“Think of the Children! But Only as Wonderful, Motivated Learners!”

4 Mar

March 4, 2011- midday

I’ll get back to the silly with Wifeswap: New York Yankees Edition later tonight, but first there is a story that caught my eye and I feel something needs to be said.

I am excerpting an article from the New York Post. The full text can be found here.

The thrust of the article is that three schools visited by experts deserve to be shut down. They are underperforming. Students are performing far below grade level. The graduation rates are low. I will not, cannot, and have no desire to argue that. Something has to be done. The main problems, the article contends, are the teachers and administrators. I am not prepared to argue that. I’m sure there are bad teachers and administrators there. However, I think- no sorry, after 10+ years as an educator I know– that the article is leaving something out. The teachers are blamed, the Principals are blamed, the entire school system is blamed. Read the excerpts and see if you can see what is being left out.

Don’t the kids have any responsibility? Don’t the parents? Did the teachers make the kids late? Did the teachers put the headphones over their ears? Did the teachers tuck them in at their desks and wish them goodnight?

No politician will ever blame their bread and butter- the voters. No UFT member can ever blame those whose support they need- the parents. But when a kid walks into a classroom late on day one of the school year, wearing headphones and texting their friends in another classroom, how is that the teacher’s fault? Don’t tell me they need to engage the kids, don’t tell me they need interesting lessons. Of course they do. But if a kid is already predetermined to not show up or pay attention, whose fault is that? If a kid doesn’t like math so he reads Low Rider during class, did the teacher hand him the magazine? If a kid in class has already been arrested three times what can the teacher possibly do to motivate him? If a high school student comes to class high did the teacher give him the pot when he walked in? And if a kid is basically a good kid but comes to school late everyday because she has to drop off her little sister on her way to school, whose fault is that?

Not every child shows up to school ready, willing, and prepared to learn. Some show up unable to learn.

Whatever happened to personal responsibility?

Are there bad teachers? Yes.
Are there bad Principals? Yes.
Are there bad students? Yes.
Are there bad parents? Yes.
But according to those running the schools, the last two only seem to exist in an educator’s imagination.

13 Responses to ““Think of the Children! But Only as Wonderful, Motivated Learners!””

  1. Mac of BIOnighT at 2:50 pm #

    I totally agree with what you say and I’d like to expand it to cover all aspects of today’s society: nobody is ever responsible, nobody is ever guilty, it’s always somebody else’s fault, nobody has to do anything about anything, it’s always somebody else’s duty. That’s dragging us all down.


    • bmj2k at 3:36 pm #

      I really don’t know when this era of entitlement started.


  2. Posky at 2:52 pm #

    Personal responsibility stops existing once government gets involved. Bank of America anyone?

    Just thinking about this makes my head explode.

    And you’re right about no politician ever tell their voters that they need to get it together- although I might vote for one who did just tell it like it is.


    • bmj2k at 3:39 pm #

      I rarely get political in this blog but some of the things US government has done- not just in this administration, (though I think it may be the most egregious) but in the previous two Presidencies as well- seem to be designed to be the worst policies possible.


  3. Thomas Stazyk at 4:31 pm #

    I agree with you and the comments. But not to throw more gas on the fire, 99% of the problem is really parents who aren’t engaged with their kids. A good parent can make up for a bad school but no school can compensate for bad parenting. We had a 21 year old single mother on a talk show talking about how when her kid was born she was depressed because her social life was hampered (duh) so she became addicted to Facebook. Someone noticed that her kid was becoming feral (and neglected) and intervened. She was proclaiming on the show that she is now “cured” of her FB addiction. I feel so much better about the fate of humanity.


    • bmj2k at 5:59 pm #

      I can go on and on about this but I’ll try to keep it short.
      My first year teaching was in a “showcase” school. It had a much better rep than it deserved but it had great parental involvement. On parent-teacher night I saw 67 parents. I only had about 90 students so that was amazing. I then moved to a failing school that had a much worse rep than it deserved. I had 150 students and one year I saw 12 parents over 2 days. That’s not a typo- 12 parents. I’d call home and leave messages- no responses. I’d mail letters home- no replies. But who got Hell over no parental involvement? Us, the teachers. In a major example of CYA, my boss- who is one of the true GREATS of school administration- had us document all attempted contacts. Every phone call was logged, every letter home was duplicated and logged, we even formed a committee to reach out to parents. In the end, it increased parental involvement not at all, but it sure saved us a lot of grief from the Principal when we were able to present documented proof of our attempts.


  4. I read to four or five kindergartners twice a week in a one-on-one program designed to help kids who might not get that attention at home. Several kids didn’t know the alphabet at the beginning of the year and occasionally a few fall asleep during the session because the day is so crammed full that there is no time for naps any more.

    One of my fellow readers has been complaining about the big difference in ability among the students, but she needs to realize that we don’t know what kind of home life many of these kids have. The teachers and the school try everything in their power to help the kids, but if they’re not getting the attention they need at home because mom and dad both work long hours, and there are other kids in the family, what are they supposed to do? Parental involvement is key, that’s for sure.


    • bmj2k at 10:02 pm #

      I can really only speak for NY but it seems to be true in general. Whoever is in charge of the school system -here in NYC it is Mayor Bloomberg and whatever stooge he chooses- assumes that all children are equal in terms of home life, parental involvement, and desire to learn. Teachers know that isn’t true but no politician will talk about it (except to say to teachers “work harder!” because A- it is out of their control but more importantly B- it is biting the hand that feeds them.



      • TexasTrailerParkTrash at 11:12 pm #

        Our reading program just got a new coordinator after the woman who had started it retired after twelve years. The school admin. attempted to cut back the program from four days a week to two, with the thinking that the readers could read to three kids at a time instead of one. Duh. They had no idea what the program was or, really, anything about it.

        Fortunately the new gal didn’t let herself be pushed around and made her case clearly enough to rescue it—for now, anyway. Our school district is supposed to be in good financial shape, so this was probably just someone in admin. who wanted to feather his cap by cutting spending. Gah.


        • bmj2k at 11:29 pm #

          One to three is never as good as one to one but I can see how an outsider might think the number is still small enough to give each child attention. I don’t agree but I can see how the thinking might go. But cutting the days in half? How could that be justified in any way other than dollars? Dollars trump children, apparantly. I don’t know if you’ve seen how the educational system has been gutted in NYC but it is a clear case of thinking with your wallet to the extreme detriment of your children.



  1. Personal Responsibility « Mr. Blog's Tepid Ride -

    […] My recent blog about education received a lot of comments and most of them wondered whatever happened to personal responsibility. I found a great cartoon on http://www.newsday.com today. Although it is specific to Bernie Madoff, I think it is relevant to the discussion. […]


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