Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Letters from home

Despite my irrepressible anger toward our country's educational system, I firmly believe that public school works. Or can work, rather. As contradictory as that seems, I feel that if our national priorities were different (as well as our financial priorities), our teachers would have a little more incentive to excel. Of course, they're competing against the incessant and far sexier barrage of media from television and the internet. It's like attempting to read Chaucer to someone while in the same room with a Belgian prostitute on fire. As much as one may love Chaucer, he's going to have trouble keeping his eyes off of the burning whore.

Still, for every amazing teacher out there (I can count the number I've had on one hand), there are ten insufferably shitty ones. My family now lives in Arizona and I'd heard from several sources that the teachers out there aren't paid very well and, as a result, the education can be spotty at best. Last night, my little brother reported that he submitted an essay on the "relocation" of Japanese citizens during World War II to his teacher which sported the ubiquitous image of Uncle Sam on its cover page. The teacher studied the wartime icon for a moment, looked at my brother and asked "why do you have Abraham Lincoln on the cover?"

Maybe it was an easy mistake to make. Maybe I'm terrified for my brother's future.

My brother did go on to say that he told a classmate that he had just moved to Arizona from Pennsylvania. The classmate said "Oh, I know that place. It's where vampires come from." Good teachers produce good students.

And believe me, I'm not down on educators. I wish I had the patience for it. I just remember being frustrated with most of my teachers when I was in school. For instance, I argued with my fifth grade teacher after class over whether or not "orb" is a word. Of course it is, but she made me strike it from my short story because she had never heard of it. In retrospect, neither of us had the presence of mind to consult a dictionary, but surely that was her job, not mine. And I cannot BELIEVE the number of times my shortened name, Gabe, was misspelled "Gab" on various reports and essays all throughout school by various and sundry teachers. It's simple phonetic spelling. To make the vowel long, add an "e" at the end. We learn that in first grade, don't we? Is that so much to ask? All I wanted to do was SHOV a KNIF through their dumb FACS.

I think the lesson for my brother or any student is that not all teachers are infallible. It may not be tactful to challenge their every word, but it's certainly within the bounds of reason to doubt them.

Orb is a word, Mrs. Johnson.


D.W. said...

I have a huge amount of respect for teachers. I know how hard many of them work and how little reward they get from it. There are some fantastic teachers out there to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude that I failed to give while I was a student.

That being said, I've had my share of awful ones. The best story I can recall is of my 4th grade Social Studies teacher. On one particular quiz on the subject of American Geography, appeared the question, "What are the three southern-most states in the U.S.?" My answer: Florida, Texas and Louisiana. I got it wrong because Ms. Hardin insisted that California extended farther south than Louisiana. When I showed her a map, she did not acquiesce. She insisted that she was right on the grounds that Baja was actually part of California. Of course, it is. It's called Baja California, duh.


Gabe said...

That reminds me of the time one of my sisters argued with a teacher over the largest state. The answer is Alaska but the teacher refused, REFUSED to believe it.

Sunnie said...

Good Lord Gabe, who did you have for 5th grade? *wonders if we had the same teacher*

mugwatch said...

You MAK me laugh very mucha.

Heather said...

I managed to actually get a really good education in the New York City public school system, but I think it's harder and harder to do that these days--there just isn't enough money available to keep the really top-notch experienced teachers in the schools where they are most needed. And new teachers just get frustrated. We'll see what California will be like!