On the news last night, they featured a music program in a California school system that was funded by a grant because there wasn’t any money in the school budget for it. This is not new, this happens all the time, but while watching this program I began to cry. Not like, “Oh, that’s so sweet, and isn’t that great for those kids.” No, this was different. These tears were more like, “This is completely and utterly unacceptable that our schools cannot afford arts programs.”
Do you know where the money is going? It’s going to Pearson, and companies like Pearson who charge for their testing programs, for their test prep materials, even for their “professional development” programs – “experts” that they have chosen to send to schools willing to pay enough for the wisdom on… you guessed it, how to get the kids to pass the test. How to teach more, faster. How to determine what not to teach, so that you can teach the really important stuff – you know, the stuff that’s on the test. How to get kindergartners to sit still long enough to take a standardized test. Test taking strategies to teach to the kids to increase their odds of getting a correct answer… on the test.
Let me be clear – testing is not education. But our kids and our teachers spend so much time on testing, there is very little time left for actual teaching and learning.
And in the meantime, we wonder why the rates of kids with anxiety have gone through the roof. We wonder why kids are so mean to each other. We wonder why our kids get addicted to video games, and their phones, and technology in general. And I hate to say it, but in ten years or so, we’re going to be shocked at the rise in suicides and mental health issues in our youth.
They don’t know how to play anymore because they don’t have time. They don’t have hobbies anymore because they don’t have time. They don’t find joy in music or art because it’s not in their school day anymore, and you guessed it – they don’t have time after school.
They have hours – HOURS! of homework. Even in Kindergarten. They have shortened recess because the class didn’t get everything done. They have silent lunch periods where they have to sit boy-girl, boy-girl so that they do not socialize and cause “trouble.” They are not allowed to have a real vacation – some teacher will assign a project, because kids will just get bored over break, right? Why not use that time to get some more standards in?
I cried at that news story out of sheer rage and helplessness. I left education in large part because it was heading in a very wrong direction, and it is only accelerating toward that really bad place. And it will have devastating, crippling effects on this generation of school kids that can only “socialize” and escape via technology.
What do we do? I do what I can. When my kid’s teacher assigns homework over break, I tell him it may not get done, and I might tell a little white lie about why. My kid deserves a break, and he will get it if I have anything to say about it. When a school in my district enacts these stupid policies about recess and lunch (and yes, those are real policies in place in an elementary school in my district), I will write letters to principals, superintendents, and school boards. And I will speak loudly to anyone who will listen about testing, and what it is doing to our kids and our educational system.
I do what I can. It may not be much, but it’s better than crying at the TV.