Valedictorian Tells Truth

by Tammy Drennan

[Many thanks to Frances for sending a link to this story.]

Graduate Erica Goldson, valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School’s (NY) class of 2010, shares on her blog her deep disappointment with her education and explores what it means to become educated.

A look at the school’s web site will let you know immediately that its personnel think it’s doing quite well. The photographs paint a picture of a happy, nurturing and exciting place where children are living up to their potential, Erica’s contrary opinion aside.

This is what happens when school becomes a bureaucracy of the state — committees are formed, special interests are lent an ear, agendas are proposed and plans fashioned to execute those agendas. Everyone is so excited to see that others will now be required to concede that their ideas are wonderful enough to elicit the backing of the state.

And what about the people — children — upon whom these agendas are enacted? Tsk, tsk. What a question. The agendas and plans and programs speak for themselves. Aren’t they beautiful? Aren’t they so organized? Aren’t they so measurable? Won’t we get the niftiest stats out of it all? Isn’t this a good cause? If the children rebel or balk at them, well, clearly the problem is the children. It’s obviously not us.

And if children are a problem, we clearly need more committees and agendas and plans, all informed by “experts” and special interests who know exactly why children are bucking our beautiful plans for them. So we form our committees and we get medicated children and therapized children and specially educated children and labeled children and children pressured by frightened and threatened parents.

It’s all so much fun. And to prove the children are having fun, we catch them in moments of laughter, at least the ones who are laughing, and we take pictures of them and put them on our web sites and in our PR materials. Aren’t our children happy?

And then a valedictorian comes along and suggests she was ill-educated and bored in school and that over a decade of her life has been wasted by the well-meaning people who run her school. And, well, what do we say?

That’s the great part. There’s no need to say anything. Public education is too big and powerful and useful to be brought down by a few cranky kids who get a glimpse of what their education might have been.

But it’s important for the kids to keep speaking. It will inspire other kids to take a look at their own situations, and it might even inspire a few teachers to take a closer look at themselves. Maybe it will help some of the children under “remediation” realize they are not the problem.

Neither the kids nor the teachers will be able to make much of a dent in the system, but maybe, just maybe, they’ll consider freedom.

The more who do, the more opportunity will be created for others. That’s how something worthwhile grows — people act freely and inspire others by their example. Then more people act freely. In freely acting and exploring and seeking, people find meaning for their lives and create possibility.

This is what America is about — the liberty to create a fulfilling life, to live for a purpose other than the growth of government and the gratification of do-gooders and do-badders who have learned they can employ the state (in every sense of that word) to effect their various agendas.

Hats off to Erica and to every other young person who has the courage to question the system. May many more follow in your footsteps.

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6 Responses to Valedictorian Tells Truth

  1. wintertime says:

    “…its personnel think it’s doing quite well. ”

    Yep! So many parents are deluded into thinking their child’s government school is “good”. **All** parents should consider the following even if by some miracle their child’s school has higher than average standardized test scores:

    Axiom: It is utterly and completely IMPOSSIBLE to have a “good” district.

    1) **ALL** government schools in this nation are godless! **ALL** government schools teach children to think and reason godlessly. It continues, as well, at home in the form of homework and association with school friends. Even in their very best days, when modern government schools first opened ( mid 1800s to early 1900s), the government schools offered up a lukewarm and generic Protestantism. ( We know what Christ does with the lukewarm. He spits them out of His mouth!) Today, government schools are utterly and completely godless and secular in their worldview, curriculum, and policies.

    2)**ALL** government schools in this nation are a socialist entitlement.

    Government schools have been a socialist scheme since the first modern schools opened in the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Simply by attending children learn to be comfortable with socialism. Children learn that government has enormous police powers to force neighbors to pay for a service that parents want for tuition-free. Well?…If government can use police threat to force payment for tuition-free government schooling, why not thousands of other “free” stuff? ( Is a “duh” necessary?)

    3)Children also learn that government has **enormous** police power to force children and parents to **use** the government school service. If you do not believe this, please do a Google on the words: “Truant and police”. Well?…If government can force citizens to use government schooling, why not government health care, or retirement pensions ( Social Security), or thousands of other “free” stuff in the future?

    Conclusion: It is never “good” to teach children to be comfortable with socialism or to subject their tender minds to godlessness. I call it child abuse.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Not included in the above is the question: “Exactly **where** and **how** is learning taking place and **who** is doing the teaching????!!!!!

    My conclusion: If there is an academically successful student that child is being “afterschooled” or “homeschooled”!

    Little to **NO** learning happens in an institutionalized school! It is the parents and child ( himself) who are doing the hard work IN THE HOME!!!

    The only thing the institutional school does is send home a curriculum for the parents and child to follow. Institutional school employees will also grade projects and administer tests.

    When I have presented this question to so-called “professional” “educators”, none have ever been able to give me links to scientific papers that have tested exactly **where** and **how** learning takes place or **who** is really doing the hard work. I would think that if a “professional” were to design a school the **first** thing he would want to know is **where**, **how**, and **who**!

  2. tdbwd says:

    Wintertime,

    Thanks for another thought-provoking contribution to this conversation.

    One of the most common comments I hear from the scores of parents I talk to every year is, “What are the schools doing? I have to spend hours helping my child do his work after school.” Tutoring centers are doing a flourishing business. Something is definitely amiss.

    I am currently reading the new Bonhoeffer bio by Eric Metaxas (which I highly recommend). One of the things I’ve always found very hard to understand is how so much mayhem and evil could be going on in a country (Nazi Germany), yet so many people claimed afterward they had no idea. Could that have really been the case?

    Yet look at us today. Of course, what’s going on with our schools is not the same as what was going on in Germany, but there is a lot of horror in our schools. Yet no one seems to know it or at least they seem unable to admit it. Students tell me about it, but many of them actually seem to think it’s normal (surveillance cameras, boys grabbing girls’ private parts, kids threatening to rape other kids in the rest rooms, endless and constant foul language and suggestions, teachers who don’t teach, parents threatened by school employees — all stuff going on in the small town schools in my area).

    What makes us allow this to happen? Are parents really in the dark? If they knew, would they act? If a father knew boys were grabbing his daughter or that his son was being threatened with a group rape in the restroom, would he allow his child to remain in that situation?

    I never told my parents what was going on in school, so maybe parents really don’t know. So why do I know? Well, because the kids who do tell have parents who call me and tell me. Because I read the articles and books. Because the students talk to me. But surely I’m not some weird anomaly.

    Do the teachers know? Students can be covert about these activities, but still…

    It’s like living in the Twilight Zone — we send our kids to these horrible places, some of them come to think of the places as normal (maybe the ones who figure out how to protect themselves and the ones who are the perpetrators), then all the grown-ups become zombies.

    It wasn’t half as bad when I was in school, but it was bad enough. I was neither a perpetrator nor one who figured out how to fully protect myself. Instead, I was just always outraged at what went on under the noses of so-called adults. The most vivid pictures I have of my school days are the kids whose lives were living hells because of their classmates. Their stories are seared on my brain. The pain that was so visible on their faces every moment of every day is almost part of my DNA. I was helpless to change anything, and I’m still angry with the adults who could have and wouldn’t.

    As far as learning goes, I commented on an education site blog recently that of the 23 teachers I had, three were very good, truly engaged. Another four were okay. The rest were there, and that’s the best I can say for them. Sorry if that bugs someone, but it’s the truth. My learning came largely from my independent reading. There are some good teachers out there who are making a difference (remember, I had three of them), but what should the millions of kids who never get one of those teachers do? Wait for the next school reform?

    If parents want their kids to be educated, it is up to them to make sure it happens. Hands-on, fully engaged — not look at the kid’s report card and slap a “My Child is an honor student at ——-” on their car.

    Parents must understand this — it is up to them. It doesn’t matter if the state is taking everyone’s money. It’s still up to parents. You don’t walk back and forth in front of the school with protest signs in response to your child being physically, emotionally or intellectually abused — you rescue your child. If someone was beating your child up, would you write a letter to the editor objecting to it? Of course not. You would ward off the attacker and save your child.

    What if the attacker was doing it for your child’s own “good”? What if he didn’t realize he was hurting your child? What if he thought a beating was just what your child needed? Would that be the time for a passionate letter to the paper?

    Our children are being beat up emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and sometimes physically in school, sometimes even by well-meaning people. Who will save them? Only parents have the power to do it.

  3. wintertime says:

    One more thing about the Wonderland existence of institutional schooling:

    Children are falsely told that school years are the best years of their life. WRONG! When they drink that bottle,labeled “School Fun”, at some level they **know** that they feel emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes physically sick.

    The proms, “rah-rah”, drill teams, football games, homecoming “king and queeen”, and pep-rallies are nothing more than great big fluffs of cotton candy that are nothing more than a teaspoon of empty calories!

    • tdbwd says:

      Wintertime,

      If their school years really were the best years of their lives that’s a very sad commentary on the idea that school is supposed to prepare them for life.

  4. wintertime says:

    “And then a valedictorian comes along and suggests she was ill-educated and bored in school and that over a decade of her life has been wasted by the well-meaning people who run her school. And, well, what do we say?”
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    The adults lie to students and say, “Congratulations!”, **KNOWING** that likely a significant portion of the graduating class can barely read their diplomas and will need months of expensive remedial education in their community colleges and places of employment.

    “Congratulations!” from lying adults who KNOW that the students have had their lives wasted and frivolously squandered by sitting day after day in little more than a penal institution filled with prison pathology.

    Graduation ceremonies: Another Wonderland “Drink Me”-“Eat Me” experience for the children where **NOTHING** is true! Up is down. Down is Up. Big is small and small is big. Inside is out, and out is inside.

    And…Psychologists then have the audacity to talk about a “generation gap”, or so-called “normal” teenage angst?

    Unbelievable!

    Thankfully…Humans are resilient and most manage to make a life for themselves after being continually lied to by the parents and teachers who were supposed to protect and nurture them! ( Sadly, some never recover.)

    ( Sorry, about the many posts! Tammy,…This time your blog really hit one of my very sensitive school nerves!)…. :-(

  5. tdbwd says:

    Wintertime,

    Thanks for another good comment. It really is amazing just how resilient human beings are (read WWII history). Yet every day I see high school and college grads who, while they’ve carved out good lives for themselves, also struggle daily with the results of a substandard education. It is staggering to me how little context so many adults have for things like world events, how little they know about history, how easily they’re drawn into scams that a rudimentary knowledge of economics and science would protect them from.

    Then there’s the emptiness of the education they did get. Here’s a good quote from “The Self-Organizing Revolution” by Ron Miller: “The unhealthiness [of our current way of doing school] shows up in the alienation, boredom, disengagement, bullying and violence we see in so many schools, and in the runaway epidemic of binge drinking on college campuses. Young people engaged in a meaningful learning relationship to society and the world don’t act this way.”

    The meaninglessness of school was nearly unbearable for me growing up. Today it’s so much worse — I don’t know how so many children bear it.

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