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The nightmare we call our schools

By Alan Caruba
web posted May 19, 2008

A friend of mine recently wrote to me saying, "My wife is retiring in June after thirty years of teaching. A high school degree means nothing. No Child Left Behind is an even bigger joke. It is a scary situation that could lead us to third world status, but we are prepared for that since we already teach English as a second language."

I remember my Father, the son of Italian immigrants, telling me how, when he entered kindergarten in the early years of the last century, the teacher paired him with a boy who spoke both English and Italian. That was how he learned to speak English. He was not considered special, the school was full of immigrant's children and they were expected to pick up English as best they could and as fast as they could. Later, my Father worked his way through New York University and became the youngest person at the time to pass the exam to become a Certified Public Account.

The difference between my Father's era—and mine at mid-century—and the children in today's schools is that there were subjects we were expected to master and grades reflected actual achievement.

Today's schools reflect the opening quote from a friend of mine, a fellow with a master's degree in education who tried his hand at teaching and discovered that his school was a jungle of incompetent teachers, indifferent administrators, and a majority of students for whom the expectation of good behavior and a dedication to learning was laughable. And his school was every public school.

That explains why Dr. Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D, with forty years of teaching elementary and middle school as well as being an administrator in California schools, sat down and wrote The Nightmare That is Public Education: An Expose of What Really Happens in Public Schools ($17.95, iUniverse). I recommend this book to parents so that the blinders can fall from their eyes and especially to teachers who still have a desire to actually teach.

"I believe teachers and principals work in school systems throughout the United States that are ineffective, poorly administered, and broken," says Dr. Nicholai. He cited six "myths" the public is spoon-fed to keep them in the dark.

  1. The Money Myth—"Schools perform poorly because they need more money."
  1. The Special Ed Myth—"Special education programs burden public schools, hindering their academic performance."
  1. The Myth of Helplessness—"Social problems like poverty cause students to fail; schools are helpless to prevent it."
  1. The Class Size Myth—"Schools should reduce class sizes; small classes would produce big improvements."
  1.  The Certification Myth—"Certified or more experienced teachers are substantially more effective."
  1. The Teacher Pay Myth—"Teachers are badly underpaid."

Politically conservative parents have an even greater problem with today's schools that are totally in the grip of unions with a demonstrative leftist agenda. "The terms multiculturalism, modernism, diversity, secular humanism, individual self-expression, moral relativism, and political correctness identify the secular-progressive," writes Dr. Nicholai.

 "When these terms are discussed with praise and commitment, you know you're on the trail of persons who believe that traditional values, rights, and responsibilities are old-fashioned and out of step with modern thought."

"Public schools are havens for liberal thought and practice. Secondary teachers are generally far left, left, or left-leaning." The greatest complaint of parents with children in today's school is that they are factories for indoctrination of values that run contrary to their own "old-fashioned" views.

It is doubtful still that parents have any idea how bad the situation is in their local schools, even if their children attend those in prosperous suburbs. Dr. Nicholai simply says they have been hoodwinked. Everyone participates from the students to the teachers to the administrators.

"Actually, at most public high schools, chaos is just under the surface of the daily routine, with cops on campus and administrators supervising before and after school, during passing periods, and at lunches and recesses, with walkie-talkies and cell phones."

Not exactly the description of a serene, safe environment in which to learn or teach anything.

We as a nation have known about this as far back as 1983 when the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its report, A Nation at Risk. Here we are, twenty-five years later, and the situation is infinitely worse. At a current average cost of $9,200 per student, an increase of 69% over 1980 per-pupil spending, taxpayers are spending more and getting worse results. ESR

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center, www.anxietycenter.com. He blogs at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. © Alan Caruba, May 2008


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