A lot of the letters to the editor and commentary recently have had a similar attitude and that’s parents must step up if Jacksonville’s school system is ever going to be successful and I couldn’t agree more but at the same time I think that way of thinking is incredibly short sighted too.
Our schools and our city cannot afford to sit back and say if only little Johnnie’s dad would have given him a pop when he misbehaved or little Suzie’s mom would have read to her they have might have made it. The schools could be doing so many things that would make our children despite of their neighborhoods and families more successful but instead they exacerbate the problems that many of these children an our city already have.
Despite the claim from 1700 Prudential Drive that discipline has gotten better, what has actually gotten better is our teacher’s ability to ignore bad behavior and endure toxic learning environments. I am not talking about fighting, or guns or dugs I am talking about the blatant disrespect that so many students show to their teachers and their lack of fear of any consequences for bad behavior. When we accept this maladaptive conduct we reinforce it and if kids aren’t getting discipline at home or at school then where will they get it?
Then we pass kids along without the skills they need to be successful. If you want evidence look at the statistics of kids who have to take remedial classes in college, can’t pass the military entrance exam or don’t read or do math at grade level. Kids don’t show up and forget what they learned on the contrary they never learned it. Then the counties grade recovery program is ridiculous. It used to be for kids who got sick and who tried but just doesn’t get it but that has morphed into whomever for whatever reason. Where is a kid supposed to get a since of a work ethic if they don’t need one at home or in school?
School is also such drudgery for so many kids. Imagine having a terrible home life and then being forced to go to school where you hated it, you had nothing to look forward too. Not only have almost cut elective and trade and skills programs out of existence but we also have a one size fits all curriculum that serves fewer and fewer kids. Not every student is going to go to college but that doesn’t mean they can’t be productive and successful citizens and we should serve their needs too. The problem is we don’t serve their needs instead we force them into a cookie cutter curriculum and then wonder why so many do so poorly.
We definitely need more parental involvement but at the same Duval County needs to step and say if a kid isn’t ready we aren’t going to pass them and hope they somehow catch up. We have to say, act up, well for six hours a day you are going to see how the real world works and get a swift and strict consequence for your behavior. The school system needs to act like a school system not the parents that the community points its fingers at.
Duval County admittedly limited by its resources (we can’t afford busses, summer school, a log jam of kids held back, social workers and psychologists, electives and skills and trade programs) needs to become the adult in the equation. It needs to give our kids options but also tell them no, allow them to fail and punish them when called for. Schools can’t fix families and neighborhoods but they likewise shouldn’t make them worse which is what we are doing now.
Just pointing our fingers at absentee parents isn’t going to solve the problem our schools and city are facing.