Dear Public School System

Franklin Wood had some words for the school system in his post the other day.  Thought I would give it a shout to my readers.  Check out what he said…

Dear Public School System,

I am writing to you because of a crisis we are facing in our society. It is a crisis involving our teenagers, who you are trying to help us mold.  Unfortunately, I think you are creating the problem rather than helping it. Let me explain…

The public school system already complains (and rightly so) that our kids are “too tired” and that they “lack concentration.” There seems to be more apathy than ever towards schoolwork and school-related items.

But here’s the problem…
You complain that our kids are too tired, but then you make them stay after school for HOURS of extracurricular practice! They lack concentration, so you lengthen their school year. You make them work at camps from 9:00 to 5:00 IN THE SUMMERTIME!  I have teenagers in my church youth group who seem to be able to do NOTHING other than school! Does this produce well-rounded citizens? Why do we think that ALL their time needs to be occupied? Why can we not let them dream anymore? (They don’t have time to dream!) What ever happened to lazy summers?

First of all, it is COMPLETELY UNFAIR to take away their summer “vacation.” Teens in my church group are going to be BACK at Show Choir Camp just TWO WEEKS after they got out for summer vacation! EVERYONE needs time for rest and renewal, but you don’t seem to grasp this concept. Our children are overbooked and overworked. Please, let them have a vacation!

Secondly, this scheduling is detracting from family time…a much-needed (but quickly vanishing) pasttime. Even though many parents are working longer hours and some working through the summers, there are still parents who don’t see their kids til 9:00 PM because of schoolwork. Summers are decimated by camp schedules and other things. Families are passing each other by on their way to the next activity.

Third, overscheduling is unfair to other organizations. My youth ministry is trying to affect the same kind of results as you are. I would LOVE to work in conjunction with the schools, but the schools want ALL the time. While YOU are working on increasing the knowledge and athleticism of these kids, I would like to help work on their character, but my time to do so is increasingly taken away. It is very frustrating when schools tell kids (or give them the impression) that their GRADES depend on attendance of all ballgames, shows,etc. Even during the summer! I agree with the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I certainly do not wish to do away with schooling, but I wish kids could experience more help from church, work, and non-profit organizations.

Lastly, overscheduling is not necessary. It seems that the schedules have been left up to the competitive minds of the local coaches. While I admire their tenacity, I would also question their motives. Are they trying to teach the kids something, or just put another trophy on their shelf? Many kids are working their tails off for those coaches, but they have NO collegiate or professional careers in sight. While hard work is a desired trait, it can also be a boon. Many families are being ripped apart because of dads who never come home. Could it be that we are overworking kids just like we are overworking their parents?

It used to be that we had the WHOLE summer off. Soon, August became “Back-to-school-camps” month with band, choir, etc. Now, the schools have taken June as well. ONE MONTH for summer vacation is not enough! PLEASE leave them alone until August!! Let them have a solid eight weeks of vacation. Let them rest. Let them dream. Let them be gone long enough to actually “miss” school!
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Franklin Wood
Omaha, NE

What do you think about that?



3 Responses to “Dear Public School System”

  1. 1 kari brooks May 10, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    It probably should not be titled “Dear Public School Systems” and maybe should instead be titled “Dear George W. Bush and other No Child Left Behind Administrators.”
    I can not speak on behalf of all public educators, as I am only one, experiencing what I do every day, teaching in Des Moines, Iowa.
    My assumption would be that coaches, band directors, choir directors, etc. feel the push to meet with kids before/after school, during summer, etc. because there is no time for those activities during the school day. Because of No Child Left Behind, our push has to be reading and math (occasionally a little science). Is that what public school teachers want? I would say no. I don’t. But, my school’s funding (which is already so low based on the urban, low-income setting) will be less and less if we don’t focus on those areas. At least that’s what good old George tells us.
    Do I agree that music and arts stimulate the minds of students? Absolutely! But when the government tells you how much time has to be allocated for each subject, and there are only 405 minutes in the school day, we simply do not have time for those subjects in school anymore. Our school system is in a sad state right now, and the only optimistic thing that I see about it is the fact that the majority of teachers are outraged, and it has become a uniting force that we are fighting the government against.
    As for summer vacations… again, I am only one teacher, and I happen to teach in a school that is considered year-round. We have 5 weeks of summer, and other breaks throughout the school year. There is an importance to summer, and sure kids should be kids, etc. I agree with all of that. But, research also shows that many students lose ground in the summer. Their retention rate after long breaks is low. So maybe this letter could also be addressed to parents as well. Again, speaking from my experience… the majority of my students do not have access to academic resources during those breaks (things such as books, magazines, newspapers, computers, etc.) Without those resources, or parents who understand the importance of those resources, or even have the knowledge of how to acquire those resources, kids lose academic ground.
    The article you posted is right; it does take a village to raise a child. Absolutely! But, right now our society says that, but expects “someone else” to do the majority of the work.
    As for having the church and the schools unite and work together… probably won’t happen anytime soon. Religion and public education have not found a common ground to stand on without feeling so righteous of their own beliefs, and ultimately overstepping the other’s boundaries.
    There are a few things that get my riled up, and talking education is always one of them (obviously!). I am passionate about education and it’s relationship to our youth. To me, it’s not just one person’s job. Our society as a whole is failing our youth. Again, going back to the statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” we all say it, agree with it, and hope for it. But, not enough people act on that thought. Think of the possibilities if that was the motto of everyone working with kids….

  2. 2 Matt Schrock May 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    I’m not an expert on anything, so this response won’t be nearly as neat and orderly as the post or the previous comment. I am a staff pastor in a local church in a small town in Illinois. And I could comment on many different things touched upon in the letter. But I will just briefly comment on two. First, I agree with the first comment that the No Child Left Behind legislation has good intent it has had negative impact on the teaching approaches allowed to take place. But the one I really wanted to comment on was the third point about overscheduling and other organizations. It comments on the time needed to teach character. I am a staff pastor, but I work mainly with the youth in the town. I was equally frustrated with the lack of time and the constant challenge of juggling the student’s schedules with my own. However, over the past few years there has been a major shift in our congregation from bring people to church to teach them about Christ and taking the church to them to show them Christ. Jesus didn’t instruct Peter to herd his sheep, but to feed and love them. We can do that where they are, the veil was torn. But I’m rambling… Anyway, instead of competing with the school I decided to join them. For about 3 years I’ve volunteered at the local grade, junior and high schools. I began by meeting with the principal of the high school and the superintendent. I told them I wanted to help to volunteer to support the teachers and the school however was needed. I was not (and am still not) looking for recognition or any agenda but just wanted to share the love and thanks I have for what the school does. In that three years I have run errands for the school, brought my infant daughter to help teach parenting classes with hands on experience, cleaned rooms, helped with sporting events, co-directed plays, performed in grade school musicals, and headed up multiple teacher appreciation programs. I now have free reign to enter the school and help anyone who asks. Now I am known by every teacher and almost every student and most parents from grades k-12. The biggest thing is the faculty all know I am representing myself, my family and my church family. The students know I am a pastor and many have asked me why I do what I do. I have had many opportunities to share my faith and show service and love to those kids. And the teachers who were very antagonistic toward any belief system just 3 years ago have become very friendly and warm to me. If we want to be affective in our communities and see these kids become strong men and women of God we have to stop being antagonistic to “the world” and show love and servant’s hearts. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now. God bless and thanks for the post.

  3. 3 Mikaela May 14, 2008 at 6:23 am

    As a public school teacher I too feel compelled to comment, and for the most part agree with the last two posts.

    I am not sure if the all caps were used to express emotion, but it sounds like the letter was rippled with a lot of angst. I would definitely agree that the letter could be addressed to politicians who make decisions. If teachers/the school systems were the ones who were allowed and able to make decisions, things might look a little bit different. I must also say that I face similar angst on a regular basis when I walk into my classroom. The system is not perfect, that is no secret, but unfortunately many of those in power have never set foot in a classroom, which is scary and sad at the same time.

    I don’t know if my experience is isolated, but the only activities and practices that happen in the summer are voluntary in ever district and state I have ever been a part of. If students choose to be a part of summer camps or programs, of course they should expect to spend some time there. And I wholeheartedly agree with the above post that kids lose momentum in the summer. I, for example, teach students who do not speak English fluently yet (teaching language arts). These students are tested in the spring before they leave for break and again in the fall when they come back to school. There are tremendous drops in comprehension of the language in those students who did not practice English at all. The students who are a part of some sort of academic activity during the summer maintain their levels or even increase.

    It needs to be said again that there is a lot of blaming and responsibility passing that goes around. In our society the “village” often wants to let others handle the tough issues, and place blame on others when shortcomings are present. It is amazing to realize that I am not simply a teacher when I walk into my building each day. I am a parent, a nurse, a psychologist, a nutritionist, a pastor, a police officer, a babysitter, a caretaker, etc. Things that aren’t happening in the home are expected to be taken care of at school. There is no way that everything can fit into a school day when it is not simply academics that teachers handle. We have to teach character development, behavior management, etc. These are things that used to be taught outside of the school. Now school is a place where many children learn these things for the first time.

    The system isn’t perfect, but the author needs to really think about who it should be addressed to. What is really at the root of the problems.

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