crazy education

so my son is taking us history, and i have gotten reports from other people who’s kids have been in this woman’s class saying she was a conspiracy theory nut case.  but sam had not said anything, so i just thought he knows the difference and so whatever, as long as he can tell the difference in her insanity and her teaching, no big deal.  but today, he came home, and said

mom, guess what my history teacher told us today!!!!!  she is nuts!  she is the one william had and was moved out bc she is so crazy!  she told us that king george the iii was a vampire and that is why he hated the colonist!  she is bat shit crazy, mom!  like she was for real!

what do you say to that?  how do you even reason that out in your mind?  that is the most ridiculous shit, aside from the sex ed bullshit i have had a report of!  good god, they will hire anyone!

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standardized testing creates retroactive education

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when we went to enroll sam into highschool, we were flabbergasted that the counselor told us outright “we just teach them to pass the tests.  that is all he is going to learn.”  we had known this forever, but it was shocking to hear it come out of a school official’s mouth.  there is usually a song and dance and magic trick done by school officials when testing is talk about.  the schools are masters of illusion forcing your vision stage right while grabbing the rabbit under the table to dazzle you.  apparently this lady was new or just plain worn out by the senselessness of it!

the idea of standardized testing to evaluate collective education is not only bad for school districts, principals and teachers, it can mean academic death of the student and therefore society at large.  when i was in school over 20 years ago, we were required to take standardized tests once a year, the results of these tests determined what school districts would get more or less funding and would also allow the placement of some students into higher level programs such as gifted and talented or advanced placement courses.  even back then, the whole idea of allotting more money to districts that score higher than districts that score lower seemed like a 180 degrees from logical.  now, students undergo testing on a constant basis and the testing not only affects the financial contributions to the school district but students that test low are not able to graduate even after completing and passing all required courses.

reducing and/or refusing funds to districts that score low on average while giving more funds to districts scoring high is so ass-backwards!  see, the districts that are scoring high on testing are already doing good, they have teachers that are teaching and probably updated books, while the schools scoring low are missing one or all of the required elements for successful learning.  in my opinion this is done to keep the great divide current and uptodate, to ensure those who were born w will have while those born without will not.  it all starts and ends there, the future is written in education.  keeping the undereducated in their place by holding funding to the schools that need it the most is ensuring those attending poor schools will have a more difficult time surviving in higher education and therefore will have few options in the job market.  someone has to run the grill at mcdonald’s, and the way the current educational system is set up, those future minimum wage workers are already chosen.

education is strictly testing based.  the classes students take, curriculum, the assignments are all geared 100% towards raising testing scores. the monotony and constant repetition of already learned information is extremely detrimental to the student’s desire to strive for education.  introduction of new ideas and critical thinking skills are a thing of the past, a nostalgic  philosophy.  current students learn how to pass these tests and that is it.  those students who have testing anxiety or other things that can make testing a nightmare have no respite, they are required to suck it up and get on board-if you can’t test, you can’t graduate.

testing is supposed to be a method of judgement on the quality of education, teaching methods, and to ensure that students are getting everything they need to be successful in life.  it should be a reflection on the system not on the individual student.  when you wait to get test scores back to determine your curriculum it is retroactive education, with teachers and administrators scrambling to pick up the slack in areas that students collectively did poorly in, but this is too little too late.  the new focuses can’t be implemented for at least a year, leaving the students in an abyss of an educational void.  those students will not see the revamped curriculum, as a matter of fact depending on the district and the funding or lack of funding the issues raised may never be addressed.

there are new discoveries everyday in the areas of science, there are new political ideologies introduced consistently, history is a constantly changing minute by minute, government is an evolutionary process bills of extreme importance introduced at all times, by students not staying current on what is happening around them in these areas, they are being robbed of the ability to blend into society.  when students go to school and their science books are 10 sometimes even 20 years old, that is educational robbery!  hopefully, the students will have a teacher willing to do research and present current affairs to students, but the teachers will be doing this for free, on their own dime bc the funding cuts for the district are first seen in the pay of the teachers then in the tools given to teachers are the next on the chopping block.

i am not the only parent who sees this and shutters.  i am a very lucky parent who happens to be able to teach my children at home what they are not taught in school bc in school they are seniors learning what nouns and prepositions are, they are freshman still working on multiplication and division, they are an identification numbers on a test and not ppl.  structuring all education around testing is producing individuals who are so far behind, it is impossible for them to catch up!  it is chaining them to a life where learning is minimized, they do not need critical thinking skills and usually extreme cyclic poverty.

little kid prison

i remember when sam, who is now 15 and a freshman in high school, was in elementary school.  i would go eat lunch with him at least once a week.  i did this with all my kids until being cool meant not being seen w your mom.  i would walk into the school and sign in-just bc that is your kid, came outta your body, you must get permission to have lunch with him…if you want to see what is going down in his class, tough shit get over it, he’s at our school and we tell you when and where you can see him!  anyway, i would sign in and stand in the hall waiting for my son’s class to walk single file down to the cafeteria.  sam would look at me and a huge smile would engulf his face!  the kids were quiet, like really quiet, unusually quiet.  no noise.  i would go and walk beside sam and try to talk to him, ask him how his day was so far and what he had done.  i saw the teacher’s sideways glances at me but i didn’t care-sam cared though.

we would walk into the cafeteria, and walk through the lunch line.  sometimes the lady would smile at sam and that made me happy.  we would take our seats.  i would talk to sam and he would nod his head.  we were surrounded by elementary school kids, but there was not so much as a giggle escaping the lips of these kids.  there were teachers with no-nonsense looks on their faces.  the teachers stayed huddled together for the most part, then occasionally  one or two of them would break apart from the gaggle and walk in between the tables, looking down at the kids who, i guess, had a tendency to get unruly.  there was no smile in these eyes of these teachers, only eyebrows knotted together and mouths drawn down to their chins.  they were usually wearing take me serious shoes and a seasonal sweater-they all wore christmas sweaters between november and january.

i remember the kids not speaking at all.  i remember seeing the tops of little heads.  i remember that.  but most of all i remember the look on the teachers’ faces-these were some i ain’t takin no kid shit teachers.

a friend of mine, who is a great fella, is a teacher.  he has been a teacher for quite awhile.  this year he moved from high school to teaching elementary school kids.  man, he was so excited!  he had all these great ideas and wonderful things to encourage these kids in learning.  o i should add he is a special ed teacher.  he loves science!  he had a microscope that could project onto a screen, he was going to do a garden, he wanted to teach these kids some critical thinking skills!  i wish he would have been my kids’ teacher.  i talked to him right after the meet the teacher night before school started.  he was glowing with happiness!  these little kids, most of whom were labelled bad or dumb and were the kids the school forgot, ran up to him and hugged  him.  he was the cool teacher!  and he was serious about it. he was gonna do some cool stuff w some cool kids!

but somewhere things went awry.  somewhere things got messed all up!  he had the magic to turn these kids from future mcdonald’s workers into the next chomsky or da vinci.  this is what the guy was built for!  but that is not what the district wanted.  they had prefab lesson plans for the teachers and all teachers were to teach all kids the same thing the same way.   none of this nonsense!  he tried and tried and at every turn it became more of a bureaucratic nightmare.  up all night working on trying to help these kids, going to school and having a principal breathe down your neck watching every move you make, classes on how to handle crisises although he has a masters degree in psychology, dealing with popularity contests in the teachers’ lounge…just bullshit.

so the kids have lost a teacher and my friend has had the rug ripped out from under him.  i am sad for my friend.  i am sad for his family.  i am mostly sad for the kids who will not have a garden or see what a bee’s wing looks like projected onto a screen.

the r word

i have met many ppl who are liberal/progressive in their thinking.  these ppl are usually feminist, prochoice, socially sensitive, use proper adjective to describe minorities, etc.  most of the ppl who are amoung the progressive elite, they are white, extremely educated and wealthy.  they donate money to orgs like the southern poverty law center and the naacp.  they write letters to law makers and vote.  really these ppl are nice, caring and utterly disconnected from reality.

when the topic of race comes up, they are ready!  

“i can’t be racist!  i have 2 black friends, and i voted for obama!  i am so not racist, i don’t see race!”  this is usually said in a high pitched squeal indicating how impassioned they are.

as white ppl we have the privilege of not seeing race.  we have the ability to walk down the street, and not notice.  we don’t notice that when a person of color goes into the electronic department of walmart, they are followed by the undercover security officers.  we don’t feel the alienation that a black man walking down the street feels when the white couple sees him and crosses to the other side of the road while walking past him then crossing back again.

we don’t teach our children how to handle it when the police pull them over.  for most of us white ppl the only time we are pulled over is if we break the law, this is not true for ppl of color.  it is not rare for a person with brown skin to be pulled over for trivial things like driving through their neighborhood, acting too suspicious, avoiding the police.  these are not rare things, these are things that happen all the time.

a friend of mine told me a story the other day, and i have been working it through my mind for quite sometime trying to justify it in some way, but there is no justification for it, and i can’t just sit on it any longer.  one day my friend’s friend, who is hispanic, was standing on her porch enjoying the day.  her neighborhood is like most neighborhoods in our town-you have 3 blocks of quiet, nice and cozy houses then you run into very low income housing rampant with drugs and poverty; our town is very integrated racially in comparison to alot of other cities, and there are many many white ppl living in low income neighborhoods.  the friend lived a couple of blocks down from an apartment complex that has been known selling crack.  so the friend was out enjoying the day on her property, and a white man approaches her.  he walks up to her porch and tries to sell her something.  she said no, and have a good day.  well, this guy was in desperate need of money, and he attempted to rob the woman on her property on her porch.  she pulled her cell phone out and called the police, while on the phone with the police the man stabbed her.  the police rush to her house, they are always in her neighborhood.  by the time the police got there the man had walked further down the street.  she is on her porch, spewing blood, and the police approach her guns drawn.  they put her in handcuffs.  they go and get the man who stabbed her.  he had the stabbing instrument on him covered in her blood.  they put him in cuffs.  they take them both to jail.  he went to jail for stabbing her, but she went to jail bc she must have done something to provoke the incident.  a white man doesn’t just walk around stabbing hispanic women. she was released later that day, but the damage was done.  she now has an arrest record.  her family and neighbors saw her cuffed and pushed into a police car.  she cannot call the police even when being physically assaulted bc she is too brown.

white ppl have the privilege to ignore facts,  racism doesn’t exist as long as we don’t see it.  we don’t see that 85% of prisons across the country are filled with ppl of color, most for nonviolent offenses.  most of the laws are built to alienate people of color from society.  police have the authority to stop and frisk without cause.  district attorneys are granted full licence on who to prosecute and to what to prosecute them for.  judges can sentence a convicted criminal to life for one nonviolent offense in some cases.  lawmakers create laws to cause a chasm between races.

we pat ourselves on the back bc look at how far we have come in combatting racism-a black man can even be president of the united states now!  the fact is that this should not be exceptional!  when looking at our population diversity, and our government, things don’t exactly line up.  if we had true representation, wouldn’t there be the same amount of hispanic representatives as there are hispanic ppl living in the represented population.  the same goes for black ppl, natives, asians, women, queer ppls, trans ppl, disabled folks, and so on and so on.  

when we see spokespersons for the minorities on television, they are deemed outrageous.  al sharpton is a loud, outspoken, black man.  he is vilianized in the media, and most white ppl just block him out as an “angry black man looking for attention”.  “if that al sharpton would just act more like that oprah winfrey, ppl would like him much better.”  “they are just living in the past and trying to stay victims!  i never owned a slave!”  these are all phrases commonly used among whites, even the white liberals, and even among people of color.

i have wondered why we are so insistent on the idea of being colorblind,  why can’t we see the difference and appreciate the difference, not only in skin color but in culture?  we want to homogenize culture, in turn ripping it away from the ppl, watering it down and giving it to the white population as a tool showing how we are accepting of all ppl therefore proving we are colorblind.  “i have a malcom x poster, eat tamales, and watch anime.  i have even been to a sweat!!!! i don’t notice color and when i do, i don’t care!”  the destructive part of this statement is that “i don’t care” bc we should care.  we should care about the culture of other ppl!  we can appreciate the differences!  it is actually quite healthy for us to study, accept and appreciate without consuming different cultures.  

i honestly believe a major part of our colorblind mentality stems from embarrassment and an inability to reckon the past.  it is difficult to be aware that you have privilege bc you were lucky enough to be born a certain color,  add to that the knowledge of what has been done by your genetic ancestors to the genetic ancestors of those around you, and it is hard to look at.  it is hard to look ppl in the eye.  there is absolutely nothing we can do to atone for past atrocities.  we cannot undo what has been done.  but we can stop acting like these things don’t have a major role in the lives of ppl’s of today.  we can learn the histories of others.  we can take into account the anger as legitimate backlash of oppression bc there are still ppl alive who were direct victims of genocide. instead of trying to sweep it under the rug or denying that the past happened.  we can stop trying to take what culture there is away from ppl.  

we can talk to ppl!  i think that is the most important thing we as white ppl can do.  talk!  it seems so simple.  to have open honest discourse with ppl of color.  you are allowed to say “i somehow feel responsible but i don’t know what to do about it”.  you can ask questions.  you can listen.  you can talk to other white ppl.  you can become educated about the true history of all ppls. (there were different nations of native americans, each with it’s own culture  and language, family structures, social hierarchy, and governments!  there were over 60 slave languages.  south america is a continent with many countries each with their own government, culture and commerce.  africa is not a country, again it is a continent, many countries, language, dieties, theologies, culture, etc.  islam is not a country, it is a religion.  the list goes on and on of what we are taught as white ppl….really it is degrading to all involved)

*when ppl find out that i am a lesbian, they try their hardest to make me comfortable with their straightness, which i am already cool with, by telling me how they are somehow related to a gay person.  it’s strange.  and it does not make me feel more comfortable to know that you have a certain amount of gayness in our life.  i do not feel closer to you.  it does not make you less homophobic.  the same can be said about having your token minorities of all kinds.  it doesn’t feel good.  please stop.  please realize that voting for obama is not the same as you being involved with actively ending racial discrimination.  

misinformation

i have been having issues with the school board here for years.  having 3 kids who have autism spectrum disorders means dealing with the district a bunch for a long time generally alone and winging it most of the time.  it means advocating for your children constantly.  it also means having to have the ability to decipher the lies from the half-truths they feed you.  it becomes mind-numbing.  many parents are trying their best, doing everything they know how to advocate for their children.  society tells us, these are ppl who have been taught how to educate, trust them.  but the fact is the school district is a business, and your child’s future is the commodity.

my youngest son just moved high schools.  he has aspergers, and in this district there is one high school out of the three high schools that “work with kids with autism spectrum disorders”.  they have these special classes for them. the teachers, administrators, staff, librarians, and other students are not taught about autism spectrum disorders, but see this is where they go.  in grade school there were two options for your child:self-contained (meaning a class of only children on iep’s with the same diagnosis as your child) or mainstream (being with neurotypical kids) and sometimes they would allow you to mainstream part of the time and self-contain the other, but those were the options.  in middle school things changed.  they added a new class-resource.  this is a class for kids with iep’s who are not severe enough to stay in self-contained any longer.  the curriculum is minimal therefore the teachers have to make little adjustment for each student’s iep, it’s cheaper that way.  this spills over into the high school.  so you have self-contained, resource then mainstreamed regular education.  but the kids who are on iep’s rarely get to see the inside of a regular education classroom.  why?  because then the teacher would have to modify their work and it is too much to ask for.  the schools also offer college prep courses like advanced placement, but those are definitely off limits.  

so here is the rub….there are about 1 in 88 ppl who are on the autism spectrum.  but there is not alot of real education about autism spectrum disorders happening.  there is a bullshit “advocacy” group called autism speaks (gag, spit) that feeds the media nonsense, but the word autism is thrown around alot.  autism speaks vilifies autism and ppl with autism.  they believe in the curation of those who are autistic, and anything that can make a child “more normal” is a go.  the truth is this: autism is a neurological disability that affects communication, development and social areas.  seeing as how it is actually a difference in the neurological makeup of the autistic person there is no separating the person from the autism.  their brain, neurons, neurotransmitters the whole neuro-kitandcaboodle are autistic.  if you were to take the autism away from the autistic they would not be the person they are at all.  and to make autism look like a scary monster is to make the autistic person a scary monster.

if autism is so prevalent, why are educators so undereducated about how to educate this large population of ppl?  i can only say what we have experienced, but i can say that i know many ppl throughout the usa and everyone that i know has had similar experiences.  autism is not cut and dry.  it is a spectrum and every person with autism spectrum disorders is different from everyone else with autism spectrum disorders.  in our district, teachers are paid so little many need a parttime job to supplement their income.  the district doesn’t want to pay for educator training.   so, instead of treating everyone as an individual with their own strengths and abilities, using those to help overcome the individual obstacles, they have looked at the average and made these special classes with this special curriculum for the “average autistic person”.  this saves time and money-especially money.  when in a meeting as a parent with an autistic child, they say “well, you child has autism so they are a visual learner, and here is a list of modifications we will do for your kid!  aren’t you happy you didn’t have to think of anything yourself?  see we know autism, we specialize in it!  we know what your kid needs way more than you do!  we are the authorities, sign this paper”.  it is you on one side of the table and at least 7 school officials on the other.  it is an intimidation tactic.

now, my sons are perfectly capable of learning anything you put in front of them.  they do need some modifications, but they do not need to be in slow paced classrooms so the individual modifications are not needed.  that is cheating them out of their education.  we were not told our children were in resource classes until this year with our youngest son.  our middle son is a senior and our oldest is working on getting his ged bc high school was so terrible for him he could not handle it anymore.  when helping our oldest son get his ged we figured out they stopped teaching math at a 3rd grade level.  there will be no child who graduates from high school who was in resource math that will have anything higher than 3rd grade education in this school district.  insane right?  doesn’t make sense!  but from a fiscal perspective, a money-making concept it makes perfect sense.

we moved our youngest son to a new high school last week, and i said i wanted him out of resource classes altogether.  i want him in ap classes.  he has scored high enough on the standardized tests to warrant that.  he is a smart kid.  all of my kids are wicked smart, but the older two were never given the chance.  they were labeled and never allowed to go any further than 3rd grade, despite their ability.  i am sad that i didn’t know this before.  i let them down.  but that doesn’t mean our youngest should not be allowed to go as far as his mind can go.  i will not sit idly by and continue to allow this.

as far as our oldest son-he is learning math from his girlfriend who is going to college to study astrophysics.  she taught him more in 2 months than he  learned in 11 years of school.  he is an avid reader and a writer.  he loves history and science.  he considers himself a anarcho-socialist and has a passion for chaos theory. i have no doubt he will be attending the same college as his girlfriend in a year.  he wants to go into psychology to help kids who have been mistreated and misunderstood.

our middle son studies culinary arts.  he attends half a day at high school and then goes to the votech and takes culinary arts.  he is an amazing cook.  he is also extremely intelligent and well read.  he is very politically charged, and considers himself a democrat.  he reads magazines and newspapers and stays pretty up to date on what is happening around the world.  he knows more about heavy metal/black metal/death metal/ than most musicians.  he reads comic books alot and has a great sense of humor.

our youngest son is, well, one of the most compassionate ppl i have ever met.  he likes to read.  he is a fan of manga, anime, comic books and homestuck.  he stands up to bullies.  he likes history and science alot.  he likes art and is hilarious.  

o and i also need to add that all of our children have friends.  many friends!  they all are socially aware and activists in their own rite. they tell jokes, use sarcasm, tie their shoes, communicate, and are empathetic.