Tarheeltalker

Like it or not, here it comes

Such a wonderful all-purpose phrase that I have used on numerous occasions. In this particular case, I believe the or nots are almost unanimous. The “it” refers to the state mandated changes that will begin in the North Carolina public schools, beginning with the 2012-2013 school year. As a caveat I will mention that the aforementioned it does not refer to the increase in school days from 180-185. Although it would have been traumatic for me back in the days of yore when public school and I had a love-hate relationship.( I loved to hate it.)

So what can it be that has teachers upset, on several levels, and is described as something that parents wont like, students wont like, “older” school principals wont like and school boards like ? Notice that there would hardly be anyone left to actually like this upcoming change.

I became aware of this from an article in the Daily Advance newspaper today in which Dept of  Public Instruction representative(1) Tamara Ishee-Berman warned local school board members of  the possibility of  public displeasure over what she called a method of learning math that focuses on problem solving skills and not doing math problems.

She provided an example where students at the N C School of Science and Math were told they would be city planners designing a new mass transit system for their town. She related that a key element of the new learning approach would involve students choosing what equations they needed to solve the problem without teacher imput. The method which she described as revolutionary would be used to teach middle school students.The method is also described as one that requires great initiative on the part of students.

So, here we have a radical new system which will admittedly be painful to be taught by teachers who will lack adequate learning time and will place added demands on principals and what result do we expect ?Hint, it wont be pretty. Just one more thought. Who had input into this program and were the potential pitfalls even considered. I am quite glad I do not have any  children in the public schools but alas I do have grandchildren that are there.

 

 

 

 

 

1  Footnote: Ms Ishee-Berman is regional lead at the N C Department of Public Instruction and has degrees from University of Massachusetts Boston and Harvard.

 

 

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February 24, 2012 Posted by | education | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shaping Young Minds…..Again

It’s that time of year again. Untold numbers of  children and young people are returning to the hallowed halls of public education. There are those, of course, with the means and/or opportunity to pursue another path; private or religious schools or home schooling. But the majority will trudge back to endure or enjoy the public school process, as my wife and I and our children did.

It seemed like a good time to write again about education as my younger grandson entered the “system” as a kindergarten student just yesterday. He was somewhat excited at the idea ahead of time which gave me pause as to whether we were actually related.

My public education years, which numbered only 12 since there was no mandated public kindergarten in those pre-historic days, would never be described with the words excited or eagerly anticipating. I have tried to find a suitable descriptive phrase and remembered  a Paul Simon lyric from “Kodachrome.” It goes like this. “When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.” Now, admittedly  that is not totally correct since I did have a wonderful English teacher my senior year whom I was privileged to get to know as a friend and neighbor. Alas, she was the exception.

Were I  to divide my 12 years into 2 segments; one being elementary and the other combining junior  and senior high; the former rates considerably higher than the latter but mainly by comparison. But, to close  on  a somewhat more positive note, the above referenced grandson now has three school days under his belt and still “loves” school and his teacher. That is the good news. The not so good news is that his bus riding experience has been utterly chaotic all  three days and in  a different way each day. Certainly hope that his school and who ever else is responsible for this gets their act together and soon! At this point, I  will refrain from mentioning the names of the school or school system, with my hope being that things change for the better.

September 3, 2011 Posted by | education, Family | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

My List is Growing too Long

There are a number of rather newsworthy items out there that are really irritating me  or as I sometimes tell Mrs THT. ” They are getting on my last nerve.” I hardly know which one to choose. My blogging associate at goodtimepolitics  made me aware of a Colorado school district that has a plan in the works to charge children for riding the school bus. If that isn’t a good freakin’ grief  idiotic idea, I would hate to see one.

A community group in Fresno,Ca ( we all know who got his start as a community organizer, do we not?) is demanding  that radio station KMJ remove all conservative programming from the station because  their programs ” incite violence.” Let’s see, Times Square bombing attempt, the so-called underwear bomber and the Army major at Ft Hood. They were all conservatives, right? No,wait a minute, there is something else they had in common. Let  me think, oh yes, their Muslim faith. Can’t say that though.

But the 3rd item on my list takes the cake or the soft drink, as it were. This  comes from San Antonio, Tx where the health conscious city manager, Sheryl Sculley, a self-proclaimed “fitness person,” whatever that means, has directed that all sugary soft drinks in  the city’s beverage machines be removed with unhealthy snack foods next. It does not prohibit employees from bringing the evil items from home and consuming them at work. Wanna bet that there will be pressure applied at some future time in some way to ban the offending items from the premises, just like cigarettes.

And it is all being done under the guise of  improving the health of city employees. A  Texas A & M professor, Lisako McKyer, even draws  analogies to seat belt laws. This one quote by the city manager was oddly disturbing and I am not really sure why. ” We know that statistically that people  who are overweight or obese have greater health problems than those who do not.” The actual quote  doesn’t  really make sense but the thought I see lurking in the background is, you better lose weight or there may be consequences. An alarmist attitude, don’t  think so. There are a growing number of locales that will not hire smokers. What would be the next logical prohibition?

And I haven’t even dealt with Gwinnett County, Georgia which wants to collect  some $39,000 it overpaid  employees in 1994. The report uses the word ask, but don’t kid yourself. If any of the offenders are still county employees the government will get their money, even though the error was theirs.

May 20, 2010 Posted by | Health, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Does it Matter Which One You Say?

We are well into the Christmas season with decorations and pageants and parades and shopping all around us. A season that seems to go at a faster and faster pace every year. It is  somewhat reminiscent  of the conceited tigers from the 1899 book by Helen Bannerman, Little Black Sambo. Trying to take their treasures from each other they run madly around and around a tree until they turn into butter. Almost sounds like a trip to the mall or the “evil place” does it not?

In previous posts I have made reference to my dislike of shopping in general and this time of year with its overemphasis on such, just makes it worse.

But there is something about the season that affects me  a bit differently and it concerns a feeling. There is of course, an increasing tendency away from the use of Merry Christmas as a greeting to be replaced by a more generic Happy Holidays. Schools are institutionalizing it somewhat and even celebrating winter instead -ok for Jack Frost  and Frosty , I guess. I understand that  much of the reasoning is the expressed desire not to offend or make uncomfortable those whose beliefs or traditions  run  in a different direction.

I don’t become angry about the generic but rather saddened that we feel the need to  turn into  a pretzel rather than risk  offense by saying things that shouldn’t even be offensive.

I read an interesting article by Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times that  referred to this year’s White House Christmas card. Generic, you betcha. Season’s Greetings and a joyous holiday season it says. Anything wrong with it, of course not. Just sorta bland and blah for my taste. Of course, Malcolm had to cite  a poll or two. And frankly these numbers surprised me. Not the fact that some 70% of Americans  prefer Merry Christmas but that it varies across political lines.A Rasmussen Reports survey indicates that  91% of Republicans and 70% of Independents prefer the traditional greeting with 58% of Democrats leaning that way.

Who woulda thunk it? I’m going with Merry Christmas regardless of the   political implications. Hope that’s alright.

December 13, 2009 Posted by | Holidays, Media | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Wish I Were in Public School Again

At the ripe old age of 58, I realize that is unlikely to happen. Besides, as I have previously posted I didn’t like it all that much the first time. But now, it would be different. For , you see, something is going to happen on September 8, 2009 that has never happened in the history of American public education.

President Barack Obama is going to make a live  address to all public school students on the above referenced day. Wonder what he will say ? Will there be any advance notice of the topic?  What could be the purpose of such  a speech? For example, what benefit are children in the early grades(K–2) going to get from it ? Is it a type of indoctrination as I have seen from some who are concerned? Or is that an overreaction? Hard to say without  knowing somthing about his speech. I really am a bit disturbed about it  in some ways and would in all likelihood feel the same regardless of which President was speaking. For example, when a President makes a prime time address whichis somewhat commonplace, there is an option or two available. Watch something else or turn off the television come to mind. In the public school  setting, there is the prototypical captive audience.  Plus, teachers will presumbly have beenpreparing their students in advance for the address. Who is the President, what do you know about him, etc.

Also, bear in mind that teachers or at least their unions skew heavily Democrat  and this could be  a  factoras well. So, should parents who have doubts keep their children at home, go with them if possible or what? What about home schooled children or children in private schools? Are they automatically excluded? Just seems to be lots of unanswered questions. I suppose I am just thinking out loud, so to speak, since  my children are long gone from public school. I do have  a 4th grade grandson and I will surely be interested to hear his take on the speech.

Oh, one more thing, if a child is kept home that day by their parents, will they  be excused or not? So many questions and so few answers. Michele Malkin has a great post on the topic today, entitled “No Junior Lobbyist Left Behind.” She has  some good references of other  examples of children being “used”  politically.

September 2, 2009 Posted by | Children, education, Media | , , , | 27 Comments

I Know Hate Is A Strong Word, But….

Strong words often generate strong reactions such as this line from a Wayne Watson song. ” Sticks and stones can break my bones,lies  can break my heart, before you fire your poison tongue, contemplate the scar.” Those lyrics came from a song he did years ago that talked about the destructive power of speech. I  trust that my title will not have that kind of impact, for the allusion is not to a person, but rather a thing.

My feelings of antipathy are for the public school system, not in an overall  sense, but rather for my experiences as a public school student and how I fit or rather didn’t fit.

These feelings wandered back to my thoughts when I read a brief book review on a  book entitled Why Don’t Students Like School by psychology professor Daniel Willingham. Dr Willimgham has been at the University of Virginia sice 1992.  Willingham says he in his book content is more important than “learning strategies” . This next part is what got my attention. Kids get bored because teachers don’t know enough about the line between a mind that has too little stimulation and one  that is overwhelmed. That started me thinking, was I one of those and   was that the reason I struggled so much.

Although, that may have been a factor, I’m inclined to think my shortcomings in the area of social interaction were the biggest issue for me. Again, I just didn’t fit. How does a teacher get  a child to fit? I really don’t know. There were some teachers in my early years that I remember positively, more so in the early years, say, grades 1-4. After those years, the positive feelings that I remember became less and less until college, of all things. When I arrived at Rockingham Community College as a freshman, it was as if a light came back on. I liked college there and even more so at Appalachian State. My grades  were pretty good but they had been pretty good in public school. When I made it to college, it was if the pressure was off and I could be myself, whatever that was, and no one minded .

Perhaps, it went from being required to go to having an option. Being exposed to different types of people with different backgrounds helped as well. So, those who are afflicted with an antipathy toward school from days gone by, it’s ok. Skip those class reunions if you want, don’t wax nostalgic and most importantly, try to dismiss the junk with which you put up as I am doing. It by no means must define you anymore.

One picture as a close. My very frist school was Burton Grove Elementary in Leaksville, NC (now Eden) Although no longer a school, it still remains the place where it all began.

Burton Grove Elementary School(flickr.com)

Burton Grove Elementary School(flickr.com)

The caption perhaps tells it all of a school that once served well, now sits empty and abandoned, shuttered and decaying. Rest in peace, home of the Burton Grove Bulldogs.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | education, History | , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments