Published: Saturday, Feb. 2 2013 1:35 p.m. MST
I'm disappointed that you would base your attack on traditional public
schools on a single anecdote. I don't believe your unfortunate experience
is common. The biggest problem I see in Utah public schools is
constant micromanagement by our legislature accompanied by the nation's
stingiest budgets. It doesn't help that so many are now criticizing our
devoted teachers. It doesn't help that the massive surge of over-testing
is pressuring principals to force teachers to focus on tricks and quick,
short-term gains in limited areas, to look good on the next test, instead of the
gradual, deep learning that helps most in the long run. Our teachers are now
serving for mostly altruistic purposes, since their salaries are ever less
'I don't believe your unfortunate experience is common.' I do believe this experience is common. I just moved here a few months
ago from Huntington Beach, CA and I now have four children complaining about
having to take classes and subjects they completed an average of two years ago.
Three of the four are in the most advanced classes offered at their grade levels
and view all their classes as boring reviews (except Utah History and PE). As an
example my 15 year old has had to sit through half a year of programming a Lego
Mindstorms robot as an introduction to programming. He first did this when he
was nine, six years ago!We really need to rethink our system of
learning and not be stuck teaching to the 'lowest common denominator'!
As a 25 year teacher in Utah public schools the problem of students taking
classes they already have mastered through prior classes and out of the
classroom experience is common. Every year I've tried through various
means to get our schools to implement a system that would allow three options;
test out (This would require the teacher to always have a current comprehensive
exam for students to take and a second teacher to review both the exam and
results.) Every school should be part of a system of online enrichment with a
variety of regular and advanced courses for every grade level, and a clearly
written set of guidelines for students and parents in print and online to help
them find solutions. I know we can do a better job if we will recognize the
problem and work together to develop solutions.
The basic premise of the article is correct. Education is in need of overhaul.
Money is not the answer either. It is a need for common sense to be exercised.
Standardized testing on a massive scale isn't productive. Many required
classes are not instructive for everyone. Many students would be better off with
pratical classes not geared for those pursuing college. I certainly don't
have all the answers, but I know that all is NOT well in most education systems.
Maryland was judged to be at the top academically in a recent study, and we have
grandchildren who have excelled in Maryland schools. However, our granddaughter,
who is a senior there, has been stressed all through high school about
unrealistic expectations. My last comment is that ceasing to teach cursive in
early grades isn't a good idea; learning cursive contributes to brain
development, and has in our culture for many generations. It is a useful
communication skill too.
The problem is not isolated to Utah. I live in Washington State.Once of
my children would come home from school every day and do two to three hours of
homework each night without being asked. She was only in the 5th grade. She got
one A and one F and all other grades were D's on her report card. The
teacher commented that our daughter had not completed a single homework packet
that year (a packet was one weeks homework).This girl could hardly read,
she could not multiply. He homework was all busy work.We decided to
homeschool her. I had to write my own curriculum. Eighteen months later she was
doing pre-algebra. My wife patiently read with her and fixed her reading
problems. She graduated from our homeschool, completed her AA degree, filled a
mission and is now married.We had a choice: Let her continue to do
busy work or give her a real education. We chose the latter. We had to do
something. If we didn't intervene she would have given up.It
appears that the primary goal of the schools in Washington state is to produce
good little socialists.
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