Another Magic Bullet?

An article last year in San Jose’s Mercury News disclosed a move to change the start time for schools to jibe with a teenager’s optimum circadian rhythms.  Arrrrrgh!  It got my dander up. 

It’s a good thing I don’t drink, because the recent articles advocating a change in schools’ start time would have sent me straight to the decanter. Since when is being a teenager a disease or disability that needs extreme measures of accommodation?  This new stratagem seeks to obfuscate the essential issues facing America’s schools.  Many teens are not doing well in school.  That is a fact.  Education, that artificial yet critical edifice of learning information and skills, competes with a panoply of “more interesting” youth-oriented activities, shopping, sex, texting, music, sleeping, working, and hanging out.

Loud are the calls from frustrated parents, administrators, and politicians to engage the students.  As a teacher, I work every single day to relate information and tasks to real world and future world situations.  But, I am neither George Lopez nor Jay Leno, and, as we have seen, even Jay is not always successful in holding an audience in thrall.   Each year brings its new and improved brainstorm, every one guaranteed to produce graduates.  Each year, the previous pedagogy is found flawed, and schools box and store the materials next to whole language and new math texts.

Yet, when digging through the latest research and time honored traditions for “what works”, we find that early intervention, ongoing parental involvement, a focus on essentials, and the students on desire to learn are crucial.  If America, as a nation, truly valued education, if this state actually supported schools, if parents knew their children’s teachers and course work, and if students knew that attending school and gaining knowledge were as elemental as breathing, we wouldn’t now be quibbling over school calendars, as we are in my district, or school hours as the Mercury News reported.

To the degree that teenagers are encouraged to see themselves as disabled, offered scenarios rife with ready excuses, or distracted from their own responsibility by adults promoting yet another “we’ve got to do something” program, the knowledge and wisdom of the classroom will flow like waste water runoff right past the schoolroom door.

Somebody, please, get me a latte.


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