School Daze

Published December 30, 2012 by Lynda Christine Rodriguez

 

Professional Diatribe Part One Draft One

I spent the last week with my in-laws.  I have three nieces ages 11, 6 and 16 months.  I have the great fortune of the opportunity to spend some quality time with each of the.

The 11 year old blew my mind one morning when we had a conversation about the English Language that covered hyperbole, simile, metaphor, cliché and colloquialism.  This was initiated by her and went on for about an hour.  This was also early in the morning and before I had coffee.   The six year old and I spent time together mixing cookie dough.  She is very patient and consulted the recipe to make sure I was gathering the ingredients in the correct order.  The 16 month old and I had a glorious forty minutes moving the carefully gathered boxes and gift wrap from one room to the next.  (She did most of the work; I just helped by holding out my hand when she was unsure of the step, and I gave her a boost when she needed the boxes that she couldn’t quite reach.)

As I spent this time with them, I thought about the various factors in a child’s environment that educates them and adds to the development of their personalities and intelligences as they grow.

It is beyond my comprehension that anyone could ever hurt a child.  I know it happens.

The sacrifice of children goes back farther than civilized society would like to think. (Um, Father Abraham, anyone?) There are several incidences of this throughout the evolution of civilized society. It isn’t until early in the 20th century that society has begun to think of children and something other than small adults.

Here is a quick breakdown  of  the history of public education:

“When the need for elementary and Latin schools was decreed in 1647 by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the schools they had in mind were a cross between public and private schools. They were public, in that they were mandated by the governing body to serve all. But they were like our current private schools in that they were meant to teach Puritan values and reading the Bible.

In 1785, the Continental Congress mandates a survey of the Northwest Territory. The survey is to create townships, with a portion of each one reserved for a school. These land grants came to be the system of public land grant universities in the years 1862 to 1890. These universities include many of those named “University of <state name>” or “<state name> State University,” such as University of Vermont and Pennsylvania State University.

In 1790, the state constitution in Pennsylvania required free public education for children in families that could not afford to pay for an education. Also concerned about the education of poor children, the New York Public School Society in 1805  set up schools that had a school master to teach the older children with a system in place for the older children to teach those who were younger.

In 1820, Boston is the site of the first public U.S. high school. And in 1827, a Massachusetts law makes all grades of public school free to all. Massachusetts innovation continues with the state’s first Board of Education formed in 1837, headed by Horace Mann. And in 1851, Massachusetts makes education compulsory.

During Reconstruction, from 1865-1877, African Americans work to encourage public education in the South. With the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, “separate but equal’ becomes an acceptable approach, not only on railroad cars, but in education, and public school are soon required by law to be racially segregated.

Vocational education is first funded when the Smith-Hughes Act passes in 1917, and by 1932, students in public schools are being slotted into multiple tracks based on the results of so-called “intelligence tests.”

In 1954, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schools are “inherently unequal” also says that they must be abolished. There is no immediate move to do so. In 1957, when a Federal court says that public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas must be integrated, the Governor of Arkansas sends the state National Guard to prevent it. In response, President Eisenhower sends Federal troops to make sure that the court order is enforced.

The Supreme Court decision in Miliken v. Bradley in 1974-that desegregation cannot take place across school districts-creates practical limits to desegregation efforts in urban districts as well as those in wealthy suburbs. Also in 1974, District 4-the Harlem District of New York City Schools-creates an intra-district school choice program.

In the 1980s, the first charter schools are set up in Minnesota.

In 1990-91, the first voucher legislation that allows a choice of public or private secular schools is passed by the Wisconsin legislature. Also in 1991, Minnesota creates a statewide, inter-district choice system, which has spread to sixteen more states in the next decade.

In 1994, Proposition 187, which says that it is illegal for children of illegal immigrants to attend public school is passed in California. It is declared unconstitutional in Federal court.

In 1995, religious schools become an accepted alternative in Wisconsin’s school choice program, and the following year, Ohio allows vouchers to be used for religious schools.

By the 1999-2000 school year, a quarter of K-12 students are no longer attending their local neighborhood school, according to a survey conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) .”

(http://www.educationbug.org/a/history-of-public-schools.html)

The best of intentions always look great on paper.

A lot of things have changed.

I personally think that standardized testing is the proof that evil walks among us, but is standardized testing solely to blame for the current, shoddy state of affairs?

Possibly, but blaming one individual factor is just as terrible as not taking into consideration of the individual at all.  (Think it out slowly, it will make sense.)

Somehow, our best intentions created this warehousing of children. We began to think of schools as a way to create good employees for mass production. (I’m speaking in generalities, so back away from the comment link.)

In educating the masses, we forgot how to take time for the little things.  The little things are the most important. Yes, it is quite exhausting holding the hand of the little child as they figure out what the next step is and staying ever vigilant to give them that step up. Exhausting, but not impossible.

End of part one, draft one. 

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