The letter came in the mail addressed to “The Parents of The Champ.”
He's turning five this year, and as such he will be required to attend a school of our choosing.
Unless. … The district decides it can no longer afford to offer kindergarten.
Of course the missive didn't put it quite that way. The form letter, sealed in an overstuffed envelope with a glittery smiley-faced sticker, was on top of a ream of festively-colored papers explaining exactly what acrobatics we'd have to perform in order to get him registered.
But it was the wording in the first paragraph … “As it stands currently, we offer a full-day Kindergarten …” that got my attention.
“As it stands currently,” is actually code for “But when you put your adorable son on the bus at 8 a.m. in September, expect to see him return for the day at lunch-time.”
But it seemed worse.
I read in the newspaper that the district had put the nuclear option – getting rid of Kindergarten completely – on the table for a potential savings of $600,000.
“That's the scare tactic,” my husband said, in his most authoritatively hopeful voice.
“Of course. It has to be,” I thought to myself. Much the same way the panel discussed going to half-day kindergarten and a one-bell system of busing during last year's board meetings. Few supported that kind of crazy talk.
Closing two elementary schools and laying off dozens of teachers seemed harsh enough.
Cutting core programs? Putting kindergarteners on the bus with high schoolers? What is the world coming to? Last year when these ideas were floated it seemed as nutty as telling parents that if they lived within three miles of the school their kids would not qualify for transportation.
Oh, wait. They mentioned that, too.
I suppose they're betting they can cut phys. ed. if the kids walk three miles (or fewer) to school, in the snow, up hill both ways.
“So you're saying NEXT year they'll do away with kindergarten, move to lecture-hall style classes and have kids walking home along the main truck route … without sidewalks? Or … maybe we can get rid of school and have children learn from home by punching random words into Google.”
He didn't laugh. Neither did I.
With so many tech companies clammoring for contracts it's only a matter of time.
It's so easy to say how different things are now as opposed to when we were children.
But sometimes I wonder if it's fair to wag our fingers at parents … or teachers … and blame them entirely for “The Kids Today.”
Society is shaped by the politicians, too. Politicians who are saying the idea that all people should have the opportunity to go to college is nothing more than snobbery.
They are waging wars without taxes. They are giving corporations personhood. They are gutting protections so people can build vast empires on bubbles.
Why aren't we looking at them and rubbing their noses in their policy-making messes?
When New York City released its internal rankings of 18,000 public school teachers based on their students' test scores, the response seemed appropriately if not surprisingly subdued.
In an age when we follow such things as follower numbers, how many people Liked us and Klout scores, it should come as no surprise that we are metric centric.
But Test scores will never be able to tell the whole story. A test is merely a tool … one of many that should go into to the instructive process.
It certainly seems that What's Wrong With The American Educational System will not be fixed by vilifying teachers, denigrating parents and the expectation that awareness of data will solve the problems we have in educating the next generation.
It won't be fixed by weakening teachers' unions or breaking them all together. It won't be fixed by cutting funds and increasing class sizes. It certainly won't be fixed by slashing early education programs because we refuse to raise taxes.
There was a time when this country valued education. We valued it so much that we made it a requirement.
And now with tax caps and austerity budgets, larger class sizes, massive cuts to early education and specialized programing … we are taking away the very things that we know contribute to educational success.
In fact, by denigrating education we are taking away the very thing that has proven to breed success.
But that's where we're going.
And it will be up hill … both ways.