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School days turn into school daze

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Public education has changed a lot since my children were in school, even more so since my pig-tailed days at Helms Elementary. Back in the day, reading, writing and arithmetic were the focus, not social engineering. This is the time for my disclaimer that my thoughts are of a parent on the outside looking in. My retired teacher friends who were on the inside may have a different opinion.

Education is being achieved in a variety of ways in my family. I have three grandchildren who did or are attending public schools, three who attended charter schools and four who are home-schooled. I also have a public school teacher in the family and I consider it significant that my home schooling daughter-in-law is opposed to vouchers or doing away with public education.

I’m not without my share of responsibility for today’s education fiasco. For instance, I honestly don’t remember voting in school board elections in the urban school districts in which we lived. Most likely I didn’t personally know the individuals running or anything about them so I deferred to those who seemed to be more knowledgeable than I. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who was MIA over the last 40 years when it came to school boards, curriculum and policies. Reflecting on my days as a parent, I recall some things I should have pushed back against but rather than trusting my gut, I was intimidated by the credentials of school administrators.

First of all, I didn’t like the “open concept” teaching method. The attention span of my four little chicks was as unique as they were so one size did not fit all. I learned later the open concept was as much about money and cutting costs as it was “innovative” teaching.

Regarding another 70s education brain freeze, does anyone besides me remember when they started teaching “values” in school, or allowing time to do “homework” during class? Just exactly whose values were being taught? And speaking of values, the value of learning good study habits through homework was totally dismissed, a price paid by my two older children. There was a discernable difference in college preparedness between them and their younger siblings, in the same school district but after homework was reinstated.

And then there was the assistant superintendent who told me that middle schoolers’ brains were like kindergarteners – dormant! He obviously hadn’t spent much time around a 5-year-old! What a fool he was and what a fool I was for not taking his comments to the schoolboard or outing his drivel in a letter to the editor of the Alief Advertiser Advocate!

I’m also not a fan of the Zero Tolerance policies adopted by many school districts. While it sounds great in a school handbook and on the website, in my opinion, it’s unfairly administered. Rather than take the time to determine the identity of the instigator in a student altercation, which shouldn’t be too hard these days with ample video documentation on student cellphones, zero tolerance punishes everyone involved. This includes students who instinctively defend themselves when physically attacked.

In my opinion, Zero Tolerance victimizes the victim even further by suspension from school or related activities, even Honor Society participation. It provides a second victory for the student perpetrator who has nothing to lose. They’ve not only bullied or physically assaulted a fellow student but assured that an otherwise clean school record is marred. By its very nature, Zero Tolerance teaches students to acquiesce and accept what others wish to do to them, a potentially dangerous thought process which could be carried over to adulthood.

Call it nostalgia but despite the pluses offered by today’s education institutions, I think something has been lost. In the 1970s, progressivism took root in our schools tossing God, corporal punishment and consequences to the curb and we see the results today economically, socially and politically.

I found a quote, author unknown, which struck a personal chord with me, “Ignorance is bliss until it hits you in the face.”

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Connie Clements. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.