On Wednesday, parents all around the county were
pissed off angry. First, they were mad because Harry Gill et al up at the Rutherford County Schools didn’t cancel school. Then they were mad because they DID call school. Then Harry Gill called and apologized, and everyone was pissed off extremely upset again. It just goes to show that folks will be mad, no matter what you do. My inner armchair quarterback says they probably should have called school when Murfreesboro City Schools called it, but hey, I’m not the superintendent.
But in honor of the Royal Wedding, I figured I’d imagine I was the Queen of the Schools and tell y’all what I would do if I was in charge. Feel free to imagine what **you** would do if you were Queen or King of the schools and tell me in the comments. Or, tell me what you would be mad about. Whatever floats your boat.
So, here’s what I would do to fix the schools, if I was the benevolent dictator.
First, here’s what school is, and what it is not. Or, at least what I think it ought to be and not be. It is not a place to store your kids while you work. It is a place for kids to learn the stuff they will need to know when they’re adults. I think there are an awful lot of parents who send their kids to school so someone else will raise them while they’re off at work or doing whatever else it is they do. The fact is, it’s not the school’s job to raise your child, it is their job to educate your child. School shouldn’t be the ONLY place your kid is educated, either.
And no, I’m not talking about you, personally. We all know you’re a fabulous person who does an awesome job of parenting. I’m talking about all those other people who don’t. Naturally.
Parents need to take charge of their children and their education. That’s why in my schools, the first thing we would have is an IEP (individual education plan) for every student. I think every kid should be tested at the beginning of the school year to see where they’re at, educationally. Then we’ll teach each kid on their level, regardless of age. If little ten-year-old Jane Smith is reading on a 9th grade level, yet doing math on a 2nd grade level, then we’ll teach her appropriately. And not just lackadaisically teach on their level, either. I’m talking aggressively pushing each kid to do their very best, regardless of their skill level.
See, I don’t think this “teaching to the middle” or, what it really seems to be, “teaching to the lowest common denominator” is working. I have kids who are all on various levels from gifted to the lower end of normal, and my brightest kid is seriously bored at school while my lower end of normal kid isn’t getting the kind of attention he needs, either. This does not help with behavior problems at all, either.
Which brings me to my second point. Parents need to make their kids behave at school or if the kid simply won’t behave, they can go to my alternative school, which is extremely strict (and scary, too.). If parents don’t like that, they can feel free to homeschool their kids. Kids who are sent to alternative school can eventually go back to regular school, depending on what they did to get there. It would partly work on a merit and demerit school. 10 demerits = a strike and 3 strikes and you’re off to alternative school. Certain things, of course, would be immediate grounds for alternative school, like bringing weapons or drugs to school, or sexual assault or certain kinds of fighting.
See, the thing is, teachers are spending too much time dealing with behavior problems. There are, I believe, a few ways to curb this. The threat of scary alternative school is one, but here’s another thing. Students are divided into teams and through a demerit and merit system, they can win prizes and privileges. Sometimes, peer pressure can be a good thing. Ever watch anime? It appears that kids in Japanese schools are appalled by things like bad grades and misbehavior. Why can’t it be like that here? Probably because we don’t encourage it enough.
I would also increase funds for things like art, music, and physical education. We want our kids to be healthy and well-rounded. Music teaches kids far more than just music, when kids are learning to read music, they learn math and fractions. I would start giving kids the chance to be in orchestra or band in about 4th grade.
Now, let’s talk about high school. Remember up there when I said I’d be testing to see where kids are learning every year? Starting in about 6th grade, I’d also test kids’ aptitudes for job-related stuff as well. By the time kids were about to enter high school, we should have a good read on whether or not the kid would be better served in an academic high school or a vocational high school. A high school diploma used to mean something. It doesn’t anymore, and I think a lot of that has to do with the stuff that’s being taught, or not being taught in high school.
Kids with vocational aptitudes should be able to graduate straight out of high school and go into the workforce. My vocational students would have the option to learn how to be LPNs, plumbers, mechanics, hairdressers, manage a hotel or restaurant, and all sorts of other vocations. I’d achieve this partly through having actual working shops right in the school, and partly through sending them out to work with local businesses who are vetted through the high school. The shops should be able to bring in a little money for the schools, also. I would additionally offer night classes for adult learners at these vocational schools, for a fee.
Academic high school would be hard. It would be a true college preparation school. And sorry, academic kids, you all have to take a year of Latin, because I think it’s important. I’m the Queen, after all. Academic high school would be heavy on the subjects that will eventually be required in college, so every student would be truly prepared for college. Don’t worry, there’s tons of homework as well. Arts students would go to this school as well- all the film, theater, music, arty folks could focus on the stuff they love. I would allow people to really focus on the subjects they want to get into when they’re in college.
I’d still require a basic education for people in both high schools. Reading, math, science and history would still be taught to everyone, but I’d give enough time for kids to focus on what they love. I would also require a “math for the real world” class to be taken by every single student in all schools. They’d learn stuff like how to balance their bank account, and set up a budget. I’d teach them about interest rates and how to figure percentages on the fly. I’d teach them about how to read contracts so they don’t get screwed over.
That’s about how schools would run if I were in charge of them. There are other, more minor ideas I’ve rolled around in my head like requiring community service for students on every level and fining parents for kids who are excessively absent or excessively misbehave. Oh, and making students do a big spring and fall cleaning every year so they’re invested in how their school looks. But, yeah, that’s the basic plan. Sounds expensive, you say? It would be. But is there really any investment in our country’s future that is more important than putting forth an educated public? Personally, I don’t think so.
So, let’s hear from you now. What would you do if you were in charge of how schools run?