Blame Game

I feel like Tonyaa Weatherbee’s heart is in the right place when she urges people to help find solutions to our education crisis and to stop playing the blame game. I just wonder how this is possible because many of the actors who have helped cause our current situation are still in charge and don’t seem to be moving forward with many ideas for improvement. Or the ones they offer are recycled and tired.

One of the things that drives me crazy is when business and community leaders get together and say what the school system needs is more mentors as if somehow that is going to be a panacea to all of educations problems. Mentors are great and do provide a service but do you know what schools need more? The need buses, lots and lots of buses.

Students who fail classes shouldn’t be given the opportunity to stay after school to improve they should be required to do so. Hey little Johnny, want to stay after and work on getting that F in math up? Nope, okay we’ll see you tomorrow.

Then students who act up should be required to get a consequence and for a consequence to be effective it must be meaningful, like say maybe staying after school to work or serve detention. And why don’t both of these things happen more often? Well in high school it’s because we don’t have buses, we don’t have a way of getting these kids home. Here’s a solution business and community leaders get off your butts and either raise money for buses or lobby the Jacksonville Transportation authority to put in bus stops at all the high schools and then to give all public school students who apply for them free bus passes.

Also last time I checked the school district was still being run by an administration who believed in a one size fits all curriculum, passing kids who don’t have the skills to be successful, doesn’t seriously believe in discipline and whose most important function seems to be putting a pretty bow on everything to ensure they stay in charge. How are we supposed to have meaningful change until those things are addressed? Friends all the mentors in the world aren’t going to able to help until we fix those things, buses might help though.

Teachers won’t speak up, the union seems only to be interested in teachers salary and time off, parents either don’t care or are overwhelmed by life, students don’t have self control, the state has saddled the district with both the f-cat and inadequate funding, and nobody wants to step and pay for a first class education system. All we have is blame and Ms. Weathersbee there is plenty of blame to go around.

The really crazy thing is it won’t take reinventing the wheel, blowing up the works or breaking the bank to make meaningful changes either. We start by enforcing the code of conduct; no longer can it be a practically ignored paper lion. Then we don’t pass children who don’t have the skills to be successful at the next level by making sure we have rigor in our classrooms. There should be no shame in failing a grade or even two if once a child graduates they are prepared for what comes next whether it is going to college or joining the workforce. Then we put in safety nets in place like social workers and counselors for our most troubled and desperate students and have both optional and mandatory after school and summer school opportunities. Then we develop alternative curriculums that service more children. We teach trades and skills and we make the arts as big a priority as math and science. We also have different tracks for those going to college because engineers, writers, and social workers all need different skills.

Some of that will take additional money but most of it will just take the will to do what is right. Until then every child who falls through the cracks, drops out, has their needs and desires ignored or graduates without the skills to be successful needs to be allowed to have their blame. Quite frankly they won’t have much else.

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