Have you ever been to a tee-ball game? Scooping out your own eyeballs with a plastic spoon by the end of whatever they’re calling the first inning will cross your mind more than once. There are no strikes and no outs, and the only cheer is, “Don’t worry about it, buddy!” It doesn’t matter if it’s dark or raining, or that locusts are descending upon the field, no one is going anywhere until every single kid stands at that tee and gets a hit.
This exact value system, where ego inflation prevails over boundaries once in place to support true success, is exactly what has been imposed on public education, and exactly why public schools are failing. It should come as no surprise to us that, while kids report that school is too easy, and they have the stickers to prove it, literacy of any kind is not their strong suit. According to the Center on Education Policy, in 2011, 48 percent of public schools didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), which is up from 37 percent in 2010. Twenty-four of 50 states reported that at least 50 percent of their public schools didn’t make AYP in 2011, which was twice as many as in 2010.
You could look at AYP as a lot of No Child Left Behind mumbo-jumbo, but no matter your personal politics, it’s hard to argue against academic standards, which are an important step in the movement toward educational equality. Why should less be expected of students in any one school versus another? The bar that defines achievement should be a nonnegotiable constant for all students, everywhere in the United States, and it should be high, but it isn’t, mostly because good, healthy failure isn’t an option anymore; everyone gets a trophy, everyone passes; only other kids fail, which is no one, and then no one ever has to feel bad. If this isn’t a set up, I don’t know what is.
Education is the one profession that untrained people think they can do better—including the large faction of parents who think that homework is a waste of time. It’s become an annual debate that makes the rounds on morning news shows in September. Books have even been written about it, like The Case Against Homework. According to this book, kids aren’t obese because of TV and video games; it’s all homework’s fault. The authors claim that homework doesn’t promote academic success, only fatness.
As a teacher, I disagree. Homework requires kids to follow directions, learn how to ask for help, be accountable, manage their own time, and take pride in the end result of their best efforts. The kid who never did his homework and got away with it because his mother was always ready to dis the school and throw down with the teacher, the principal, the janitor, and whomever else would let her in his face, will be the insubordinate adult on the job who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “deadline” and always has an excuse for being late and unprepared. You can bet that Asian parents have no case against homework.
Last week I sat through eight hours of college orientation for my daughter. As the third Dean of Something was in the middle of explaining the general education requirement, I leaned over to my ex-husband and asked, “Why are we here? We already went to college.” The whole day could have been summed up in a tidy three-paragraph email. They only needed our self-reliant, college-bound children, except that the parents were taking notes and the students were texting. Is it any wonder students think everything is so easy?
It’s not a stretch to say that most of those kids were probably fresh off of some honor roll too. At least their asses looked sturdy, so I have every confidence that they’ll be able to stand back up when they land on them, which hopefully will be soon, my own kid included. As usual though, I’m here to cheer her on: “Worry about it, buddy! And take your own notes.”