To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Okay, this drives me nuts.

I read this:

Teacher beheaded by militants

SUSPECTED Islamic militants have beheaded a teacher in a lawless Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said today.
Said Badshah, 35, who ran a private school, failed to return home yesterday in Barwan village, near Wana, the main town in restive South Waziristan tribal agency, a local administration official said.

His headless body was found in a remote area this evening, the official said on condition of anonymity.

on the same day I read this:

Teens with disabilities enjoy last-ditch reprieve

"We're pushing for them to pass because it will make them feel better about themselves," said Vice Principal Cyndi Swindle, who oversees special education.

I'm not death on self-esteem like a lot of people are, but I still think this statement is pretty silly. But this is the part that irks me:

About a week after learning in January that he had again failed the math part of the exit exam, Juan Calderon did something he probably should have done months before. At the urging of his counselor, the 18-year-old signed up for a math class.


While some students with disabilities are still trying to pass the exit exam, others appear to have given up. Now that they know they don't have to pass the test to graduate, some seniors are making a habit of skipping class, said Schlim, the special ed teacher. She identified Kevin Muhammad as one of those students.

"It's a mixture of senior-itis and 'I don't need (to pass) this to graduate so I don't need to be here to learn this,' " she said. "Disappointing, but true."

Attendance records show Kevin was absent for six days, from the day Schwarzenegger signed off on the exemption until he had to take the test again. Schlim considers that no coincidence.


Larissa was glad to learn she can use a calculator on the exam this time, yet complained she didn't know how it would help her with fractions, word problems or algebra.

"It won't," Carter said. "If you don't know which buttons to push, it won't help."

Then he handed Larissa a calculator and chastised her for her last-minute approach to studying: "Why are you here at 4:15 the day before the test asking me how to use a calculator?"

So education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where a teacher in a girl's school was recently beheaded, is so precious that teachers risk their lives to offer it. And it's regarded so lightly by the kids in this story, and I suppose their parents, that the teachers beg and cajole and just can't get them to take it seriously. I can't box up educational opportunities that go to waste here in the U.S. and ship them off to Pakistan and Afghanistan, but when I read stories like these I sure wish I could.

I wonder sometimes what the goal of our public education system ought to be. The big picture is that every child should be educated to the limit of his or her ability and ambition. If we really did that, what would it look like? Would the kids in this story be cut loose at age 14 or so, more or less literate and able to add 2+3, to get jobs and make their way as best they can? Maybe two or three years of pushing brooms would motivate them to try to go back to school and take it more seriously. Or maybe they really can make it without more schooling - they must be able to, because they're mostly marking time until they can leave school as it is.

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