Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Kid Is Too Damn Scared to Learn

Nine years ago I wrote this as I began my career in education:

Your Kid Is Too Damn Scared To Learn

I see their faces in my sleep; I see their faces when I wake. They melt into the walls; they are grey shapes: formless, bland, uninteresting. It's a deliberate decision. They work on not being noticed. They never smile. They never raise a hand. They hide their personality. They try to be shadows.

They are the weak. They are small: their genetic program of growth not yet activated. Their mass is less than 100 pounds. They are the small. And they are prey for the big and the strong.

Your kid's school is one place where Darwinism reigns without a rival. No wonder so many people will not consider alternative theories on the origin of life. Darwinism is it: survival of the fit, the big, the strong, the predator.

Middle school is full of stay-behind kids. President Bush's legislation on improving schools is misnamed. It is not “No Child Left Behind;” it is No Child Moves Forward. No Child moves ahead with their age group unless they have met the requirements for promotion.

You might think that the schools would have special programs for children that never pass 6th or 7th grade. When they get to be 15, 16, or 17, you might think they would be taken out of Middle School to keep up with their peers, emotionally, developmentally, but in programs geared to their failure to advance in grade level.

They are not. They are left behind (oh, the irony!) because of policy made by the Duval County School Board. They are left behind, 6 foot plus in height, 180, 190, or 200 pounds plus in weight, the cocks of the walk, Or the dominant hens of the coop. They are left behind to prey on your children, whose only crime is to pass every grade level as they advance in age.

Your child copes by becoming as invisible as possible. What other hope is there for someone under five feet in height, one hundred pound in weight, than to go unnoticed?

I teach your children. I see them doodle in their notebooks, pick at the point of their pencils, stare at their desks. They make a token effort at their work, but futility rules their faces. Their expression says, “Don't look at me; don't call on me. I don't know; I can't.”

I stand at the door of my classroom and they enter and leave without my seeing them. They are specialists in unseen movement. That's their survival strategy in the jungle of Middle School: to be unseen.

Today I can report we have progress. Because of standard-based promotion programs under the previous superintendent, many of the over-aged students have been moved into high school with their peers. The problem may reappear because the current superintendent has ended that program. Evening school, where students retake the failed course, was attended by less than half of the students who needed it during the previous school eyar.

We have programs in place--I call them hurry-up programs--to help students multiple years behind graduation to get caught up. We have progress.

But bullying remains a problem, a huge problem, Darwinism defines our hallways, and no, charter school advocates, you don't offer a sanctuary, it's just as bad in your schools. Monday we open schools in most Florida counties and the message is important: If children are afraid for their safety, they cannot focus on their learning.

Let's do a great job of protection this year!