Monday, July 30, 2012

It's Not My Fault...

...aka the post in which I use a long, run-on sentence to say there is the possibility I stand a good chance of making some people mad at me with what I’m about to say even though my intention is only to get something off my chest that really, really bugs me rather than to offend anyone or hurt the feelings of someone who doesn’t deserve to have their feelings hurt.  Whew!!!  Here goes.  By the way, I am perched high on my soap box today, my friends, and it may be a while before I come down.   

What the heck has happened to personal responsibility in this country?  Okay, casual cursing is just not me so maybe that’s not the best or most beneficial way to start.  One of the first things I learned when I began teaching 19 years ago was to always begin each and every correspondence with a parent in a positive way, especially if bad news was to follow.  That can be hard to do sometimes.  Once, the rough draft of a letter I prepared to send home with a student started with the sentence Mrs. Doe, Your daughter has the nicest, cleanest hair I’ve ever seen.  Don’t worry. I was able to come up with a more appropriate positive opening line for the actual letter...though in that particular case it was a struggle.  

Shall I begin again?

As an educator, I will click on national news links concerning school issues from time to time.  Often, I come away from the article feeling enlightened - inspired, even.  Sometimes, however, I am left just absolutely flabbergasted, with a bad taste in my mouth from even reading the words in the article and thinking someone needs to be shaken - and hard.  In this most recent case, the ACLU.  

It seems the American Civil Liberties Union has found its next cash cow...low performing schools.  This country’s favorite scapegoat (public education) is bleeding and the sharks are smelling the possible millions to be made.  

The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit against a Michigan school district on behalf of 8 students who, according to the organization, have been denied the right to an education because, basically, they are not proficient in reading and math.  Once again, it is the school’s fault.

Before I continue let me just go ahead and state a few things:  1.  I speak without having researched this lawsuit beyond what I read in the article.  2.  Just like every other place of employment in this country, every school has one or two employees who need to find another job.  3.  Test data is not always indicative of teacher quality.  4.  I do feel sympathy for children who find themselves in legitimately bad environments, whether it be school or home.

Folks, wake up!  The situations we get ourselves into in life are most often of our own doing and not the fault of someone else, as many would like us to believe.  The blame game we have in this country anymore is growing very tiresome and I, for one, am quite fed up with it.

The word “entitled” in this country has been taken far out of context.  Regarding education, our children are entitled to a free education.  By that, I believe our founding fathers meant for the government to provide for the transfer of knowledge from a trained person to our children and a setting for this transfer to take place.  I do not think it was their belief that personal responsibility on the part of the student or the parent(s) in securing an education should cease.  

If a student sits in a class and chooses not to listen or complete the assigned tasks and goes home to parents who choose not to support the provided educational opportunities, the failure of the student, in my opinion,  then rests squarely at the feet of themselves and their parents.  What is the old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.  Truer words are seldom spoken.  

Another “not-so-nice-of-a-way-to-put-it” saying I have long remembered from a former co-worker is, and I quote, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit”.  She should know, too.  She taught for over thirty years and her husband, also a teacher, was the coach of a perpetual powerhouse football team which won the state championship a number of times.  Now, that may be offensive to you, but it is, nonetheless, true.

We, and I am speaking to parents here, cannot drop our kids off at the door ill-prepared with a lack of basic supplies and with little training from home in the way of respect, manners, work ethic, and discipline, do nothing on our own at home to support their education and expect much more than what we dropped off in the beginning. It’s true, a good teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s education during the school day.  But once the school day ends, parents, it becomes our job to carry on the training.

Where the government has failed in my opinion??? Creating a class of citizens who have no desire, or reason, to work for what they need or pay their own way in life.  

If you only knew how many times I have heard, when expressing to my students the importance of hard work and a good education, young people make remarks of a contradictory nature based on the experience they see each day from their own parents who do not work and seem to “do just fine” (because of government support they receive monthly), it would make you sick, and quite scared for the future of our country.  And don’t even get me started on how it feels when the first question asked on registration day by many parents covered in tattoos, piercings, reeking of cigarette smoke is “where do I sign my kid up for free lunch and supplies”.  I’m sorry, but if you have enough disposable income to smoke or get tatted and pierced you should be able to pay for your child’s lunch and supplies.

Now, before you get too angry with me and think I am being mean-spirited I believe there is a need for certain government programs.  When a person cannot work due to severe physical and/or mental limitations I feel it becomes the duty of those who do work to help support them.  Likewise, when a person, through no fault of their own, finds themselves hurting financially we should want to help them over their hurdle.  
However, when we tell able-bodied people that it is okay to sit home day in and day out, not work and we, the ones who do work, will provide for you, what motivation is there for them to go out and find gainful employment or further their education?  And as this government supported lifestyle trickles down through generations, what motivation does a parent have in making sure to support education in the home.

But hey, it’s not their fault. They’re entitled to every cent they get, and luckily, the ACLU wants to help some of them get a little more.

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