ABCs flying out the window

Now, granted. I am not a lawyer. I am not a senator and am especially not the president of a country.

However, I am an American educator. I even have the credentials to prove it. Yup. I’ve been to the grand old university and learned lots of useless facts and figures. The very best training I received was on-the-job. I read everything there was in print about managing classroom behavior and educational theory…but I didn’t have a clue how to hold the interest and attention of a rowdy group of six year olds. The teacher books didn’t tell me what to do when a six year old boy gets angry at another student and throws his hard plastic pencil box across the room, narrowly missing the head of another. They didn’t tell me how to handle a kiddo who routinely threw huge tantrums, kicking and screaming anybody and everybody who came near. (Here’s a hint: evacuate the classroom and try to remove his shoes without getting kicked.) The “book” also didn’t say anything at all about kids who ask to go to the bathroom and then sneak outside to let the air out of their teacher’s car tires.

President Obama came out swinging yesterday at American education. We’re lagging behind other country’s children in education. I’ve been reading David Barton’s Four Centuries of American Education.  (from which much of the material in this blog is gleamed) It’s clear to me that our President is right that we are falling behind. What he didn’t mention is that we are lagging behind our OWN achievement. Take a look at this mental math question for elementary students which was published in a math textbook dated 1877:

On a farm, there are 60 animals — horses, cows, and sheep; for each horse there are 3 cows, and for each cow there are 2 sheep; how many animals of each kind?

Could you figure that out today, even as an adult, without using pencil and paper? How about this one from an 8th grade exit exam in Kansas (must be passed to enter high school):

What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals?

I couldn’t answer either of those questions without looking them up…despite the fact that I graduated from college! Perhaps America textbook publishers ought to go back to their earliest editions if they want to improve the minds of our children.

President Obama — who is not an educator — believes the the way we improve education is to make school days and the school year longer.

“We can no longer afford an academic calendar designed when America was a nation of farmers who needed their children at home plowing the land at the end of each day. That calendar may have once made sense, but today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage. Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea. That is no way to prepare them for a 21st century economy.”

Hm. I wonder if he’d still think that if he spent a week substituting in a kindergarten classroom?

Over a hundred years ago, kids who misbehaved in school went to the woodshed with the teacher. Or they were kicked out and not invited to come back. Public education was a privilege…not a right. Kids who didn’t obey weren’t allowed to continue, or they were made to sit in the corner with a “dunce” hat. Imagine the outrage of the ACLU if a teacher dared ostracize and ridicule a student in that manner today. And the biggest difference between education then and now is really simple: God.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Proverbs 1:7

That proverb and other verses from scripture were routinely featured prominently through PUBLIC school textbooks. McGuffey Readers had selections from the Bible as well as lessons with titles such as “The Character of Jesus Christ,” “Solomon’s Wise Choice,” and “The Goodness of God.” In 1844, Daniel Webster argued before the US Supreme Court that religious instruction in public schools is essential. He argued:

When little children were brought into the presence of the Son of God, His disciples proposed to send them away, but Jesus said, “Suffer little children to come unto Me! (Matthew 19:14) Unto Me…and that injunction is of perpetual obligation; it addresses itself today with the same earnestness and the same authority which attended its first utterance to the Christian world. It is in force everywhere and at all times; it extends to the ends of the earth, it will reach to the end of time always and everywhere sounding in the ears of men with an authority which nothing can supersede. “Suffer little children to come unto Me.”

WOW! Can you imagine someone arguing that before today’s Supreme Court? How did the court rule in Vidal vs. Girard’s Executors? I’m flabbergasted to be living in the same country as the one which in 1844 released this unanimous decision about religion in public education:

Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a Divine revelation in the [school] — its general precepts expounded…and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?….Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?”

As recently as the 1950s, our Supreme Court ruled again in favor of allowing religion in state schools, saying, in Zorach vs. Clauson,

When the State encourages religious instruction, or cooperates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions….To hold that it may not would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe…We find no such Constitutional requirement.”

Yet in 1962 the tide began to turn distinctly anti-religious. This same court that a hundred years ago noted that the Bible teaches the “purest principles of morality” now ruled that:

  • Voluntary prayer is forbidden
  • Scripture can’t be used
  • Religious electives are illegal
  • Took the Bible out of school libraries
  • Remove the Ten Commandments from schools
  • Schools must cover religious artwork
  • Exclude religious content from student papers
  • …and on and on.

To a Bible-believer who knows that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge — literally — it comes as no surprise that standardized test scores and morality has slunk lower and lower each year since 1962 — the very year the court began excluding God from the classroom.

Unless and until students are taught to respect authority, they will keep doing anything and everything to get out of work. Schools replaced the Bible’s teachings with “Codes of Conduct” and “Creeds” which change from year to year depending on which rules parents complain about the most. The Bible, however, does not change. Its teachings stay the same…it teaches us that when we respect (another word for fear) the Lord, we gain knowledge as our reward. Kids who aren’t exposed to God’s word can’t possibly respect Him or anyone else in a godly way.

Want to know why I homeschool? One of the biggest reasons is because I do not want my child exposed to the disrespectful behavior of most public school kids in America today.

Nearly three weeks ago, my daughter broke her arm. We rode in an ambulance. During the ride, she engaged the EMT in conversation and told a few jokes. I could tell she was nervous because she was so chatty. When we arrived at Children’s Hospital, the EMT asked me,

Do you homeschool?”

I told him that we did and asked him how he knew.

She doesn’t have the same public-school glazed-over look,”

he replied. After thanking him for the safe transport, I treasured up those words. Here is a professional who interacts with children on a daily basis who is able to deduce simply by my daughter’s behavior that she is schooled at home.

Does that mean that those kids who must attend public schools are doomed to a less-than-excellent education?

Not necessarily. I believe the answer lies NOT in extending the school day or the school year. The answer is in finding creative ways to achieve effective discipline in the classroom, in the hallways, in the lunchroom, on the playground, in the office…not just students, either! Parents, too, need to be ready to back up the teacher when she reports that junior is being disruptive in class instead of engaging in the blame game. Most teachers are not “out to get” your child — we love kids and want to see them achieve their fullest potential…but the classroom setting requires certain standards before learning can take place.

A teacher who is constantly redirecting off-task and disruptive behavior has fewer and fewer hours and minutes to actually, um, teach. If Junior knows that he will be held accountable at home for his behavior in the classroom, then he will be more likely to behave. Parents who are believers need to really emphasize to their kids that they are under their teachers’ authority. If your kids attend school, start insisting on better discipline. Observe a class and see how the children interact with each other and with their teachers. If you see something that is disrespectful, make a note of it and then take it up with the teacher later (out of earshot of the kids, of course).

Insanity from Miriam Webster includes this definition:

extreme folly or unreasonableness; something utterly foolish or unreasonable

It would be, in my educator’s opinion, utterly foolish — yes, insane — to send kids to school for longer hours and a longer school year with the intent to improve education. That would just give our kids more time to learn bad behaviors from each other! Until teachers and schools get a handle on the discipline issue, learning will keep on flying out the window.

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