Sunday, March 4, 2012

Public Schools Saved My Life

I have been partially disconnected for the past 4-5 days from internet.  I must say it was rather nice.  My family and I went down to Arizona to visit my aunt and uncle.  We took in the Phoenix zoo and the Children's Museum and we enjoyed ourselves.  I have not seen my aunt and uncle for many years and it was great to reconnect.  On our trip I was able to to get a start on reading Catching Up or Leading the Way.  This book and my experience in AZ impacted me big time recently!

My aunt and uncle live in a part of town that used to be the suburbs 15-20 years ago in Phoenix, AZ.  The demographics have certainly changed since then.  It made me think of where I came from and where I am at now.  I often ask questions like, why did I make it out when others did not?  Through a combination of the book and having a chance to reminisce with family I had an epiphany.  Public schools saved my life!

Teachers like Mr. Nygaard, Mr. Lunde, Mr. Brecht and Mrs. Daffer gave me the confidence and encouraged me.  I'll be the first to say to anyone that I was not the greatest student in high school.  I was your typical at risk student.  I had all the risk factors; divorced parents, poverty level, free and reduced lunch, unstable home life, and failing grades.  School was the last thing on my importance list, I was more concerned with survival than anything else.

We are trying to emulate an Asian educational system where standardized testing is the norm.  Testing outcomes control whether or not students lead a successful life or not.  This is a system that doesn't  give "late bloomers" like myself a chance.  I didn't value school at the time, because there were too many distractions.  BUT caring teachers kept me focused and did everything in their power to encourage me to go 2,000 miles away to college.  Where would I be if I was not able to enter college based on a standardized test score?

Public sentiment in support of teachers and our education system is eroding, this is no secret.  Many critics site terrible schools and bad teachers as reasons for this.  This "broken" system has helped me succeed and many others as well.  The worst part about it is that our lowest performing schools now represent all schools. The best charter schools represent all charter schools.

Our system gives kids second chances and allows us the opportunity to be a late bloomer.  We currently don't write off kids when they can't pass a test.  We push them and give them help and allow them to be an individual rather than a number.

Why are we trying to implement an oppressive system of standardization that Asian countries are trying to get away from anyway?  Our focus on individuality is what makes us great.

"Innovation comes from innovative people" - Yong Zhao

Are high test scores really tied to high economic development?  Can this even be measured?

If so, we should not be as successful as we have been the past 30-40 years.



1 comment:

  1. Mike,
    My future son-in-law was also a student who, for various reasons, did not take school seriously as a high school student. He was working after high school when he met our daughter. Her belief in the power of eduction and in him resulted in his entering MSU-Moorhead through a provisional program. He's now a senior at MSUM, a student senator, and will begin law school in the fall. He would have been destined to be a factory worker forever if he lived in China. America...what a great country!
    Gail Wold
    Beulah Middle School