Every election, education is a big issue for voters, because Americans have a strong feeling that public schools are not serving their kids well. Many blame funding for the problem. As regular readers know, I tend not to blame either funding or the individual teachers. Instead, I believe that the methodology embraced by all major American school districts is a lousy one, stuffing kids with meaningless, context-free facts, without actually teaching them.
Clearly, though, at least one school district is managing to teach its young ‘uns useful skills: project planning, responsibility, cooperative work, long-term thinking, follow-through — it’s all there. Even more impressive, these are children who have been classified as kids with learning disabilities. The only problem, of course, is the goal to which the kids directed their interests, skills and abilities:
A group of children ages 8 to 10 apparently were mad at their teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, authorities say.
That led the third-graders, as many as nine boys and girls, to plot an attack on the teacher at Center Elementary School in south Georgia.
Police Chief Tony Tanner said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious with a glass paperweight, bind her with handcuffs and duct tape and then stab her with a broken steak knife.
The scheme involved a division of roles, Tanner said. One child’s job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, and another was supposed to clean up after the attack.
The purported target teaches third-grade students with learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, delayed development and hyperactivity, friends and parents said.
Currie said he decided to seek juvenile charges against two girls, ages 9 and 10, who brought the knife and paperweight and an 8-year-old boy who brought tape. He said they face charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, and both girls are being charged with taking weapons to school.
Apparently while teaching all the useful skills the kids brought to bear on this project, the school district managed to miss lessons on kindness, forgiveness, decency, empathy, and whatever other moral virtues would prevent third graders from trying to kill their teacher.
As to this last, it’s not fair to blame the school district alone. These kids aren’t products solely of their school, but come from homes and neighborhoods. A glance at the Wikipedia entry for Waycross, Georgia gives little away, with the town sounding like so many other small, Southern towns. The only hints that there might be systemic problems were the low average income, the high number of people below the poverty line, and the very small percentage of children living in homes with both a mother and a father: “[In the 2000 census] There were 6,094 households out of which 27.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.3% were married couples living together, 21.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families.”