I M HO

Daily Prompt IMHO Link to an item in the news you’ve been thinking about lately, and write the op-ed you’d like to see published on the topic.

“I am Ho.”

“What?”

“I thought that’s what it said.”

“Lamont, you’re familiar with text speak.”

“Yeah, but it’s early. I thought they were going to ask me to write about the time I was a ho.”

“You were never a ho. Good grief.”

“We’ve all been hos, bro. I was a ho from 2005 to 2015.”

“Wow. Must have been a very specialized clientele.”

“Yeah, right? There’s a lot of that kind of ho going down in the news. Teachers, you know, whose job depends on the grades their students ‘earn’. I read a long opinion blog post about that last night from one of the bloggers I follow here, Creative By Nature. As always it was well-researched and articulately presented, but it’s nothing new. My job as a teacher of business communication depended on my classes having a C or C+ average gpa at the end of the semester.”

“Seems arbitrary.”

“It was, mostly. It led to a lot of abuses. Some of my colleagues just gave exams no one could pass and rounded the class grades to C since F was ‘average’.”

“Where did this idea come from?”

“Oh, the college of business thought part time teachers bought good evals by giving high grades. It was fucked up, Dude. I just made my classes very difficult — but that was good because my students needed to be prepared to succeed in a world in which no one would cut them slack. I took their fixation on grades as an opportunity to challenge them. Paradoxically, it made me a better teacher, but it was still wrong.”

“So are you going to write an opinion piece on this topic?”

“No. Education right now seems to me to be completely messed up. I left last year because I could no longer respect my students. It was a five year downhill slide out the door.”

“But you still care.”

“Yeah. I didn’t retire because I didn’t care any more. I retired because I couldn’t fix it. The problem that NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and Common Core have created is far too big for one little person like me on the shady side of the mountain. I had to look at the time I have left vs. what I might be able to accomplish in the classroom. I chose to let younger, more energetic and idealistic people take the baton. I taught them, too, you know, in a thirty-five year career. I taught many, many amazing, smart, perceptive, kind, and inspired kids over the years. I believe in my own work and I believe in them. I’d be a total failure as a teacher if I could not believe that those young teachers have the ability to turn it around.”

“Will they fix it?”

“Not alone. They can’t. They’re caught in the jaws of education policy. The federal gubmint has to get OUT of education. If the gubmint gave the money they spend on coming up with dumbass programs based on high-stakes testing to actual school districts and paid teachers, then something would happen. The fact is, humans want to learn. Common Core and NCLB have stolen that joy from a generation. Added to this (or causing this?) are corporations who make money out of pushing standardized curriculum — companies such as Pearson.”

“Do you have any bright ideas about how to get the feds out of education?”

“I do. Parents and students are beginning to protest high stakes testing. Parental pressure and voter pressure could turn it around. United Opt Out is one locus for information and action. There have been rallies in LA, Denver, NYC and other cities (fairtest.org), but I don’t think attendance is large enough. So far people are just making irritating noises, but it’s a start. Parents are key to turning this around.”

“Are you going to get involved?”

“In this way, Dude. I can write. I can share ideas with other people and present a vision of a different classroom to young teachers. But I was not a public school teacher. I was the guy at the end of the assembly line who stood in front of the product of NCLB and tried to reach them. Over the last few years my students were increasingly ignorant of general knowledge that I’d always been able to take for granted in a college class. They were afraid of challenges and unable to think critically. I am sure that when elementary and secondary school teachers are blamed and punished if their students fail to learn that hundreds of kids could end up in college and university ignorant, frightened, lacking basic skills and with a false sense of their own abilities.”

“Failure is bad, Lamont.”

“No it isn’t. Failure is sometimes the first step toward learning, self-awareness and personal responsibility. The fear of failure is the fear of growth. I often asked my classes if anyone had ever failed. Over the final five years, fewer and fewer hands rose in response.”

“Maybe they were embarrassed in front of their classmates.”

“That could be, but my hand was up. Godnose I failed a lot of stuff all through school. I think — but I am not sure — that failure became less common as NCLB and common core wound their insidious ways into teachers’ job security. But it’s faulty logic to think that because a student fails a class the teacher has failed to teach. The burden of success in school should be on the student.”

“Yeah but students are just kids. Isn’t that a heavy burden?”

“Life is a heavy burden, Dude. A kid who fails also has the chance to learn (if his helicopter parents allow him to) that his future success rests in his own hands. Failure is his job to fix, to turn around. Failure can be empowering in ways success never is. If a school system doesn’t allow students to fail when they FAIL, then it’s not preparing them for life.”

“What’s your plan for fixing this?”

Fix high school. That’s the first thing. Teach trades, skills and marketable abilities so kids getting out of high school do not have to go to college in order to get a good job. Kids getting out of high school should be able to be secretaries, auto-mechanics, accounting assistants, store managers — all kinds of things. They should be able to run a car-rental franchise or a tire store or a Michael’s. Phase out community college except as night school for refining skills attained in high school and as recreational education. Make university the place for people who must have higher education to succeed in their careers — teaching, medicine, engineering, etc. Tax dollars pay for public education. By NOT using public education to the best of our ability, we are making people pay TWICE for their training. That’s wrong.”

“Wow. You’d overhaul the whole thing? You’d phase out your own job!”

“I know, Dude. But even though I was doing it, and happy doing it, I never thought I should be teaching basic grammar to college students. I never thought I should be teaching university students how to compose a polite and friendly message. Never, never, never. With some exceptions, I spent most of my 35 year career teaching material and skills I learned between sixth and twelfth grade. That should tell you that even I didn’t need my master’s degree to do my job well.”

***

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17 thoughts on “I M HO

  1. “Fix high school. That’s the first thing. Teach trades, skills and marketable abilities so kids getting out of high school do not have to go to college in order to get a good job. Kids getting out of high school should be able to be secretaries, auto-mechanics, accounting assistants, store managers — all kinds of things. They should be able to run a car-rental franchise or a tire store or a Michael’s. Phase out community college except as night school for refining skills attained in high school and as recreational education. Make university the place for people who must have higher education to succeed in their careers — teaching, medicine, engineering, etc. Tax dollars pay for public education. By NOT using public education to the best of our ability, we are making people pay TWICE for their training. That’s wrong.”

    Yes!! Great suggestion. Imagine a whole nation thinking outside the box. 🙂

    • If you were to go to an American university reference section and look at its collection of PhD dissertations you’d see something interesting. At SDSU, where I spent most of my career (and half my life) there were more PhD dissertations from the year 1990 than during the entire sixty years between 1920-1980. That really brought it home to me that higher education has become a commodity. It’s true there are more programs (but should there be?) it’s true more students are admitted to more programs (again, should there be? What is the point of a PhD in creative writing?). More disciplines “give” an MA without a thesis or even an exam at the end. I’m old enough to remember that most of my classmates graduated high school and began careers and they weren’t in fast food. They were real careers. Only a handful of us went on to university at the age of 18, still, it was quantitatively more than ever before. That was 1970 and my school was upper-middle class white, state of the art facility and most of our parents had good educations. So my “vision” is not very visionary. It was that higher education had not become an “industry.” But there were so many of us in my generation and I know the sheer numbers of us changed education forever. We needed jobs… I am sure that little fact (and other aspects related to the baby boomers, the numbers of us and the values espoused especially by those who went into academia) is one reason we have such a top-heavy education system. Where would all those people work if high schools graduated qualified workers?

  2. I am tired. The system is a mess. We Americans have 50 Common Cores. When I began teaching in Florida, in 1980, only one course–ONE–was required of all Florida students: Americanism vs Communism. The systems and bureaucracies will NEVER change; we shall never get agreement on when quadratic equations should be taught. Where do we go for enlightenment?

    • I think it would be a start to stop fussing with it. I also think it would be good to take a look at the curriculum in my grandfather’s time (he was born in 1870). In third grade he had a thing called “practical arithmetic.” By the middle of the book he could (at 8 years old) measure a haystack using triangulation. I think we need to hit the kids when they’re hungry and curious instead of waiting until they’re horny and hormonal. That’s when they should be FINISHING their education and preparing for employment. We drag out adolescence so long. I had so many students in my university classes who said they 1) hated school until they got out of high school 2) had never learned anything until they got out of high school. And most of them were chomping at the bit to DO something. They were business majors. What were they doing in a university? We spend so much time training them for life that you’d think we were an alien species who was designed for it in the first place. 🙂

      • I don’t even know what to say here, except that it is such a blessed relief to hear a voice of experience, common sense and clarity regarding our broken U.S. education system. For example, “Fix high school.” Just three words – says it all. The place to start. Brilliant. Thanks.

      • It won’t happen because one of the biggest “industries” in the US today is higher education. We “export” it to international students who pay millions of dollars (mostly Chinese). The budgets for public colleges and universities is tied to the number of students who attend so even if those students aren’t ready, they are there. Students enter community colleges needing two or three years of remedial classes, sold on the whole thing by recruiters who tell them that community college is a good way to “get through” lower division requirements. It’s sick from every angle you might want to look, but I do think fixing high school is the first step.

  3. I cannot pass judgement on the American system, as I never had to deal with it. My experience of the British system is that it was and still is rubbish, but there are so many problems in a multi culti country where some do not even speak the language, although I would add that many national youngsters also no longer seem to have a command of the english language and are not able to form a normal sentence. Switzerland is on a good level to my experience, and my kids were distributed everywhere. One son being handicapped (autistic) had a good education at the special school. One son (the genius) went onto university studying law and passed) and the other two step children also made the most of the chances they had, which were good. One in a business apprenticeship and the other now owns two boutiques. It is of course not only the education, but what you do with it and the influence you have from home.

  4. The best part of high-tech was it didn’t require whoring. It was boring, repetitious, and difficult … but clean. No pandering required.

    Garry was a reporter. For a TV station. If he’d been a better ho, he’d have been working at least another decade.

  5. Instead ditch high school. Community college is the venue that offers precisely the kind of opportunities you are promoting.

    My 15 year old left high school and takes classes at community college and a 4 year university. Once he has credits to complete high school diploma he’ll get certified in something computer related so he can earn income. Then will apply to 4 year university program.

    • I know very well what community college is/does/offers. I taught in them for 30 years — I taught everything in the community college from 6th grade English to an almost bonafide university writing course (almost; not quite). Your 15 your old should NOT have to leave high school to get career related training or to be prepared for university. That’s my point. High school should not be a waste of time, but for many students it is. It is unfair to students and to taxpayers that this is the case. And, having taught community college classes in which there were fifteen year old students, I can say that I don’t think they belong there. Teaching secondary school age students requires a different kind of training. Parents such as yourself should not be touting the advantages of community colleges; you should be up in arms about the crap that passes for high school.

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