Education must catch up with our changing world
Letters to the Editor
Published February 27, 2007
12th-grade scores gloomy Feb. 23 story
This article says that today's 12th-graders have lower test scores than those in 1992. Are we really surprised by this? I know I'm not. I've just retired from 36 years of teaching in public high school, which included participating in many "reform" efforts. I have a number of thoughts on this.
First, today's high school students are indeed different than those I encountered when I began teaching in 1970, and even from those in 1992. I'm not talking about discipline problems and attitude. The differences I'm talking about are technological. My students in 1970 didn't have video games to spend countless hours playing. They didn't have cell phones and text messaging where they practice some kind of shorthand code that bears little resemblance to the English language. And they certainly didn't have the Internet nor even all that is available today on cable or satellite television. I'm not condemning these things; I'm simply saying they have changed everything about the way our students spend their time, communicate and learn.
Second, as much as we hate to admit it, much of what we are trying to cram into our kids' heads today isn't really relevant any longer. As the article mentioned, we need to re-examine, totally, what we need to be teaching kids today for them to be successful in the future. Of course they need to understand history, and need their lives enriched by literature, the arts, etc., but unless we make the rest of their school experience something they can relate to, they'll continue to tune out everything we're trying to do, as most of my students have done the last few years.
Third, as was mentioned in the article, we, as a society, had better find a way to make students, and their parents, appreciate the value and power of knowledge. We're spoiled, and learning can be hard work. There has to be some powerful motivation that our students can feel coming from every aspect of our society.
Blaming our schools and saying they must do better is off target. The schools are not the problem. All of us are the problem - government, parents, business, society in general, and yes, educators. The pace of change has outstripped our ability to even understand its ramifications, much less enable our schools to keep up with it. The article mentions the need to examine everything we are doing. I agree, but I believe that the amount of change actually needed is far beyond anything being contemplated by most "experts." We better get real, and we better get to work.
Don Macneale, St. Petersburg
Focus on the home
12th-grade scores gloomy Feb. 23 story
As an educator for the past 21 years, I have been on the front lines for most of the innovative tactics forced upon public education in that time. As the FCAT is again upon us, I see yet another article about the gloomy outlook for public schools. And again I see the "experts" say we must make more changes in "the way teaching and learning is delivered." There are only so many ways you can deliver information to students. At this point, I can't imagine what else we can do except offer a three-ring circus each day.
What I don't see is someone addressing the failure of parents to instill a love of learning in their children. Any teacher or administrator will tell you that the high-performing students will come from a home where learning is encouraged, where they are taught to take responsibility for their actions and where expectations are high for academic success.
Until the powers that be decide to address the problem of the home, there will never be improvement in public education.
K. Floyd, Tampa
A self-sustaining system
We elect "small-government conservatives" who will "shrink big government" and "let us keep more of our own money." They cut taxes to the bone and privatize everything. As a result, we get stories about scandalous conditions at VA hospitals, "gloomy" high school test results and contaminated food supplies.
While we have lower taxes, we get to pay higher gas, drug and insurance prices. Conservatives hate "big government," but they do love big business. You see, as the profits of "big business" soar, a lot of that cash finds its way back to campaign coffers of "small-government conservatives."
Apparently, the future of this arrangement is secure, considering the fresh crop of under-educated, malleable high school graduates about to become voters.
Mark Elliott, St. Petersburg
FCAT blessing raises a ruckus Feb. 22
An elementary school principal and some of her staff in Hernando County believe that rubbing oil on desks will improve test scores. Is it any wonder that our schools continue to produce poor results, especially in math and science?
How can these students be taught that science and the search for knowledge are the keys to the future when their principal believes that a magic incantation is all that is needed? Was the principal reprimanded or criticized by the school administration? Of course not. Welcome to the 21st century, Hernando.
James Ogden, St. Petersburg
A loving deed
There is no reason to be offended or scared by the acts of the teachers who anointed the desks and prayed for the students. It was a harmless, loving deed that a few intolerant people overreacted about. I can't see how caring about someone enough to pray for them is offensive.
The teachers were simply showing their desire for their students to succeed.
Andrew Szarejko, Palm Harbor
[Last modified February 27, 2007, 00:41:32]
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