believe we should do and pay as much as it takes to make our education system incredible.

I also propose that we should do an experiment, if lawmakers and politicians think it won't work nationwide, we should try it in a state that is a.) ranked the lowest on test scores/aptitude tests, b.) a state that is generally a "low income" state c.) have parents & communities how are genuinely concerned about the education of their children and d.) have qualified teachers teaching all 9 subjects listed below.

Here is my proposal:

1.) I believe first off that every child should be given not only access to a free lunch but a free breakfast. That every child be required to be at school at 7:45 Monday-Thursday to get a juice/milk, fruit, cereal or breakfast sandwich.

Researching on child hunger in conjunction with performance in school it's no wonder that kids do poorly in classes before lunch because roughly 51% of them come from low-income households who don't feed them breakfast! Almost every poor child comes to school hungry. How can we expect them to pay attention and absorb the information given to them if they're starving? And if you don't believe me, just look at a few of the websites below.

If we want children to do well in school and pay attention, then we need to make sure they start off their day right, with a healthy full breakfast. Yeah, it's again gonna cost us money, but dammit we've been spending too much money on dumb crap anyway. Why don't we actually spend our tax dollars on our education system. On the children and young adults in our country, who will end up making our country better anyway?


2.) We need to a.) make every subject equal including the arts & humanities as well as the science & mathematics b.) make school days be only 3 hours & 45 minute or 4 hour days with 45 minute classes each instead of 7-8 hour days and c.) have two rotating schedules like a Monday/Wednesday class schedule and a Tuesday/Thursday schedule with Friday, Saturday and Sundays off of school.

For example:

1. Reading
1. Social Studies
1. Reading
1. Social Studies
2. Math
2. Dance
2. Math
2. Dance
3. Music
3. Art
3. Music
3. Art
4. Theater
4. P.E.
4. Theater
4. P.E.
5. Writing
5. Science
5. Writing
5. Science

Before first class of the day, 7:45- Breakfast for all students
First class of the day starting at 8:00
Each class period is 45 minutes long
Between 3rd and 4th class periods are lunch breaks which last 30 minutes long
Each class period will have a 5 minute break period for students to study or sit quietly or rest at the end (40 minute instruction time)
Each class subject may be switched with others on different days according to the needs of the students and teachers (for example: Art and Math may be swapped with each other, Dance for Music, Science with Writing etc. this is simply a rough example for scheduled classes but may be modified.)
Each teacher will teach his/her own subject (no coaches also teaching Math or Social Studies teachers teaching English etc. a coach is a coach of P.E., a Music teacher only teaches Music etc.)
Reading & Writing will be split into to two different subjects due to the fact that some students excel at reading, while struggling with writing and vice versa. Reading and writing are two separate disciplines and should not be fused as one subject.
School ends at 12:00 noon every day, Monday-Thursday. From noon till 4:00PM, students still are required to be at school (unless a parent or guardian decides to pick them up) and attend extra-curricular activities and clubs. If students do not want to participate in extra-curricular activities, they are required to do homework in the cafeteria from noon to 4:00PM.
Examples of extracurricular activities/clubs are: Astronomy Club, Debate Team, Art Club, Band, Poet's Society, Football, Choir, Basketball, Photography Club, Dance, Film Club, Graphic Design Club, Computer Science Club, Spanish Club, Math Team, Baseball, Engineering Society, Orchestra, Lacrosse, Humanities Club, Archaeology Club etc.
After noon every day, teachers may choose to prepare lesson plans for following day.
Teachers should be allowed to construct their own lesson plans and choose their own text books.
There should be 1 teacher for every 7 students.
Classes should have mixed-ability students, not students grouped together according to age, whatever skill level a child is at depends on what types of classes they should take. (for example, a student who excels at Reading & Writing should be in an advanced Reading & Writing class but if the same student performs poorly in Math, the student should be placed in a Math class according to his/her skill level, not age group)

To end, I will simply share a quote by Bill Richardson & Elbert Hubbard.

"Ignorance has always been the weapon of tyrants; enlightenment the salvation of the free." "The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and these are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence."

If this country is going to be free and stay free, we need to educate our children and young people better. If we keep on going the way our education system has been in this country, our government will turn to tyranny, because future generations will be uneducated. They will not have the proper tools needed to fight evil and battle injustices. They will succumb to false doctrines and ideals that will lead them to turn to terrorism, radical groups, crime and ignorance.

Let us start now to change the education system using some of the things I've researched above.

If we do so, we will have a brighter future. And more importantly, our children will be blessed with knowledge and wisdom that they will need to battle enemies both at home and abroad.

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