Stop the Madness

by Tammy Drennan

Walter Williams reports: 77% of Detroit’s 8th graders score below basic. Other urban schools not much different. “What’s to be done about this tragic state of black education?”

If the state had taken on the responsibility of feeding your children but it became clear it was starving them, or feeding them a diet so deficient in nutrition they were becoming ill, what would you do?

Would you demand they do better? March? Picket? Sue?

Maybe you’d do all those things. But how many days would you let your children go hungry without feeding them yourself? One, two, seven, a year? Five years?

Urban schools across the nation are literally starving children — intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually — dooming them to a lifetime of struggle and hopelessness.

Should children be transferred out of these hell holes? Absolutely. Immediately.

But that’s not going to happen. It’s been the cry and battle of reformers for decades, and one generation after another has been burned on the altar of government money and control and do-gooder self-satisfaction.

How much longer, parents? How much longer, churches? How many more children, reformers? How many more young lives are worth sacrificing in this war to make government pay?

It’s time to stop playing the reform game while children languish and die, their minds and lives and futures decimated by politicians, special interests and dollar signs.

Parents, Relatives, Family — you are the most responsible, your children’s greatest defense. Band together with one another, with your church leaders, with your communities. Take your children back.

Other people may want to help, but it’s up to you to act first. The only thing that matters is the well-being of your children — now. Right now.

Churches, stop playing footsie with public schools. Create a better way, better options. Where is the leadership, the courage, the honesty? Step up to the plate. Stop letting the state turn children into a third-world mission field.

There is an answer. And it’s not public schools. All the dreaming and screaming and scheming in the world will not make it work.

The answer is parents, family, community, churches.

Say no to the state. Take your children back. Stop the madness.

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9 Responses to Stop the Madness

  1. Mia says:

    I don’t know if all of our schools have reached the status of “hell hole” yet, but some are pretty close. I do live in a homeschool-friendly area with a large community of homeschoolers of all different stripes, with a zoo, children’s museum, and aquarium all offering classes specifically for homeschoolers. We have a lot of private schools as well, which are too expensive for the average person.

    Local churches, including ours, do “adopt” schools. They volunteer to help fix up buildings and such. Until this year, our homeschool co-op was able to meet at church. Now, for some reason unknown to me, it’s not allowed this year. I sort of feel like they should be at least giving homeschoolers equal attention.

    At any rate, when I meet someone who doesn’t have kids or doesn’t homeschool, without fail, the reaction is the same, “I could never do that.” I’m not sure if they mean they feel they cannot do an adequate job or they would rather not do it. Their children may indeed be “starving”, but – whether it’s from feeling inept or apathetic – they feel powerless to do anything about it.

  2. tdbwd says:

    Mia,

    Thanks very much for your thoughts. You know, I’ve talked with over 4000 parents pulling kids out of public schools in the past ten years. Most of them have reached some crisis point with their kids — the point where they suddenly realized that their children’s school experience was destroying them and that if mom or dad didn’t act, the child would be lost.

    I think that’s the point parents and churches must reach — the realization of just how serious this issue is, exactly what it’s doing to their kids. Then they will act just as they would on any other issue that is of compelling interest to them.

    For instance, it can be quite overwhelming to navigate everything related to having a catastrohpic illness, something many people think they could never do, but when your life hangs in the balance, you find new motivation and ability. Many parents have found these same strengths when they’ve become aware that their children are starving and no one else is going to feed them. They rise to the occasion, even when they’ve previously thought they couldn’t.

    But people do have to face the truth first. It’s not easy. The solution isn’t easy, either. But lots of things in life aren’t easy. We do them anyway… because they’re important, because other people (our children) need us and we value them.

    It’s a shame your homeschool group can no longer meet at the church. You can’t help but wonder what churches are for, as they eliminate more and more of their services, even to their own people, in the name of liability and other interests. Quite frankly, I think that if we can’t count on churches to help with our schooling crisis, we may be doomed, especially in inner cities where the problem is greatest.

    I know of a number of churches that “adopt” public schools and go in to fix things up, mentor, etc. That’s nice and it helps a handful of kids, but what kids and families really need is a way out, and churches need to be creating those ways, not glossing over the horror that already exists. A couple of mentoring hours a week will make a small difference in a few lives, but what about all the rest of the kids? What about real change, real opportunity? What about excellence? Why are we willing to have “those” kids settle for our little helping hands while we insist on something better for our own kids?

    Thanks much, Mia, for fueling the conversation.

    Tammy

  3. wintertime says:

    “Urban schools across the nation are literally starving children — intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually — dooming them to a lifetime of struggle and hopelessness.”
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Regarding the above quote:

    It is time we used the only hard words that that truly fit: CHILD ABUSE!

    So?…If children are being abused who is doing the abuse, and who is casually assisting, or turning a blind eye?

    Answer: Teachers, principals, and superintendents, legislators, and other bureaucrats.

    Also…There are schools in this nation that are so dangerous, ( physically, emotionally, educationally, and spiritually), that it would be better if the child **NEVER** attended school. This is true even if the result were that he were illiterate and innumerate. He would still be better off at home.

    Yes, what I have written above is harsh,..but… I **seriously** mean every word I’ve written above.

  4. wintertime says:

    Re: Churches

    I doubt we will get much help from this sector. Why?

    Answer: There are too many government teachers and school employees sitting in the pews. We must also add those who benefit as vendors or as employees of the businesses that are vendors. For example, even my dentists and his 5 employees are very dependent on government school dental insurance to bring patients into the office.

    In some communities, such as mine, the government schools are the single largest employer in the county. No other business even comes close in expenditures or number of employees.

    Realistically, few ministers will bite the hand that puts money in the collection plate. So…Realistically, parents and conservatives **must** organize themselves in some manner without expecting much help from churches, ( Yes, we **can** do it!)

  5. tdbwd says:

    wintertime,

    You’re right — there ARE schools that bad — and there are lots of people who know it, starting with the people running the places. And it is child abuse, but the government has always been free to abuse children with impunity. Ultimately, parents must stop it. They may need help, but the final action is in their hands. That’s another topic that needs to be explored and discussed, of course. More and more parents are acting, but most are not. If there’s one thing the operators of these schools will never do, it’s inform parents of alternatives for their exploited children.

    Thanks much for writing.

    Tammy

  6. wintertime says:

    Finally….One more comment.

    My husband and I are tutors on Tuesday evening for the children who come from Spanish speaking families. I am seriously considering giving up as a volunteer. It is just too painful to watch the effects of the educational malpractice and literal emotional child abuse these children suffer. Another reason is that the little that my husband and I do is almost pointless. It is little pouring a cup of coffee into the ocean hoping to warm it up.

    These children are highly intelligent, sweet, nice, motivated, well-behaved children, from good families, with dedicated parents who faithfully bring them every Tuesday evening.

    The following is a letter I will soon send to our church officials:

    Dear Ministers “x”

    The Hispanic children with whom I am associated are very intelligent and motivated, yet, I am very concerned about the appalling reading and arithmetic skills that I find during the Tuesday night tutoring sessions. One child is completely illiterate and innumerate. Nearly all the children struggle with reading. All of the children are grossly delayed in learning their math facts.

    Of the children with whom I have worked, all have a poor grasp of phonics and none ( regardless of grade) have mastered basic math facts ( addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division). To compound the problem, their homework requires mastery of these basics even though the children have not mastered them!

    If it is child abuse to send a child who cannot ski up to the top of a mountain and push him off onto a double black diamond trail, then it is child abuse for a public school teacher to assign homework to a child that is utterly IMPOSSIBLE for him to complete. The frustration, guilt, and depression on these children’s faces is plainly evident. Every day in school and every evening at home with homework must be a minor hell of despair for them. Why would we be surprised that too many drop out at the first opportunity?

    Last Tuesday, I helped a girl with the addition of mixed fractions. This was her formal homework assignment for that day. How is it possible for a child to add mixed fractions if she has absolutely NO idea what the denominator or numerator of a simple fraction represents? How can she find common denominators when for mulitiplication and division she needs help drawing lines and dots on paper for her to group? How can she convert improper fractions to proper fractions and whole numbers when she adds and subtracts with her fingers and can not carry the value of ten to the one’s column? In other words, the assignment sent home for this child was **impossible** for her to understand. She told me that she is sent home with homework assignments like this every day! This child is literally being pushed off a double black diamond educational mountain every day when she is not even a beginner. I call this child abuse.

    What I am witnessing is SYSTEMATIC EDUCATIONAL MALPRACTICE and CHILD ABUSE!

    I suggest that the following begin IMMEDIATELY:

    · These children need a DAILY ,SATURDAY, VACATION, and an ALL- SUMMER afterschool educational program in highly structured and systematic phonics.
    · DAILY drills in math facts.
    · Appropriate rewards, certificates, and ceremonies to recognize the 100% mastery of specific levels of achievement in phonics and math facts.
    · The children MUST NOT MOVE ON UNTIL THEY HAVE MASTERY OF A LEVEL!!!
    · The older children must have 100% mastery of the fundamentals of arithmetic before moving to fractions. Each level of mathematics needs 100% mastery if there is to be any success on the next level.
    · The parents must be instructed on how to create a learning centered home with TV, DVDs, I-pods, games, and Internet completely restricted until the child fully completes his weekly assignment of rational and achieveable educational goals.
    · These children will need volunteers to pick them up and take them home from any afterschool program. Many of their parents are working more than one or two jobs and it is likely that many would find it impossible to bring their children to an afterschool program. Some may need tutoring in their homes.

    Long term solution would include a combination of the following:

    · Totally restructuring the public schools.
    · KIPP charter schools or something similiar.

    Athought the Tuesday evening tutoring program is functioning as best as can be expected under the circumstances, it is far too little to do much good. It is like aiming a water pistol at a raging forest fire. The futures of these children are literally being burned up in slow motion. These children need INTENSIVE and SYSTEMITIZED INTERVENTION!!! They need it IMMEDIATELY!

    The problem is a failure of the schools to assign the appropriate skill level of homework to these children. It ia failure of the school to properly group these children into an appropriate levels of mastery. It is a problem of the schools failing to teach phonics in a systematic and rational manner, and failing to demand that children master the basic levels in math before moving forward.

    Please forward this letter to those in the church and community with the authority to make a serious change. No child should be neglected and abused in this manner.

    Respectfully,

    Wintertime

  7. tdbwd says:

    Wintertime,

    I’ve tutored many public schooled children and have also worked in adult literacy. I know what you mean about how futile a once-a-week session ends up being academically. I don’t know what the long-term results are in other ways — hope, inspiration. If I were doing this now I think I would require, as much as possible, parents to sit in on the tutoring, and I would teach them how to help their children at home.

    I would very much like to hear how your church reacts to your letter. It’s a bold challenge.

    I wonder if an intensive, all-day Saturday school that included as many parents as possible could make a big difference. It may depend on who ran it. Not all teaching or enabling is equal.

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

    Tammy

  8. Michelle says:

    I teach at an inner-city school in a big city in Texas and I have to say the teachers at this school are 150% committed and more to making sure we are prepared with dynamic lessons, physically and mentally prepared and come to school to lead each student to a passion for learning. It isn’t the 90% that want to learn that cause the problem – it is the 10% that really have no hope or get told by their parents or any other adult in their life outside of school that they are not going to amount to anything. Or they have parents that are just getting out of jail or going in.. or some family member doing the same. Or they have parents or a parent that sneak into their rooms at night violating the trust a child has with their parent for safety. Or they go home to fight for the little morsels of food the parents have provided for them with the left over money after the parent buys the crack they are addicted to..

    If we could just do our job we would be able to raise the inner city youth to a level that is by comparison a rival to any suburban school. We could give them opportunities to expand their thinking within an environment that is safe and supportive of taking a risk with their thinking.

    Instead, we are dealing with the parents of the students that believe they are being picked on because they can’t leave the classroom and go to the restroom or get a drink of water when they want. Or the child has been written up AGAIN for sexually aggressive behavior toward a teacher or a student and the parent believes the teacher is making it all up to pick on their child because.. they are racist or have a chip on their shoulder. Or teachers are dealing with parents who come up to the school – do not check in – bring three or four other adults with them to drag the teacher out of the classroom and beat them up because their daughter feels ridiculed because she screams out that she has to go to the restroom because she is on her period and has to change her pad AFTER she has asked to go to the restroom a few times and been told no. If the child is not starting her work or attempting to complete it and she is known to wander the hallways or go and beat another student up… it isn’t ok to send her out into the hallway on her own. And when did it start being ok for a student to tell a teacher how it is going to go down? When did parents start thinking it is ok to head up to a school of students to beat down a teacher?

    I know in our state it is all because of a test given to gauge progress a school makes from year to year with their students. Is it really a good thing if we jeopardize the safety of other students and teachers to make 5, 7, 9 or 10 points higher because we have more averaged in by keeping the dangerous students within the general population?

    I say enough … hold these kids accountable for their actions. No more second chances… if you have been told more than once beating someone up or smoking pot in school is illegal… throw the book at them. Arrest them and have their parents pay booking fees or processing fees… have their parents take off a day of work to go to court with their children because of their nasty language in school or aggressive behavior. Enough of the pressure from the state to make the grade with campuses that are more in need of behavior modifications or intervention than anything else. Draw the line in the sand and be strong… three strikes and you are out unless your parent comes to school with you.. and your parent must answer to a judge that will determine if the student can live with them while they go to school. Why should society pay for a public education through taxes for students that have complete and utter disdain for the system of education that they do not respect themselves, their peers or the adults in their lives?

    I have a student that has done nothing all school year long. nothing… he will get promoted to 9th grade because one too many students have been withheld in 8th. He has done NOTHING all year but go from class to class and interrupt the teaching and learning, walked out of the classroom after a teacher has directed him to sit down and get started on the lab or other assignment.

    Where is the accountability of the parent? Parents immediately believe that if they are getting 15 or 20 calls a week about their child that the school is picking on their child. REALLY!?! We have so much time to spend our precious few extra moments conspring together as a team on how to pick on a particular student for the week… really? We spend most of our time dealing with the consquences or lack thereof of the students that have no respect for their education or others education. When we should be spending our time encouraging students to sign up for summer learning camps that will enspire them a little more or give them a chunk of academic thinking that they need to give them that little lift to believe or have hope in their future. Or maybe I could use the time to create a learning experience that pulls from the internet an experience that would be enlightening and inspiring in the classroom. Or a hands on lab for the science topic we tried to cover during the school year but for whatever reason was not started. We need more strict rules for students that do not apply themselves AND cause a safety concern in the classroom or a time cow for teachers and other adults to make sure the discipline is followed through for any situation. We need more celebrations of learning so that students can see how hard work in school pays off. We need parents to be more realistic about their child when the child is away from home. Trust me… your middle school student IS NOT the same when out from under your supervision. NOT the same.. it is very rare that that is the case. And no it is not because the teacher has it out for the student or doesn’t care about his or her job or opportunity to inspire.. because if that were the can.. why would they even bother creating lessons? Come on.. get off the bandwagon that it is the teacher or the school… get the parents to take ownership of the problem. Get them on campus. However… saying that and experiencing the year I’ve had is pretty scary. I would not want a majority of the parents at my campus on campus with their child if they child misbehaves. Why? you ask.. because the parent is part of the problem and will critique the teacher because their child can do no wrong. As the child tells the parent no they will not do something.. or cusses the parent out because the child is not going to do something the parent directed the child to do.

    Something else has to happen with the children that cause the safety violations on campus. Things have changed. Times have changed. Children have changed. Adults have changed. Education has stayed the same…. and we apply the same kind of thinking to all groups of students. Some students just do not do well when asked “And how does that make you feel, Johnny?” And the response is “F you, B!”

    A new world has been opened up to me. Problems that I see are that adults that are not in the trenches have absolutely no idea the magnitude of crazy behavior there is on school campuses. We will be supporting this group of students in 4 years.

    8th graders having babies, dropping out of school, getting on foodstamps, ending up with AIDS from a needle they used to deliver the drugs into their system.

    ENOUGH! Get the education back!

    If the students have no respect for the teachers.. and none for the Police Officers on campus.. or the administrative teams.. what makes you think they are teachable? What makes you think it is the teachers fault they are like this? Even if the teacher does the most spectacular thing for the students and teaches on Saturdays, after school and all day long.. then also spending extra Saturday’s planning lesson with the teams… what are the parents being held accountable for? What is the community being held accountable for? What are the political leaders being held accountable for? How can a campus that is acadmically unacceptable be staffed with a leadership team that has NO secondary administrative experience.. much less any inner-city at-risk experience with extreme behavior concerns.

    Someone mentioned child abuse.. this hits the nail on the head.. righ here.

    I called a parent one day toward the beginning of the school year.. talking about the behavior of their student because the child cussed me out and would not stay seated and spent his entire class time walking around the classroom rapping loudly while I was trying to deliver instructions and acadmic content. Her response to my call was a major roll of cussing and then giving up and passing the phone to her daughter to “deal” with it. WHAT!?! Fine the parents. Courts need to stiffen their upper lip. Authority figures need to QUIT giving these students 15 and 20 second chances. You get one time and it is done! Done! By the time you get to 8th grade you should know better. If you don’t then you had better learn faster because you need to engage your brain.

    We need to bring back corporal punishment and allow schools to take control of the kids because they are kids and should not be in control of their education.

    I’m shocked at some of the things going on at my campus. If any parent of any student that knows how to behave knew what the situation was at school they would not allow their student to stay at the school.

  9. tdbwd says:

    Michelle,

    Hi. Thanks much for your comments. You might enjoy reading the work of John Taylor Gatto, a man who taught for 30 years in a great variety of schools, including some pretty tough inner city schools, and incorporated parents as much as possible into their children’s lives and education. There are some problem parents out there to be sure, but sometimes it’s all in the approach. I think you’d find Gatto’s work very useful. Just Google him and you’ll find his web site, as well as other sources of his materials.

    Tammy

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