Tuesday, September 3, 2019

School Scope: Off the beach and back to school for you, but not for me


Posted to The WAVE for publication Sept. 6, 2019.

School Scope: Off the beach and back to school for you, but not for me
By Norm Scott

Before I begin, kudos to the excellent WAVE editor/reporter Ralph Mancini who left us for a new career on the west coast. Best of luck Ralph.

I got a call from a teacher friend who reminded me it was the first day back to school. I looked out the door and my block was filling up with teachers parking their cars. It’s seventeen years since I retired from teaching and I’ve conquered those butterflies of going back after the freedom of over 60 days off. I’ll leave it to the mathematicians to figure out how many consecutive days I’ve had off since retirement. I never minded going back because I liked being in a school. My problem was the loss of freedom and how all the things I wanted to do in the summer never got done. Many of them have still not gotten done in seventeen years. I made my friend, who has a year old toddler and that made it even harder for him to leave home, feel better by reminding him he only has 184 school days to go till next summer.

I haven’t lost my interest in education issues, as you can see by the existence of this School Scope column which I took over from the great Howie Schwach in 2003 when he retired from teaching to become the editor of The WAVE. (I used to buy The WAVE for Schwach’s writings on education and school policy and was often on the same wavelength.)

A Sept. 3 NY Times editorial led with: “Diversifying New York’s Schools: New York’s schools are among the most racially segregated in the country.” We’ve been buying that trope forever. Blogger Bob Somerby (dailyhowler.blogspot.com) pushed back and attempted to trace the source of this claim. He posted the % of white kids in major cities and almost all of them have much lower percentages (Los Angeles: 9%, Chicago: 9%, Miami/Dade County: 6.7%, Dallas: 5.1%, Houston: 8.9%, San Antonio: 2%) which counters the trope. As usual, I am torn on the issue, examining all sides with an open mind, thus leaving me paralyzed. How nice it would be to be able to take a simple and firm position, even when facts get in the way.

The big back to school story was that a panel appointed by de Blasio recommended the elimination of, or at the very least, major modifications in gifted and talented (G&T) programs, which ties into the controversies over the tests for the specialized high schools, the SSHAT, which I wrote about over the past few weeks. There is too much context to get into in this limited space but check my blog where I go deep.

One of the major problems I faced as a teacher, and currently in general discussions with people on just about any topic was/is providing context – digging deep down to the roots. Like teaching of evolution to children who came from religious homes, though I think I only got pushback from one parent. New ideas have emerged, only firming up the legitimacy of the theory. I used to enjoy having discussions about evolution with the earnest Jehovah Witnesses standing at my door with their pamphlets that “disproved” evolution. Evolution is only a “theory” and so is creationism and therefore the two theories are equivalent and both should be taught, they would say, though I question how evolution is taught, if at all, in religious schools. They weren’t convincing me and I wasn’t convincing them so we didn’t get very far, though when I wanted to be snarky I brought up the theories of a round and a flat earth and whether they should be taught that way. All I’d need to do is flatten a globe and present it as proof of a flat earth.

Norm aims to reach the edge of the world at ednotesonline.com.

1 comment:

  1. It's a very strange feeling for me. It borders on the surreal. I wish I could truly enjoy those Staple commercials singing 'It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year', but my cringing has become ingrained. Maybe in 17 years, if the planet and I are still around, I'll feel better about everything. It really is remarkable that you've stayed so involved all these years - most of my buddies have become human sun dials in Florida.

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