Archives For Education

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Not YOUR teenager, of course. Your kid can read.

Are you sure? Stop reading this right now. Call your high school kid in, grab a book, and ask him/her to read it aloud.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

 

 

 

One out of four of you will be heartbroken.

 

 

Your first mistake was assuming school took care of that.

WRONG.

Today, I sat with a boy who is going into his senior year of high school. He struggled with word recognition. He couldn’t pronounce or understand most words over 2 syllables.

Before you assume he’s a minority living in a low socioeconomic area, he’s a very white child in a very upscale suburban neighborhood. His father is an attorney. He goes to an exclusive private school.

He is functionally illiterate.

He was never fully diagnosed with a specific learning disability, nor was his reading concern addressed. He does get extra time for all school and standardized testing, but how will that help him? You could give him an entire day, and he still won’t be able to pronounce nor recognize the word “adequate.”

 

 

What can you do at this stage? If your reading impaired child is preparing to apply to college? (Applications that you, no doubt, will be heavily assisting with.)

I really don’t know.

The sad truth is, most kids who are really not “college material,” still go. Even if your kid can’t read, he or she will still likely to be able to attend and graduate college, providing it’s not a top-tier university. How is that possible? Again – I  don’t know. I’m not there. Maybe, the same extensive cheating that enabled them to pass all required high school subjects?

You could save that money you put aside for his education, and perhaps buy him a Jiffy Lube franchise. People will always need their oil changed. I have a friend who owns 108 of them. He’s a bazillionaire.

If she’s a girl, maybe sending her off to college is not such a terrible idea. Do a little demographic research, and ship her off to a school with a wealthy incoming freshman class. Invest a little money in her grooming and wardrobe so she looks cute all the time. Hopefully, she’ll snare a rich husband and this whole “not reading” thing will become a moot issue.

Because basically, at this stage of the game? In terms of your child becoming a proficient reader? Unless he or she really WANTS it, you’re screwed.

 

And You Have No One to Blame But Yourself

In theory, it’s the school’s job to make sure every student is reading proficiently. But in reality, there are 25 or more kids in an elementary school class where I live. It’s impossible for one teacher to keep tabs on every student.

As they go up in grades, this benign neglect transforms into something more toxic. In high school, the only kids who get any attention are at the very top and the very bottom of the class. The boy I discussed at the beginning of this story? He’s a B student, and not the focus of anyone’s attention. All the kids in the middle are just nudged through, one grade at a time.

If they did detect a problem at school, then there are services provided for the students. But if they didn’t? Or if you didn’t?

These kids just got pushed through.

 

Making sure your kid can read is YOUR responsibility as a parent.

I’m sure many of you have your hackles up over that one. Considering how much of your tax dollars go towards education, why should YOU take over this job?

Because, look what happens when parents don’t manage their child’s education!

WE GET ILLITERATE KIDS!

It has to be SOMEONE’S responsibility. YOU birthed them. At the end of the day, at the end of the year, at the end of the 12 years, they leave school. But they’re your kids, full-time, for your entire life.

So I am hereby delegating every one of you who has a child to take an active role in whether your child can read.

 

STOP YOUR STUPID EXCUSES

When Little Dude was a really little dude, I read to him every single night. From the time he was an infant, actually, up until he was about 9 and started reading on his own every night. I essentially turned him into a little reading machine, which I plan to write about in detail.

I’m not some kind of super parent. Trust me, I’m fucking him up in all sorts of ways. Just not when it comes to reading.

So many of my friends complained that they simply couldn’t do this, what with having three kids. And perhaps only parent present at bedtime.

These are the same parents who have to juggle those three kids in 18 different after school activities. Someone has to get Johnny to his private golf lesson while Katie trains for her equestrian trophy and Spencer practices underwater hockey. When it comes to extracurricular activities, parents will enlist anyone – grandma, a neighbor, frenemies – to tote these kids around.

Get creative when it comes to getting your little ones read to at bedtime! Do it in shifts.

FIGURE IT OUT!

And if they don’t like books, and reading? MAKE THEM LIKE IT.

Act out the characters. Engage them.

it’s not just about doing well in school, although reading is everything there. It’s about nurturing their imagination, building their creativity, and expanding their understanding of everything around them.

Teach your kids that through reading, that they can be inspired, and enchanted. They can travel the world; explore the galaxy –

one book at a time.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

–Neil Gaiman

 

 

Have you encountered this kind of situation?
Why don’t people read to their children?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

 

Ooh! I have a Facebook page! Come over and like me so I can have friends without ever leaving the house.

I’m also on Instagram

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Our kids are in CRISIS.

I work with teenagers in an affluent suburban area.

They don’t comprehend what they read. They use calculators to multiply 10 x 10. The average high school junior has no clue what the word “diligent” means. They write essays resembling those of a 5th grader.

In tests administered in reading, science and math to 15 year-olds globally, we are behind TWENTY NINE countries in math. And our kids’ performance in reading and science is  not much better. And yet, American investment in education is unrivaled, globally.

Are you scared yet?

 

We lead the world in the consumption of illegal recreational drugs. And one of the chief sales outlets?

Our SCHOOLS.

Our teenage suicide rate is the highest in the world.

EVERY DAY there are over 5,400 suicide attempts by kids in grades 7 – 12.

NOW are you scared?

 

The two places teenagers spend most of their time are online, and in school. The internet is cracking our world wide open, and in its relatively nascent state, we haven’t yet found ways to effectively police what goes on in the cyber community. New ways to distract and distort teenage minds are invented online EVERY day.

WE MUST CHANGE WHAT GOES ON IN OUR SCHOOLS.

At a time when our education budgets are unprecedented, why are kids so disinterested in school?

 

There’s a frightening disconnect between our tax dollars and the quality of our kids’ education.

Students are pushed through an uncaring system with no substantial improvement in classroom resources. We’re paying for pensions and health benefits that we just can’t afford. We’re funding exorbitant salaries for superintendents who lease luxury cars on our tax dollars while our kids’ brains are ATROPHYING IN THE GODDAMN CLASSROOM.

And when the money does make its way to the students, where does it go?

Let’s talk high school athletics.

People pro sports argue that school athletics provide exercise, support team spirit and keep students engaged in the classroom. But we are obsessive about high school sports to the detriment of academics.

Statistics vary. Some show that we spend quadruple the amount on sports than we do on academics. I personally would argue that the money spent on high school sports is TEN TIMES that of the math department. The hidden costs of high school sports is a dirty little secret.

Football is by far the most expensive high-school sport. In my lily white, soft suburban area, these kids have about as much chance of playing for the NFL as I do of spontaneously regaining my virginity.

So why is all this money going to FOOTBALL?

 

And how many millions of dollars have gone to implement the Common Core – or, the Death of Learning, as I affectionately refer to it?

Common Core shoves infuriating math down the throats of overwhelmed students, forcing them to learn the least efficient ways of solving basic problems. The Common Core is indoctrination at its worst, a pedagogical succubus that has effectively obliterated all parental control of what is being taught.

The slogan of the Common Core?  “College and career readiness.” It focuses entirely on the materialistic benefits of education.

Careers. Job training. Workforce skills. Turn our kids into bricks in the corporate wall. Entrench them in the vilest pornography of all – an existence based on conspicuous consumption.

BUY MORE STUFF.

The Common Core = DEATH TO CURIOUSITY. CREATIVITY. DISCOVERY. DIVERGENT THINKING.

 

Our current school system is based on a model developed in 1850, at the height of the Industrial Age. It aimed to create robotic human beings whose behavior could be controlled.  Prime them for a life of complacent factory work.

Take everyone who’s the same age, regardless of interest, or aptitude, and stuff them into an isolated room. Train them to move at the sound of a bell.

Schools don’t teach anything except how to obey orders. They are irrelevant to the great endeavors of the world.

What are our kids “learning?”

To move when a bell rings. To memorize scientific formulas when they want to write poetry. To interact with a frighteningly homogeneous group of people, cut off from the true diversity of the human experience. To lack compassion for those who cannot fit in. To be simultaneously arrogantly entitled and passively dependent while parental helicopter blades ‘whup whup whup‘ hover overhead.

 

The world is changing at warp speed. Growing. Not changing the way it did when we grew up. 

The Internet facilitates the delivery of information in a way that is unparalleled in the history of the world. As a result, the human experience is global. Cultures are mixing. How are our kids fit to maintain harmony in a diverse cultural world?

And what about the 2 billion people who are predicted to inhabit the earth over the next twenty years? How will they be fed, if we don’t create new food systems?  Where will they live, if we continue to pollute cities and destroy coastlines? How will they stay alive, if we don’t combat the inevitable growth of new medical threats as our collective resistances grow?

We are “educating” our kids for a world that won’t even exist by the time they are adults.

HOW WILL ANYONE SURVIVE, if all that is taught in school is

MEMORIZATION

REGURGITATION

COMPLIANCE

CONFORMITY

 

 

Our real challenge? Train kids to be creative, passionate, independent and innovative.

 

-Teach them something USEFUL.

How to balance a checkbook.

How to cook a meal.

How to grow living things.

 

-Teach them COMPASSION.

Involve them with the real world.

Make community service part of the entire school process. Start kids young, so they internalize the desire to give back to the community, instead of doing so dispassionately so they can put it on their COLLEGE APPLICATIONS.

 

-Teach them INDEPENDENCE.

Trust them with independent study.

Let them choose their own reading curriculum. Kids learn to despise reading because the prosaic rubbish forced on them to read is painful.

Let them study outside the confines of the school.

Cut out the vast quantity of homework, and give them back their TIME.
Time to discover their uniqueness and what endeavors make their hearts soar. And let them pursue THOSE.

 

-INSPIRE THEM

Incorporate trips to museums. Let them be energized and invigorated by brilliant works of art.

Take them on field trips to concerts. Let them hear a gorgeous symphony.

Expose them to great theater.

Allow them to experience diverse neighborhoods.

 

OPEN THEIR EYES! OPEN THEIR MINDS!

Whatever garbage they’re attempting to teach our kids in the classrooms isn’t working. Students don’t like it, care about, or retain it one minute after they’ve been tested on it.

Our education system is a bloated, archaic, bureaucratic, imperial useless RELIC. It can’t be fixed.

 

TEAR IT DOWN AND START ALL OVER.

I’m only one person, and I can only make a tiny difference. I can raise my son to be creative and freethinking. I can go to school board meetings and complain. I can engage people in conversation about this. I can write about this.

I can hit Publish.

YOUR TURN.

 

Do you feel like schools are useless? How can this be changed?
Does your high school kid know what 7 x 8 is, without looking at a calculator?

Talk to me. I’m listening.

 

Your Kid is NOT That Bright

September 18, 2014 — 152 Comments
It's all about the Benjamins

It’s all about the Benjamins

We’re ALL in denial when it comes to our kids.

You know that book/movie/episode of Sex and the City “He’s Just Not That Into You?”

Your kid is Just Not That Bright.

Ouch. That HURT.

But I felt it was necessary to rip the bandaid off quickly, rather than prolong the agony. Sometimes brutal honesty is better than sugarcoated fantasy (which, although a great porno name, is not going to help you understand my point.)

It doesn’t do you any good for me to feed you the same bullshit the schools have been feeding you all these years.

I know you think your kid is smart. After all, he has a 4.0 GPA in school, doesn’t he? Or a 3.8?

As a matter of fact, she’s a National Honors Society member.

But trust me, this doesn’t mean anything. It may have everything to do with grade inflation; rampant cheating; tenure; weighted averages, grade grubbing – so many factors.

He could be in the top 10 percent of the class and still…not be that bright.

 

“Dammit, why does she keep SAYING that?!!”

I guess I’m hoping to take the sting out of the words through repetition.

I have found that even the most realistic, evolved parents harbor a little bit of denial when it comes to their offspring.

Take Little Dude, for example. He’s super bright (or is he? I’d like to think he is, but after all, I AM his mom. And by definition, this puts me in the paradoxical situation of writing about a phenomenon that I myself may fall prey to).

Okay, let’s assume he’s bright. Not super gifted genius bright, but above average bright.

However, he has a lot of behavioral flaws. He’s defiant, smart mouthed – a difficult 10-year-old (or 17-year-old). Over the years, I have tried to be realistic about his flaws, but I’m sure I still see him in a better light then some other parents see him.

When he’s hanging with his buds, and smashes another kid over the head with a lightsaber, I’m sure the parents of his friend with the fresh head wound is now going to think of my kid as “that maniac.”

I think he’s … spirited. They think he’s a hyena.

 

Every parent whose kid has less than stellar academic performance goes dragging their kid off to the pediatric neurologist, looking for answers.

ANY ANSWER:

ADD. ADHD. Visual Perceptual deficit. Auditory Processing Disorder. Sensory Processing Disorder. Dyspraxia. Dyslexia. Dyscalculia. Dysgraphia.

It’s actually a GOOD thing that kids are no longer seen as just good and bad, smart and dumb.

It’s a positive thing, and a long time coming, that many developmental learning issues have been identified and are now addressed in schools so that every kid has a chance to learn.

The downside to this is,

THERE ARE NO DUMB KIDS ANYMORE.

NONE. NADA. ZIP.

This is what I want to focus this post on.

 

Where have all the dumb kids gone?

Some of the other issues I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ll discuss in subsequent posts.

When I was growing up (wow, nothing like that phrase to make you sound old), there were smart kids, there were average kids, and there were dumb kids.

It was fairly easy to identify the dumb kids. In middle school, they were the ones sitting in the back of the room, shooting spitballs in Mr. Gleason’s crappy hairpiece.

In high school, they were the ones standing outside, huddled together in leather jackets smoking cigarettes and lighting Mr. Gleason’s car on fire.

To hear parents speak today, there are simply no dumb kids. How can that be? We’ve all come into contact with dumb adults, haven’t we? Possibly you’ve asked them for help while shopping at Best Buy. Occasionally they work airport security, or dance around inside purple dinosaur costumes.

So, weren’t they, more than likely, just not so bright as kids? And isn’t there a possibility that there are some not-so-bright kids roaming around TODAY?

If there are, it NEVER gets blamed on intelligence.

A close friend of mine has a son who’s just not that bright.  She constantly refers to him as “intelligent” but “with delays.”

Now maybe it’s easy for me call a spade a spade because my kid doesn’t have intelligence issues, but delays? The kid was dumb.

She ended up having him repeat kindergarten, TWICE. Never mind that he’ll be shaving before he leaves middle school. He’s just “delayed.”

 

I can already hear the indignant denouncements of the outraged politically correct baby boomers.

How dare I use the word dumb?

I’ll tell you how I dare. For one, it’s nicer than stupid.

The world is just not created equal.

I can already see, at 10, that my son is not a “natural” athlete. He’s better than he USED to be because I run him like a dog (I know – the dad’s job –right? I’m the one in the backyard with a ball and a glove like a dipshit). And yes, he’s improved, and will continue to.

But some kids his age can run a ball on a soccer field like Lionel Messi. The “delayed” son of my friend can run faster than a speeding bullet. Maybe it’s because his brain weighs less than all the other kids.’

And I can and do compare my son’s artistic ability to that of my friend’s kids.  My girlfriend’s daughter can already draw, at 9 years old, the kind of artwork I would consider framing and hanging up. I can see that, Little Dude is NO Da Vinci. Here is his latest drawing:

drawing

 

 

So why am I, and probably other parents, willing to admit when our kids are not naturally athletic, or artistic, or musical – but DON’T WANT to admit that our kids are just not that smart?

Because BEING SMART HELPS WITH EVERYTHING YOU DO IN LIFE.

If you can’t paint, throw a hellish long pass, play the tuba, or win a beauty contest you can still have a very successful life.

But if you’re not smart, you’re kind of screwed.

 

I recently spoke to a mother, an incredibly bright Ivy League Graduate. Her youngest son has learning “issues.” He has an IEP; an Individualized Education Program, which is a written document that’s developed for each public school child who is eligible for education. 

I inquired as to nature of these issues. The mom, as bright and articulate as she is, could not tell me anything specific. She had just identified early on that her son was having difficulties in school. She asked his teacher if she felt her son was experiencing any kind of learning delays; the teacher did not.

She demanded that the child study team test her son. They did and found nothing diagnosable wrong with him.

She then went to a private doctor, and was given a diagnosis sufficient to garner her son the aforementioned IEP. Her answer, when I asked what specifically was his diagnosis, was that he had “broad spectrum learning disability.”

What IS that?

I tried googling it.

It doesn’t exist.

Is there anything even “wrong” with her son? Who’s to say?

Many experts found nothing they could specifically pin down; the expensive specialist she went to gave her a diagnosis that doesn’t exist on the Internet.

What if her son was just not that bright?

What if she just had enough money to find a doctor who would give her what she was looking for – a reason to explain away her son’s sub-par academic performance? That would certainly make her feel better about having given birth to a “C” student who doesn’t have an iceberg’s chance in hell of attending her college alma mater.

 

The benefits of having broadened our educational system to accommodate kids with learning disabilities are extolled resoundingly.

The damage this may be doing, on the other hand, is completely hush hush. No one wants to think that people exploit the system so they can do something as unfair as get their kids undeserved extra accommodations. I see it all the time.

 

Let’s say you’re one of the smart, professional, educated parents with plenty of resources – and you  were unwilling to have your child – who may or may not have a learning disability – struggle in school.  And you choose to utilize all the support necessary to help your child.

BUT – when does utilization become exploitation?

Because remember – even with all the fancy diagnoses available, some of the kids with these quasi non-specific diagnoses are just not that bright.

Schools must accommodate these kids. Once diagnosed and given an IEP or 504, schools are legally bound to. But even with all those extra accommodations, a student whose parent fought to get them one of these bogus diagnoses is going to flounder.

In high school. In college.

And definitely in life, where IEPs DO NOT exist.

This is the where this debacle REALLY impacts us.

Let me state this, for the record: I would never suggest that some students do not legitimately deserve and benefit from these accommodations. I would never try to minimize the importance of the Special Education system in our country, and how much good it has done to help millions of kids with learning disabilities.

But I wouldn’t have written about this kind of exploitation if I didn’t know a parent, a special education teacher, tell me right out that there was nothing discernably wrong with her child.

Her kid was just a crappy student who did terribly on tests, and she told me she knew how to “work the system” to get her kid extra time on tests.

This is the type of parent I am talking about. Only one of them had the balls to come right out and say it.

But she’s like a cockroach – for every one you spot, there’s a hundred more hidden somewhere.

And this mangled intersection of finance, education and politics is not IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CHILDREN.

 

What do you think about the accommodations made for kids who really don’t need them, vs kids who do? 

Talk to me. I’m listening. 

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