Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Your kid can read a menu and calculate a restaurant check!

But she thinks the cosmos are part of Kramer's clan, can't sing a song, and (correctly?) believes The Odd Couple is Bush and Cheney. Oh, and she's hungry.

In the five years since a federal law mandated an expansion of reading and math tests, 44 percent of school districts nationwide have made deep cutbacks in social studies, science, art and music lessons in elementary grades and have even slashed lunchtime, a new survey has found.

The most detailed look at the rapidly changing American school day, in a report released today, found that most districts sharply increased time spent on reading and math.

I've worked in several schools for several years. I have kids of my own. Without the very programs that have been cut, and this is depressingly obvious to those of us who witness it firsthand, kids become limited in ways that the shortsighted backers of No Child Left Behind either choose to ignore, won't admit, or simply can't recognize. Plus, every teacher I know hates it.

The arts result in more creative, expansive, sharper minds and attitudes. Integrated into academic subjects, they bring dry subjects alive and make facts more memorable. Music and theatre allow developing minds to learn, flex, and even cope with emotions that they might otherwise be oblivious to. Science enhances logical thinking, to balance the emotional. I don't need to go on, you know all of this.

I'm not a credentialed teacher. I speak as someone who has worked in the classroom, partnered with a teacher, in theatre and fine arts. I have witnessed the increasing inability of kids to analyze, let alone comprehend, anything deeper than their iPods (Music!) and cell phones (Writing skills! "u r 2 kul, lol!").

My concerns are genuine; communication skills are vital. Without a well-rounded education, the quality of life is diminished. Coincidentally, in the past 5-6 years, I've witnessed a decline in commitment, focus, ability to communicate effectively (including spelling and grammar) if at all, and most disturbingly, an inability to effectively recognize and tap into one's own emotions.

Most have forgotten how to "pretend" or how to use their imaginations.

"No Child Left Behind". Many of us can read those words, but how many of our kids can understand them, explain them, or have a heartfelt response to them?

And while we're at it, let's give 'em a longer lunch break.


At 4:53 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

I know that was lengthy, but it's a disturbing trend that's worth considering.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger gimmeabreak said...

I'm all over that one with you!

My daughter's first degree is in Music Education. After seeing what NCLB had done to the music programs in the less affluent schools (she got lucky going to better schools) she left her teaching degree behind.

The student teaching stories she told were horrific. What Arts programs that were still left in the elementary schools were little more than baby-sitting periods scheduled around lunchtime so that the "real" teachers could catch a break.

In the middle schools and high schools there were bands, choruses and some theater activity - all after school - with little budget to support them. No general music and art classes were readily available unless you were AP.

Combine that with shortened lunches, phys ed and no such thing as recess along with "teaching to the test" and my daughter found it quite depressing and stifled. Her arts contributed greatly to the person she is today and she could not imagine being responsible for contributing to the banality of these childrens' school experience.

My daughter and I are advocates and supporters of VH1's Save the Music whose website can be found here.

Check it out while we wait for Congress to get their collective heads out of their asses. And that means you, too, Ted.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

I work at a Theatre Arts magnet high school, and--surprise!--we have a waiting list.

Gimme gets it. Bush can't even read his own laws.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger gimmeabreak said...

I do understand the sentiment behind that hideous piece of legislation. Our kids are falling further and further behind in the maths and sciences and many colleges are frustrated with the lack of writing skills that incoming freshman have. It makes us harder to compete in the global economy.

But then mess up good intentions and bend over backwards to make it bipartisan and then don't bother to fund any of it and you get what we got.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

In a word: Shortsighted.

Or in Bush's case, blind.

At 8:51 PM, Anonymous binzbok said...

Not to blow smoke up your, you know, but if you're not a 'credentialed teacher' how come I've been learning so much from you?

Okay, that concludes the ass kissing portion of our program.

At 8:56 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Brown-nosing good. GottaLaff likee.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Kirsten said...

It's sad. My two older children get one art class and two music classes a week ( I had one of each everyday twenty years ago). They do, however, get gym four times a week for thirty minutes, as well as two fifteen minute recesses and a thirty five minute lunch recess after they eat, which is a hot food lunch program that doesn't serve pizza, mac and cheese, chicken fingers... it is balanced, nutritional meals ( even vegetarian meals for those like my kids raised that way or for religious reasons). While I complain about the lost creative classes, I am glad that my kids school is focusing on there health and well being. I teach them piano myself, allow them the oppurtunity to draw and paint, and let them take dance classes. I don't mind so much. It's the fact schools are cutting corners on things that directly undermine kids health that really makes me mad.

At 3:24 AM, Anonymous kauli said...

I teach in a Title I school where my students receive PE, Music, Art, Technology, & Library only one day a week. Lunch is 15 minutes of pre-packaged, sodium-laden food, after which they have a 15 minute recess.

There is so much that we have to cram into a school day that either Social Studies or Science is the choice, not both.

Some states, including mine, determine the number of prison beds that will be needed in the future based on 3rd grade reading scores.

So, how do we justify depriving our students on classes that would help their comprehension, enrich their vocabulary, and strengthen their bodies/minds?

I'm not totally against NCLB; however, if you want me to be a more effective teacher, give me the tools and the time to do it. Otherwise, it's just another political trick that the puppet master can dangle to his followers.

At 8:11 PM, Blogger GottaLaff said...

Some states, including mine, determine the number of prison beds that will be needed in the future based on 3rd grade reading scores.

Holy crap!

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the feedback on this one. I feel passionately about it, and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one.


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