Practical education in frozen philly

Lyon Keating:

At the moment, my education pursuits in life have come to a profession that is frozen for employment in every way but one.  Full time and substitute teachers are not being accepted by the Philadelphia public schools and private institutions are not accepting any form of employment either.  You are what you are at this very moment in time.  There is no going up or going down or breaking in or breaking out (although I guess you could very easily get laid off at this moment).  Who would have thought that my lame duck substitute teaching status in San Francisco was actually an educational opportunity and more or less an “in” compared to what would be available to me leaving and trying to start anew somewhere else.  Now I’m stuck being an airbandb slumlord renting out various apartments that I myself rent making a whole bunch more money that I ever would have with teaching and working far less hours.  Wait, hmmmm…what did I just say?  Yep, only an educational sucker would be complaining about the situation I’m in right now, but whoa is me, I want to change the world, blah blah blah.

The only employment that is not frozen in its tracks for me right now is to be a substitute secretary.  Actually, I am very excited about the possibility to do this.  The secretary is clearly the person with the most indirect and passive power within a school and I would love to know what goes into this job.  Perhaps I can do it someday.  I feel I have the know how and the organization and communication skills the job demands.  However, what is barring me from jumping on this opportunity is the fact that I don’t have my high school diploma in my physical presence. The job requires that I submit my high school diploma.  It is ignored that I have a BA college degree and a graduate school teaching credential and I couldn’t have even gotten those things unless I had a high school diploma in the first place.  Nope, the bureaucratic powers that be want to see a high school diploma and there’s no bones about it.  I’ve had to talk to about four different people about how I don’t have my high school diploma and why wouldn’t they take any of the much higher degrees that I possess.  At this moment, a decision is being discussed on my part about whether my official high school transcripts will be accepted or not for this position in place of my diploma.  Aren’t you glad these are the types of conversations that are taking precedent and going on within our public school systems at this very moment?  I can’t wait to see what grand things will come from such a fine system that really puts important matters first and foremost.

So what is good to learn?  If it were up to the public schools that most of the country sends their kids to it would be the value and importance of the bureaucratic process and accepting high school diplomas over college and graduate degrees.  Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that if you followed the public school model then people would wind up a whole lot more stupid.  If one was to sit down without the guise of societal standards, traditions, and expectations what would be created and pushed forth for what young people should learn?  Would it be things based in tradition, theories, fake-glorious stories; catered to tests of achievement, nothing at all, observance of society’s rules and standards, no critical thinking, obedience to authority, etc.  Ah, here we have the model that the public schools already follow and what has become of that?  God damnit, where is my high school diploma.  I never would have though I’d ever have a need for it unless I was applying to MacDonalds or something.  Guess the public schools are starting to resemble the ability and intelligence levels of a micky d’s.

None of the things above would ever be dreamed to be pushed for students to learn in the hopes of becoming an advanced, educated society.  Maybe some traditional stories about where we came from and what people happen to believe in but nothing, NOTHING above should ever be brought up in a place of education and supposed critical thought.  So, what would be pushed on our students?  Perhaps the student would have a choice at what they wanted to learn.  Perhaps they could actually find their own motivation for what they want to involve themselves in and what they themselves are interested in.  It all starts with choice doesn’t it?  If you have neither choice nor freedom than what are you really doing?  You have no invested interest in anything you’re doing and you’ll never understand anything other than what you believe you’re suppose to do or what somebody tells you to do.  If this is allowed to flourish then we WILL get to a point where we start valuing high school diplomas over college degrees.  Oh wait, we are already there!

What else could be taught?  How about things that relate to our lives?  How about things that students could use and see actually played out on a daily basis helping them and their families and friends live their life?  How about practical skills and talents that we use everyday but are never taught but just expected to be learned by everyone?  How are we suppose to learn these skills without anyone ever teaching us them and instead learning about polynomials in Algebra II?  Should we read Shakespeare and be responsible for knowing how that translates into paying off debt or learning how to manage our credit cards?  Should we learn about geometry and the isosceles triangle and the Pythagoras theorem and be able to make the connection at how that should lead to enlightenment for poor people to get out of poverty?  You’ll hear supporters of traditional education spout how it’s all about making connections.  What is learned with learning the classics and all the classes we make high school students take today is suppose to connect to things that we do in real life and lead us to be better more prepared individuals.  If you want to make someone learn how to run you don’t teach them how to garden.  If we want people to learn how to run, how to think critically, how to manage money, their credit cards, their health, their poverty stricken neighborhoods then why don’t we just teach them how to directly approach what they need to know?  I don’t know why we don’t try and take a forthright approach and cut out the fatty bs and try to teach these things.

I know this is an extremely complicated concept but so is 1+1=2.  Someone had to come up with that some day and before it was discovered nobody knew that 1+1 equaled 2.  Education in the public schools right now represents a random guess and the cave men in archaic times before people figured out simple arithmetic and only could basically communicate through grunts.  When will we be able to look at our students and help them with practical subjects and issues and try to teach them things that will directly lead to them having the skills that create more meaningful, productive lives?


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