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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Public Schools Need Improvement Part 2

Some public school are not very good in the United States. The quality depends partly, on the location/ neighborhood where the school is located.  The neighborhoods have varying property tax assessments and property values.  So, areas where the property taxes are higher, will most likely have better funded schools, with more educational tools and resources for the students and teachers.
I was fortunate enough to get enrolled in the Head Start program when I was a little kid.  This was prior to attending elementary school. From the time that I attended elementary school up until high school, I attended some really good schools. I think this is because the schools were located in predominately White neighborhoods.  Black students were bussed in from their neighborhoods.
During my junior year of high school I transferred over from a good school, where I learned a lot.  This school was located in an upper middle class school district.   The student body at this school was mostly White and Hispanic. The “bad” high school was located in a low-income, high-crime, drug infested, and urban neighborhood in the same county as the “good” school. The student body at this school was predominantly Black.  Many (not all) of the students were socially maladjusted and some came from broken homes and dysfunctional families. The difference between my former high school and the later one, was like the contrast between night and day. 
My last year and a half of high school was almost a complete waste of time and like a formality.   I don't feel like a learned much during that time frame.  Many of my teachers sucked at their jobs and lacked a passion and motivation for teaching.  Out of the few good teachers employed there, had a difficult time actually teaching, since some students wouldn't allow them to teach the class.  The high school administrators found a still born baby, placed in the trash inside the girls’ restroom. There were also many fights with blades and violence among the student body at that high school.
Other teachers didn't spend enough time teaching.  They would spend the class hour talking about topics which weren't related in any way to the subject matter.  One of my Economics teachers spent most of the time talking about his personal life (his family vacations, how he and his wife get refunds at stores by “raising Hell”, etc.).  I could tell that he was a perv because he was always looking the girls up and down, trying to get an eyeful of the young women in class (But, I guess that’s another blog post). 
A Chemistry teacher spent most of the class time talking to football players, who walked in and out of her class.  Her lecturers were all of ten or fifteen minutes long.  The rest of the class hours consisted of the students looking up vocabulary words from the textbook.  Her tests were almost always multiple choice and open book.  This was supposed to be a Chemistry class, yet we rarely did any laboratory experiments.  Years later, when I enrolled in General Chemistry at the university level, I was ill prepared.
I remember a Spanish teacher at this high school who was constantly mocked, taunted and disrespected by some of her students. She crumbled under the pressure and finally broke down and cried in front of the class. It was very clear that some of these students had no interest in getting their lesson. The ring leader of them, told the Spanish teacher to "shut up" and threatened to go to the front of the classroom and snatch the Spanish teacher's wig off.  That student was removed from the classroom by school administrators. I never saw him again at that school.  A few days afterwards, the teacher didn't teach there anymore.  I am not sure what happened to either of them.  I felt really sorry for the teacher after the incident I didn't see her anymore.
I was so fed up that the environment at that school was not conducive to learning, that I took to skipping class. I spent many days taking bus rides all over town.  During the bus rides I did my homework and self-study.  Sometimes, I would study at the mall or go to the county public library.  I felt that I could learn more from my own self-study than I would by attending classes.  School seemed more like a distraction than anything else.
Even though, I didn't get much out of the class sessions, I still managed to earn the credits required to graduate high school.  At that time, the "No Child Left Behind" standard of education did not exist.  We were required to take the CAT (California Achievement Test) and remedial courses in the event of failing parts of the CAT test. After remediation, students were granted the chance to re-take the failed portion.  I passed my CAT tests and got most of my high school credits required for graduation. 
Guess what?  I didn't go to my high school graduation because I felt so alienated from the other students at that school.  I chose to go to work instead. I was so mistrustful of the other students that I didn't develop many friendships there.  My best friends attended my former high school.  So, I missed out on a lot of social activities, like prom and grad night.  I didn't date high school boys:  The guy I was dating was in his early twenties and taking college courses.  I just wanted to get through that whole experience unscathed, without any physical fights and altercations. 
A few of the classes that I got the most benefit from, in those last two years of high school were English and composition.  I did have one Algebra teacher who was very good. The teachers in those classes were hard-nosed, disciplined and meant business. Those teachers really took their job seriously.  If you weren't there to learn, then you were dismissed. 
I have mixed feelings about my public high school education.  On the one hand, I got an opportunity that many people are not fortunate to ever get in their lifetime. My parents could not offer much help with my studies, since neither of them graduated from high school.  As low quality as my education was, it did offer minor preparation for college level studies.  I am the first person in my immediate family to get a post-secondary education. 
On the other hand, I feel like I was shafted by the public school system.  I didn't do too well in math.  My learning and grades in science were pretty marginal.  The highest level math course that I enrolled in during high school was Algebra II, which I barely passed after two tries.  My saving grace was that I got a firm grasp on language, writing, and reading.  Unfortunately, I ended up taking remedial math during my first two semesters at the community college.   I probably would've completed college quicker, had it not been for some of my deficiencies in math and sciences.
So many students slip through the cracks.  They graduate from high school without ever learning to read, write, and count.  I've seen with my own eyes, adults with a high school diploma, who don't know how to read.  How is this even possible?  It makes me wonder if the student was just passed to get them out of the school. 
Whose fault is it when the student does not get a good public education? The blame lies with the system, the teachers, the parents and the students.  Students in low-income areas may have trouble learning because they are hungry or worried about where they will sleep.  Some don't have stable home lives, so they can't focus on learning.  Some of the teachers have lowered expectations of students in certain neighborhoods.  Some of the parents don't take an interest in their child's education.  They are too busy trying to sort out their own life's problems or working long hours to support their families. They can’t afford to pay a tutor and many don’t have the skills to help their children with homework and studies. I guess everyone shares a small portion of the blame.

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