Monday, May 23, 2005

#162 - Friends in All the Wrong Places

Good thing: Having someone agree with me that the No Child Left unBrainwashed Act doesn't work.

Not-so-good thing: It's the American Federation of Teachers.

This is a little like saying the Cavalry should stop attacking the Injuns. Let's send in the Klan instead.

I have made no secret of my contempt for NCLB. The very idea that students must progress at the same rate determined by some panel of random experts has always been abhorrent to me. There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" education. Period. Branding a child as a failure (you can call them whatever you like, but that's the message they'll get) simply because they're not ready to adhere to your neat and tidy curriculum is, in my opinion, criminal. Those who concocted the Act to begin with need to be sent back a few grades and made to try again.

Parents, too, need to step back and take a macro look at what they're expecting their kids to do. Parents who are so eager to get their children into education-rich environments at the earliest possible ages may well miss so much of what makes childhood special for the kids. My daughters, for example, both read well beyond their current grade levels. In math, they're just about dead even with their relative ages. My (nearly) eight year old, though, occasionally exhibits the attention span of a flea when the course work gets a little intense. Imagine some teacher having this bouncing ball of energy in his or her classroom where other kids seem able to control their fanny-springs. She'd probably be evaluated for ADD or ADHD in today's academic environment. But I know my daughter. She's a lot like her Daddy, in fact. I had the same problem as a youngster, and it had nothing to do with any syndrome, real or imagined. I simply had a hyperactive imagination, and it manifested itself most prominently during the more boring parts of school. During those moments, school was truly in the way; an obstacle to be overcome. Unfortunately, since I wasn't becoming the little fact-spewing automaton the educators expected me to be, I spent a lot of time explaining my embarrassing report cards to Mom and Dad.

Those were the days!

My problem with having the AFT echo my sentiments regarding NCLB has nothing to do with the fact that these are teachers who are complaining. My problem is that this is a union of teachers who are complaining. Unions have no reason to exist other than to beg for money, then spend it all begging for more money. This is the way Congress creates budgets and tax codes, by the way. Also, unions always have an "agenda." "Agenda," as defined by the union, means "Keep yer nose, eyes, and ears out of my classroom, if you know what's good for you."

Also, the union does not generally represent the real personalities of many, many teachers I have known throughout my life.

Most teachers I know have genuine interests in bringing education to life for their students. They have a real love for the profession, and most go the extra mile for countless students every year. They are generally underpaid, overcrowded, and unappreciated. They hate the educational bureaucracy as much or more than we do. They despise the idea that they must continually return to school themselves - generally out of their own pockets - just so they can learn the latest new-fangled "theories" from professional academics who've never had to stand in front of a class of hyperactive 10 year olds and try to make learning about sentence diagramming more fun than, say, putting a huge semi-chewed wad of gum on the seat in front of them. They already know that the public education system in this country is broken, and they spend more time than we credit them thinking about how to fix it.

The unions do no such thing. They already know the answer to the problem, and that answer requires money. Your money. My money. The teachers' money. And their "agenda." Whatever that may be.

Well, thanks, AFT, for supporting me on this issue. Do me a favor, though. If you want to ask for my help, just back slooowly away from my wallet.

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