As I pick up the DeKalb Neighbor from my driveway on August 4, 2010, an oppressively hot and humid morning, I notice a front-page article about the new school year. Three items draw my attention:
1.) Classes begin the following Monday. Students in Decatur city schools have already started.
2.) Various high schools have enjoyed renovations. Tucker High School, at a cost of $54 million, now features a new “media center, gym and parking deck.” Cross Keys High School enjoys a $16 million renovation featuring the “cafeteria, media center, administrative area, counseling center, gym, the band and chorus rooms, and the heating and air conditioning.” The photo accompanying the article features LaShawn McMillan Ph.D., the new principal, who “discusses the new computers that will be in every classroom,” according to the caption.
3.) I notice that LaShawn McMillan holds a Ph.D., and my jaw goes into lockdown.
Start dates have been moving forward incrementally since my own son was in kindergarten in 1992. In Cobb County, students are being encouraged to bring water bottles to school. On school buses, windows and roof hatches are opened to prevent heat stroke. Air conditioners in classrooms are contributing to peak energy use.
In Rochester, New York, where I grew up, ever since I can remember schools have started after Labor Day. Like many parents, I had a short window of opportunity for visits to relatives when my son was growing up.
Every parent I’ve ever talked to has wanted to wait until after Labor Day to begin the school year.
But never mind what the citizens want or what makes sense. Administrators tinker with calendars and other non-academic matters at taxpayer expense, obscuring what’s really wrong with schools: that most teachers don’t know their subjects. Education majors are asked to “think deeply” on pedagogy written by Marxist theorists who tell them children are able to “construct” their own knowledge. They come up with variants on the Ebonics proposal of the 1990s. I still remember the outrage that the mother of my son’s friend expressed about bringing the language of the ghetto into schools.
As education schools produce ill-prepared indoctrinators, educationists insist that more money needs to be spent on computers and new facilities to “enhance” learning and to “motivate” students. Computers replace books in “media centers,” where students, unable to discern valid sources of knowledge from invalid ones (thanks to their teachers), surf the net, amalgamate passages from online papers, and play games. As if they already didn’t suffer from attention deficits because of their own electronic devices, they will now have these blinking temptations in front of them in every classroom. Coddled by teachers who are taught that their primary role is to be emotional coaches, students boisterously roam gleaming new halls of buildings that look more like high-scale shopping malls or spas than schools.
LaShawn McMillan holds an advanced degree, which in the field of education usually does mean Piled Higher and Deeper. Dr. McMillan may be an exception to the rule, but advanced degrees indicate a deeper trek into the Marxist thicket of theory. The idea of “sharing” the wealth, which is already done when students are forced to pool and redistribute the school supplies their parents have bought, is extended to academics. Brain power is shared as children are put into groups, with the smartest one carrying dead weight and wasting his time getting his “peers” up to speed. The collective status is more important than individual merit.