About the Colony

Save some blame for bad students

Almost everyone thinks they know what’s wrong with education. Education has always had its critics. Remember in the 1960s when Navy Adm. Hyman Rickover, considered the father of the nuclear navy, was a chief critic of modern education? He certainly wasn’t the first, or the last to put down America’s education system.

The trend now is to target the teachers as the reason our schools are failing. Even the issue of tenure has been seen as the bane of the educational system.

Some of you may know I was a high school English teacher. I wasn’t a very good one, and after six years, I decided I needed a career change when the opportunity to become a journalist (my first love) became available to me. I always fantasized about being editor of a small hometown newspaper. My comments come from having been in those teaching trenches.

I never quite understood the idea of tenure and thought it kind of funny that it even existed. But the idea out there that you can’t fire bad teachers just isn’t true. It requires that poor performance be adequately documented, which is fair.

My stepdaughter is a teacher and a former principal. She has been responsible for getting rid of a number of nonperforming teachers.

Are there a lot of bad teachers out there? Of course. There are also a lot of bad doctors, bad lawyers, bad auto mechanics, bad plumbers, bad electricians and bad journalists.

My only criticism of education is that we spend too much time testing and testing and testing, and therefore teaching to the tests. I also think we give too much homework, especially in the early years.

Charter schools are beginning to get a lot of focus these days. Charter schools can pick who gets to attend.

Other public schools can’t, and therein lies much of the problem.

Teachers must teach, within the same classroom, children whose parents don’t care or are too busy making ends meet to care.

They also have to teach children exposed to prime-time television shows that teach disrespect for authority, along with music videos that do much the same, electronic devices that preclude real-life social interaction and politeness and information that comes with music, lights and lots of action.

A teacher can’t weed out the bad students. And believe me, there are a lot of bad students.

All that boom and sizzle children receive from shortly after they are born is pitted against one human being, a teacher, quietly trying to explain what led to the Civil War.

As parents, if we are going to criticize education, then let’s take a close look at the product (the child) we are sending teachers to teach.

In fact, it might help if we sent them to school dressed for learning instead of a day at the beach.

Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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