Sunday, April 02, 2006

Many Words, Little Said

A Saturday Commercial Appeal editorial seems to me to be a lot of words in search of a point, and rather pointedly dancing around what they want to say.

It tackles a weeks-old story they did where the Memphis City Schools are asking for more than a million dollars to add to the millions already being spent on the Blue Ribbon program to end school violence without corporal punishment.

Even the CA is forced to admit:
Keeping order at the school was one of the frustrations described in an interview by White Station High School principal Wanda Winnette, retiring after nine years at the helm of the district's premier college preparatory school.

"Any high school principal will tell you this has been our roughest year with fights, discipline and gang activity," she said.
Dr. Carol Johnson, the superintendent, blames first-year implementation problems for this. The CA rather hilariously goes for several paragraphs using the old tried'n'true poverty and single-parent households as targets of blame.

They also write:
Teachers and school administrators are being asked in many cases to assume roles traditionally played by parents because in many cases single parents are either too stressed for the time or lack the authority to set the limits that children need.

It is little wonder that the school board's decision to ban corporal punishment in 2004 has produced skepticism and doubt about new school discipline methods. Educators are taking on tasks that many of the parents and grandparents of the current crop of schoolchildren never would have imagined.
Please. Kids acting up, rejecting schools and society, joining gangs, experimenting with adult substances, listening to dismaying music, none of this is new. Remember Blackboard Jungle and High School Confidential, and hundreds of other B-movies from the Fifties?

We knew then what we know today. But can you imagine the uproar if the schools tried to teach that kids having kids was shameful? That kids who do objectionable behaviors must be shunned, shamed, and set aside? That parents of bad kids are bad parents?

Oh yeaaaaahhhh.... That would be a nuclear bomb for sure.

If people want to be selfish, be bad parents, dump their kids and problems on others, why do we let them?

Come to think of it, in a city overwhelmingly black, with a school system nearly all black, why do we do bussing? Why not return to neighborhood schools?

There are a lot of clear but hard choices that need to be made, carried through and implemented. No one wants to do that, either for cowardly political reasons or misguided ideological ones.

From the final years of the Herenton administration of the school system, through the train wreck of the House years, to the muddle of the Watson years, we have lost uncountable thousands of children who are becoming lost adults with little hope. Dr. Johnson is a PC administrator who is following the example of previous administrators in misleading the public and keeping eyes out of things that bear scrutiny.

For one thing, watch how the No Child Left Behind numbers get reported this year. It will be like last: no context with previous years; no hard data; lots of bland "doing better" / "needing help" meaningless ratings.

Memphis is probably two generations away from solving the problems we have right now. We must wait for the teenagers and recent school departees of today to age and pass away. We need to start now making serious and hard choices to fix things.

But I don't hold my breath. Part of the problem is the people charged with fixing it -- school teachers and administrators -- and charged with reporting honestly and independently on those people -- reporters.

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