I was originally planning to do a commentary on the state of education based on a couple of in depth analyses I'd read, but as I researched it further, I discovered that I really didn't have much new to add and the my creeping boredom with it showed in the writing. So I let it go.
I was plowing through my stuffed e-mail bag when I came across a positive story of parental involvement, linked in FEE's daily brief, where parents have successfully stopped (so far, anyway) the introduction of a new sex-ed program in Maryland.
Then I heard during a replay of Kresta in the Afternoon about the story where all the teachers in a California school district were named "Teacher of the Year" to protest Gov. Schwarzenegger's merit pay proposal. Yes, the local teachers association is refusing to cite a teacher for excellence because it sounds too similar to the idea of paying teachers based on performance in the classroom.
The juxtaposition of these two events speaks for itself in many ways in terms of the problems and the solutions. The thing is I can't get myself worked up about this stuff anymore. My wife and I were always going to send the Troglotykes to Catholic school. No matter what. Today, we can afford the tuition. And when we can, we give extra money for tuition assistance to the financially strapped. Should something ever happen to limit our ability to do these things, we would avail ourselves of any and all assistance provided by the Church to continue to send our kids to school; pride be damned. I would that everyone sent their children to Catholic school without one thin dime coming from the government (vouchers, or what have you)--there are always uncuttable strings attached to such money--but I don't see it happening anytime soon. But happen soon something must (a little Yoda-speak there), lest UC Riverside professor Marlene Zuk's vision of the future befall us:
Students have always deluded themselves, of course, and hope has always sprung eternal, or at least until final grades appear. And at least some in my classes really do eventually master the material. But confident placidity in the face of error seems to be on the rise.
Maybe it's all that self-esteem this generation of students was inculcated with as youngsters, or maybe it's the emphasis on respecting everyone else's opinion, to the point where no answer, even a mathematical one, can be truly wrong because that might offend the one who gave it. Maybe they think they should never let me see them sweat.
These explanations all seem too facile as I gaze into their smiling faces and feel like an academic Cassandra, predicting doom and disaster where they see only cheer. As graduation nears, I wonder whether they will become surgeons happily removing the wrong organs or just sales clerks unconcernedly giving incorrect change.
Be worried, I want to tell them. Then I realize they don't know the meaning of the word.