Thursday, September 20, 2012

Random Thoughts On High School Back-To-School Night

Last night we went to back-to-school night at my daughter's high school. Our sons all went to an all-boys Catholic high school, but for various reasons, she is going to the local public school. The difference was dramatic and as I sat there listening to the teachers, several things occurred to me. Here's a sampling, in no particular order.
  • Participation was low. At the Catholic school, about 90-95% of the parents attended. At the public school, it was 10-20%.
  • Most of her teachers have completely punted on homework. They don't give any. At all.
  • Some graded on attempting to solve problems rather than giving the correct answer. Note: at the Catholic school, there was very, very little partial credit given.
  • There was no feeling that the students or the parents were expected to provide anything other than a warm body to sit in a chair.
  • You would graduate imagining that someone will pay you for trying to do your job and you won't be expected to improve yourself on your own.
  • The literature and social studies syllabi seemed thoroughly leftist.
  • There is one auto shop class and a few art classes. Other than that, no trades are taught.
  • The English teacher talked almost entirely about helping the kids pass the high school proficiency tests required to graduate.
  • In general, it seemed as though the education system has surrendered. They're not even trying to succeed any more, at least not in any real sense. Instead, they have defined success down until it's all about getting the kids a diploma or GED.
  • Minimum wage is screwing these kids. From what I saw, many of the "graduates" will be worth far less than minimum wage plus mandated benefits plus the costs of government-mandated corporate support systems. I could only imagine what kind of workers the school is producing. No wonder so many of them end up unemployed.
  • Since the school expects almost nothing, the parents have to pick up the slack. It made me glad I've been forcing her to do well at soccer. It is the habit of working hard to be good at something that matters.
Backing up to a societal level, I felt that I could see the rot of deficit spending all around me. There was no sense of urgency at all. The system was producing graduates ill-suited for either college or the trades while the State has long since run out of tax money and taxable workers. In the midst of their own financial starvation, the teachers were producing a workforce unable to compete or even understand that competition existed.

It was nowhere evident that the teachers connected a lack of employable graduates with their own personal welfare.

I don't know, maybe I'm just being overly dark.


drozz said...

the bar is set low.

i am eternally thankful my parents yanked me out of public school for a catholic one.

tim eisele said...

It sounds like rural and small-town schools (at least in Michigan) are very different from big urban schools in California. What you describe is almost completely unlike either my own experience in school, or what I am now seeing at my daughter's school. The parents are very involved in the local school (including me and my wife), and the teachers are really concerned that the students learn something.

Which is good, because private school is not an option around here. The only private school in the whole county, as far as I know, is the Copper Country Christian School. Which graduates about 3 students/year, and explicitly states that they only want your kids if you fully accept the Bible as the complete, perfect, literal, and inerrant Word of God.

Jedi Master Ivyan said...

This is one reason why we are considering homeschooling next year. Our oldest nerdling will be old enough for Kindergarten by then.

Kelly the little black dog said...

It didn't used to be this way. You really see it in the universities. If you recall UC didn't have any remedial classes when we were there. If you needed that you had to go to the JC. Now almost every college offers 'college algebra,' let alone trig.

Trade skills have been missing from high schools for years. They were some of the first things to be cut. Sad really.

So what are some of the leftist books on your daughter's reading list?

K T Cat said...

Kelly, the books were about struggles against racism and equality. Combine that with the pervasive theme of no expectations or homework and you got to the grievance industry quickly and easily.

Ohioan@Heart said...

I truly despair at the state of our schools.

They are nothing more than day care for a large portion of the "students". For those students that care (generally that is equivalent to "those students whose parents care") they are getting a thorough indoctrination into a liberal left self-hating curriculum where the concepts of math and science (and their counterparts "correct" and "wrong") are lost on too many of the teachers themselves.

But then what should we expect? The schools are run by a medieval guild who decides who can cannot teach. I have a PhD in Chemistry. But I would not be allowed to teach that subject. Why? Because I don't know the theories of teaching, which are apparently more important than knowing the subject.

One of my sons failed Calculus the first time. I wondered why, because I knew he was good at math. I checked and realized the reason was that San Diego Unified had decided that Trig was no longer a prerequisite for Calculus. Once he graduated from the farce that is a public high school, he took Trig at a local community college. Then he took Calculus, and got an A.

But, again, what should we expect? These policies and behaviors are exactly the kind of stupid decisions that will get made when people who don't know the subject make decisions on what should get taught.

I could go on, but I have to stop now. My blood pressure is going up...

Mostly Nothing said...

We saw 14 years ago that our school district wasn't the place for us. The yearly "world is going to end if we don't get this huge referendum" fiasco. Then when it fails, they come back with a "what we really need" mail in ballot, that passes. It's probably pie in the sky too.

Then talking with the kids, the ones that were in private grade school are shocked at the behavior of the kids in the classroom.

Money well spent on an actual education.