Re[6]: The school game

Michael Hamende (HamendeM@CTS.DB.ERAU.EDU)
Wed, 14 Aug 1996 08:22:29 EST

Darlene says/asks:

"You are comfortable? that "not much learning we would value" is
going on? (And just who is this "we" that you are including in your
opinion here?)"

No I'm very uncomfortable about the situation in our public schools.
And that lack of comfort stems from this lack of learning.

"It really irritates me when you make these sweeping statements
and provide no you let your students get away with this?"

Sorry to be a fly in your ointment. I can supply piles of "proof" if
you'd like. No I require that students support the statements they

Examples/support for position that the public school system in America
is seriously flawed:

1. Teachers earn $20-30,000 per year, sports and entertainment "stars"
earn millions per year. (What does this say about our priorities and
what we value?)

2. Universally, every higher educational institution in America
requires additional writing courses when students arrive. (If students
already know how to write, as you say, why do we have to retrain

3. 6 years of teaching composition at 3 community colleges and a
university where I have yet to have a class where at least half the
students had no interest in learning. (They expected me to tell them
what they needed to know and give tests. And got angry that I
structured things so they couldn't use their normal "no thinking
required" coping skills.)

4. My current full-time job in a Human Resources Department at a
university where we can't find enough people with basic skills, like
reading, writing, and math to fill most of our positions. We are one
of the best employers in the region and should have choices from the
cream of the local crop. (Where are ALL these educated folks of which
you speak? Only in Missouri, and not Florida?)

5. Universities refusing to offer "remedial" courses anymore because
its too much of a drain on their limited resources. Community
colleges screaming that they can't meet the demand.

6. Teaching a developmental writing class filled with students who had
graduated from "your fine system" who had no idea how a sentence was
constructed. Or that someone might be remotely interested in their
opinion or that they were even allowed, let alone expected, to have

7. A society and a system that is based in competition not
collaboration. And that was designed to "train" workers for jobs that
no longer exist and that you could get and do without the skills you
say students have. I speaking of factory work that could be performed
and a decent wage earned without the ability to write or compute or
even often read.

8. School systems where the first things cut when money gets tight
(and when is it not tight?) are honors programs, art and music
classes, and the last thing cut is the athletic program.

9. The people who graduated from your fine system who I come in
contact with every day as employees in stores and businesses who I
have to help do their jobs (like tell them how much change I should
get back or how to operate the cash register).

10. Managers, directors, vice presidents, and presidents of colleges
or organizations who can't write a coherent sentence.

Do you need more Darlene? I'm only getting warmed up. I think I
could go on for days like this.

"I call it empty rhetoric..."

Now? Or do you require more proof?

Then I suggest you search the literature of ERIC, colleges of
education and every study done for the last 20 years or more by the
Feds and the Department of Education. Scholars who study schools and
their design have known and written about these failures for a long
long time. Or maybe you need to get out into some more schools and
classrooms? And not limit your experiences to these teachers you

The last bit of proof I'll add is the fact the America can't compete
in a global marketplace. We do a couple of things OK, but just about
everyone is better at manufacturing than we are. The rest of world
produces far better products at lower costs than we can. If we have
this highly educated workforce you describe why is this the case?

"I know over a dozen teachers personally... teachers of
K-12grade...they talk about what goes on in the classroom..."

Hmmmm. You believe people whose livelihood and entire selfworth is
based on their own ability to do their jobs? Do you really expect
them to be objective? Do you really expect them to tell you that they
are failures? "Oh yes, Darlene, I have spent the last 30 years of my
life wasting time and collecting a check and failing to educate the
students in my charge." I don't think so. I really have to question
YOUR sources and proof.

In my personal experiences with teachers, they seem very unwilling to
even begin to admit there is a problem. I almost always hear, "Oh NOT
in my school/classroom/district. We have fine teachers, students, and

I think that is in part frustration at being faced with such a
monumental problem and being powerless to do anything about it. Being
in denial is pretty dysfunctional. The first step to solving problems
is acknowledging they exist. And yes, I know I have any number of
problems. That does not keep me from thinking and having thoughts
about this issue.

"And their students are learning to read English and Spanish;"

So why do almost all colleges find the need to offer more and more
remedial reading courses?

"write in the sense of make letters to spell words; spell words;"

As above, why do we universally require students to relearn (or learn
the first time) how to write when they arrive at college? In addition
to needing to fund remedial writing courses?

"add, multiply, subtract and divide;"

Why do the vast majority of students require remedial math, usually
starting with basic arithmetic when they arrive at college?

"tell stories;"

Most colleges also require speech because our students are only
marginally better at verbal communication than they are in writing.

"take care of the environment;"

Hmmm, acid rain? Deforestation? Ocean dumping? Dozens of species going
extinct every day? Toxic waste superfund sites multiplying like sea
monkeys? Overpopulation? Darlene please.

"get things changed that are unfair;"

Gridlock in government? Authoritarian teachers? Classrooms where no
learning takes place? Their own inability to get enough to eat or for
their parents to get decent jobs.

"take care of small animals."


"They are learning the history of their state, country and the world;"

So why don't they know where Australia is nor can they find it on a
globe? Or for many knowing what a globe is for. Or who Washington,
Lincoln, or even Nixon was? Have you seen the recent post floating
around where a history teacher compiled a history of the world from
students' responses to test questions?

"how to use pencils, crayons, chalk and watercolors to express their
emotions and ideas..."

Yes, Darlene, the technology of the pencil is pretty sophisticated.
:-) Having a BA in Art I am well aware of the value of aesthetics.
But if these students are so comfortable with their emotions, why are
so many on various forms of drugs to control them?

"...well, I could go on, but all those those seem to me to be "things
of value."

Those things are of value. But I have to question the source from
which you acquired your proof and the "fact" that these things are
happening in the majority of American schools today.

"I can't believe that only the teachers I know are teaching these

I wonder why you only know such gifted teachers?

"...partly because the students who come into my class can read,
write, do math, make decisions, take responsibility, etc."

You are quite lucky to not have had some of the students the rest of
us have. And no not ALL of my students have been like this. I have
known and experienced some very bright students. Unfortunately, most
of them had been very turned off by their "school" experience.

"...and none of them have been taught by the teachers I know. Just
what is your basis for saying american schools are going to hell in a
hand basket?"

See above.

Mike Hamende