A Reporter's Notebook
Your inside scoop to the South Florida Jewish community

Dumbing down of America

Recent Florida FCAT results show our state’s schoolchildren are getting dumber. This year, only 27 percent of third-graders got a passing grade of 4 out of 6 on this year’s exam, compared to 81 percent last year, reported a Sun-Sentinel columnist. Moreover, only about one in four of Florida’s schoolchildren can write at grade level. (Forget about reading!)

While this is hardly breaking news – every year is seems to get worse – it’s way past time to recognize and admit that something is terribly wrong with our education system.

I don’t blame the children. No matter what their socio-economic environment, a young child’s mind is very much a blank slate and it’s up to the educator to fill it with learning. No, I blame the army of lousy or incompetent teachers who are backed by a self-serving union. But the real villain in this tragic tale is the “school board.” Local and national school boards are the ones who make the rules and decisions on how our children should be taught. For myself, I’d like to give all school board members (and teachers) the FCAT test to see how they fare. I think the results would show we have the “blind leading the blind.”

I had a firsthand opportunity to see our education system at work 20 years ago when my son entered kindergarten at a local public school.  From what I observed, it didn’t take long to see he wasn’t going to get an education and after four years, he transferred to a private school.

I came to the conclusion from what I observed that education was not a priority. Emphasis was put on what I would call “extra-curricular activities,” and not on reading, writing and arithmetic. This may be well meaning, but it’s a big mistake

When I entered first grade (back in the “olden days” as my son calls it), I didn’t know an A from a B. My neighborhood parochial school didn’t offer kindergarten so I had to wait. If there ever was a “blank slate,” it was me. All I knew was how to “play.” But I really looked forward to second grade because by grade’s end you were expected to be able to read. If not, you got left back. I made it. And while I wasn’t exactly able to peruse The New York Times, I managed to get through my favorite “Little Lulu” comic book.

By the time I reached high school, I knew more history, geography and literature than most college students do today. I could also write a literate essay or composition. And, I was no whiz kid. This was typical of the education everyone got.

So what to do? First of all, get discipline in the classroom. No one can learn in a three-ring-circus. If you’re disruptive, it’s off to vocational school. But I guess they don’t have those anymore. Too bad. It separated kids who really wanted to learn from those who were there for other reasons. It also taught less motivated students a trade so they could to earn a living.

And, above all, stress the three “R’s.” If you can’t read or write or add, you don’t have a chance. It also wouldn’t hurt if all school kids had to wear uniforms, like they do in charter schools. Not only is wearing the same outfit a social equalizer, it’s less distractive or a source of combative behavior.

Sadly, I don’t expect to see these things implemented anytime soon. That would be too logical.  So, most likely, the dumbing down of America will continue.

I can’t wait to see next year’s FCAT results. OY!

4 Responses to “Dumbing down of America”

  1. Barbara Schlossman says:

    What can you do when the teachers cannot even speak English?

  2. brian mcdonald says:

    Great job Shani, and personally I believe I could outshine a lot of college grads myself,

  3. 1952tat2 says:

    Your children are dumb because they don’t read. Whether they can or cannot read is irrelevant; in either case, they don’t read. No amount of PS3/Xbox/wii or computer-based instruction will ever take the place of a book; they are, and will forever remain, games… entertainment.

    I don’t care if it’s a dog-eared, pulp sci-fi paperback, a rolled-up copy of Popular Mechanics, or their grandfather’s stash of R. Crumb comics, it’s whatever they can take with them when they run out the door on a summer day, disappearing for hours as only kids can do (as they’re supposed to do, during Summer Vacation).

    But that’s not what happens, anymore.

    If we’re not micro-managing their lives — “helicopter” parents trampling their boundaries and denying them the most basic privacy to “become” — we’re turfing them out to expensive/exhausting programs and camps, or “jacking them in” to the TV, the Internet, or…

    Stop blaming the teachers — look what we give them to work with!

    PS: Ms. Schlossman complains that “…the teachers cannot even speak English”, to which I reply: Great! That’s a perfect opportunity for your children to learn another language! (and, given that this is the Florida Jewish Journal, imagine if their teacher only spoke Hebrew — heck, they might even know that today is Tu b’Av… and what that means to them)

  4. Jay from Wellington says:

    If you want to assign blame for education problems, the line forms to the right. However, as a former NYC teacher thrown into a ghetto classroom with barely a month’s training, I’d single out the lack of relevant training most teachers get. Sure, those majoring in education in college get lots of theory, but that doesn’t help once thrown into a sea of kids, many of whom would rather be playing video games, where they are required to put on a 6-hour live show every day. We need a Master Teacher’s Corps to share the many tricks and tips they’ve found that work over the years. Such a group would be worth premium pay because one good teacher leading to 30 educated citizens created a year is a heck of an investment in America’s future.

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