February 04, 2004

My Education (Part 1)

A consideration of my educational background grants me considerable insight into my formative years as well as my interactions with others and perspective on these interactions.

It must have been 2nd grade or so when I realized that I was being used to further the educations of others. In hindsight, I don't believe that this problem would have ever come to a head if it weren't for my perpetual boredom at school. You see, to my young mind, my perpetual boredom was a direct result of the teachers slowing down to accommodate the lazy students. To further this, now she wanted me to drag along those same students whose laziness and inattention had led to my boredom and the wasting of my time in the first place.

Granted, this simplistic understanding of mine failed to take into account the difference in scholastic capability between myself and others... but remember that I was a 2nd-grader. Besides this, the kids I was helping might not have been as "smart" as I was, but they were slacking so hard that some of the desks were outperforming them... thus negating any possibility of some sort of revelation and resultant compassion that I might have had for them.

And, as is the case with this sort of injustice in the mind of a child, I took my problem to my most trusted legal representative: my mother. I told mom in no uncertain terms that I was having no more of my time wasted by these hangers-on and that I was tired of doing nothing but tutor others in school. My mother took advantage of my simplistic and childish logic and turned the discussion into an evaluation of my lack of compassion and unwittingly started a debate that we've been having for 15 years. After all, she might have painted me into a corner that I couldn't have found my way out of at the time... but I had this nagging feeling that there was something wrong with her argument and eventually I figured out the problem, thus creating new arguments. And behold the argument of homogenous versus heterogeneous grouping and the underlying compassion or lack thereof present in the systems has kept us amused and sparring through my academic career... but I digress.

Being as that I was attending a 4th-rate school in a 3rd-rate district, this sort of nonsense kept up in droves. 3rd-grade was a lot like 2nd with the notable exception of a rudimentary attempt at dividing advanced English from remedial and likewise for math... thus causing me to only have to help bring up the rear guard in Science and History. This pattern continued through into 4th grade with a slight change in that advanced 4th-graders were combined with remedial 5th-graders, creating a 3rd group that was meant to accelerate people whose academic background was at least better than what we had in our grade and thus things bogged down a bit less frequently.

Midway through 4th grade, I moved to New York. This move facilitated an educational Renaissance whereupon I was transferred to one of the best public school systems I have ever seen and was given a teacher who really cared. I guess at this point I really ought to enumerate how Mount Healthy (old district) differed from Shenendehowa (new district.)

In Mount Healthy, there were 3 major demographics: Catholic families, elderly couples and families on welfare. This is a community on the edge of the incorporated district of Cincinnati and bears all of the markings of a once-affluent area that had since had almost all of the money move out or huddle into small pockets throughout the area. Thusly, most people either had no kids, had their kids in private school, or didn't care about their kids' education (generalizations, but statistically provable) and this caused the school's funding which came from property tax levees (voted on by the residents) to stay at the constant rate that it had been at since the 1970's. This lack of funding provided class sizes in the 30+ region in elementary school. Combine that with teachers who were extremely poorly paid, buildings built on governmental grants for experimental "open learning" (read: no walls between many classrooms) and 50% of the student populace from government-subsidized housing and anyone who could afford it getting their kids to private school and you have Mount Healthy.

This is getting long, so I will close this section with a comparative look at Shen. Put simply, there are exclusive private schools in many areas that are nowhere near as high-quality nor as elite as the upper-level classes at Shen. Even the "forgotten 50%" received far better treatment and educational provision than anyone I've seen in any other district. There were sports of every variety, classes for all manner of special interest, classes of 15-20 students, massive and expensive school buildings, specially-hired teachers' aides who did nothing but provide educational assistance and VERY well-paid teachers. Students and parents generally cared (if only to keep up appearances) and more than anything, were willing to pay the high taxes to ensure excellent education and high property values.

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at February 4, 2004 11:58 PM | TrackBack