November 19, 1995 in Nation/World

School ‘Restructuring’ A Distracting, Ideological Waste

Jeanette Faulkner Special To Roundtable
 

This week I was told “restructuring” is coming to our school, but that the staff was not ready to bring in the parents yet.

Friends on restructuring teams at other schools explained to me what that means: When the school is ready for you, you get to spend years in surveys, forms, busywork and endless sessions with experts, organizers and facilitators. But, passing the years of my child’s education with a parliament of highly paid fools trying to deliberate its way to wisdom is not my idea of parental involvement.

Untrained parents keep bringing up basic academics. We are accused of wanting to go back to the dinosaur age.

In response, I quote educator Dorothy Sayers: “If ‘go back’ means a retrogression in time, that is impossible. If it means to reverse error, wise men do that every day.”

I don’t expect reform to solve all of man’s problems, but it should solve the academic problems. The families who sacrifice so much to put their children in private and home schools, which offer so few of the non-academic benefits, agree.

Instead, public school parents are told the problem is a lack of money and we’re sent on another lap around the levy.

Parents who know the issue is not an increase in stupidity but an increase in ignorance are not being invited to the restructuring table.

We know the root problem is a lack of factual knowledge, not a lack of ability to reach consensus or appreciate diversity or first graders not using their higher-order thinking skills. Parents will never accept the premise that egalitarianism is a substitute for academic basics.

Nevertheless, we are mistaken in thinking that the education bureaucracy has failed. Its goal used to be to educate children, but a new goal of self-perpetuation exists today. In that goal, they are very successful.

For example, validated research shows that if students learn to read phonetically, literacy goes up. Instead, Spokane School District 81 had paid for experts to come up from Australia to teach our teachers the newest Band-Aid for illiteracy. Could it be that if children really learn to read, the establishment will lose the millions of dollars spent on illiteracy programs?

Instead, we are lectured on diversity, consensus and relativism as the heart of education. This course of education reform is molding a generation who will walk in ideological lockstep.

So, I’m writing about the things restructuring engineers aren’t ready to hear from parents. We want our children to acquire a love for learning, which can only come from teachers who have mastered their subjects, not just the philosophy of education. We want our kids to live up to their God-given academic potential, not the state’s “productive worker of tomorrow” potential.

We believe young children should learn the foundational structures of each academic discipline - phonics for reading, math facts for advanced computation, grammar for language.

We are told a teacher of young children should not drill them in their math tables, but simply get them to understand the concept. But accountants know that when the power dies on the calculator, it’s a lot more efficient to know that nine times six is 54 than that the answer can be arrived at by building a block of six units across and nine units up.

Don’t force my children to reach consensus, even if the product is wrong. Teach them that it is good to protest consensus, provided their questions are intellectual and honest.

In science, expose them to the tenets of a variety of theories. Don’t limit them to one world view of matter and time. Send them out knowing what words mean, mastering them intellectually, not emotionally. That’s how parents, not facilitators, reform education.

Bureaucrats create a vision for “every” child. But parents and classroom teachers see the needs of “each” child, and that’s why we frankly don’t care what the people downtown or in Olympia or in Washington, D.C., think our student needs.

If a teacher has reason to believe a child is going to fail a course, then advance notice should be given in time for the parent to do something about it.

To parents, education reform does not represent quality control as much as it does curriculum control. A school that meets the standards of Goals 2000 and House Bill 1209 will be a school controlled by an ideology rather than parents and teachers who know what children need to succeed.

Will we continue to give our “experts” the option of not being ready to hear us?

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