I’ve been griping about my and my children’s transition to a very high-rated public school. I still think my gripes are legitimate but even I, who am the whiney kind, recognize that it could be a whole heck of a lot worse. A friend of mine who works in a major urban public school district sent me the following report:
Sometimes the cost of educating vast numbers of children of illegal immigrants becomes frustratingly apparent. Children get moved from grade to grade but without knowing the basics.
Today I met with a nice 10 year old boy in the 5th grade. In his very low performing school in which most of the students are either illegal or the children of illegals themselves, he did not qualify as needing special ed, despite his poor academic performance. That’s because the rest of the school are at about the same level. Today he told me that he was having trouble in math and other subjects. He told me that he had to do a report for science and he chose to do a report on lunar and solar eclipses. I offered to help him a little.
Two days before the (not started) report was due, this is what I found. He did not know the definition of solar or lunar (despite the Spanish words sol and luna). He thought the sun went around the earth. He did not know that stars were suns. He did not know that the moon orbited the earth. He did not know that planets closer to the sun would be hotter than those farther from the sun. He did not have a visual concept of our solar system. He did not know that earth spun on an axis. He did not know that one orbit around the sun was one year. He did not know that planets farther from the sun took longer to complete their orbit than those closer to the sun. He did not know how many days were in a year. He did not know how many months were in a year. He guessed 8, then 6. I gave him a calendar. Turning the pages he counted 13 not realizing that page 1 had the 4 months of September through December preceding the new year. He did not know the 4 seasons or their climates, with the exception of the recent July and August. January he guessed was cold (the calendar had a snowy picture). February he guessed was hot. When asked why he thinks earth has life and the other planets don’t, he answered, “Because earth has things.” He hasn’t wondered about these things or asked.
He is not retarded. He is under-stimulated and exposed and in all probability has never been to a museum, concert, or for a hike in nature. His world consists of a few blocks. His mother can barely read in Spanish. She has been in the United States for at least 15 years and cannot communicate at all in the English language. He has an absentee father and a different father than his brother. His brother is a teen father. The baby receives insufficient nurturing by his immature parents (who are no longer together). The baby’s mother receives AFDC.
He is a nice boy, not yet a conduct problem, but without a trade program in our schools, without extensive tutoring after school because there is no one at home to help him with his schoolwork, what will his fate be? We subsidize this apalling “education” for thousands of kids whose families leave them unprepared for school, whose parents fail to model the importance of learning, and it is on our dollar.
My comment to this grim story, for what it’s worth, is this the above is a story that’s dreadful at all levels, whether it’s about the societal cost of illegal immigrants, the horrible job our schools do, or one nice little boy’s downward trajectory.
I thought my friend’s point about trade schools was interesting. I’ve always been a huge fan of the trade school idea and cannot figure out why we don’t have trade schools in. Why in the world should a kid who is decided non-intellectual, but who likes messing about with cars or building things, be consigned to years of failure in school, when he could be learning a useful trade. This is a real perversion of democracy to deny people a chance to better themselves based on some impractical, naïve idea that everyone can be marched through factory schooling and attain the same intellectual heights.
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