By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, MAY 20, 2013) — Before we begin with today’s topic, let THE PLANET be the first to tell you that Christine Yon has taken out nomination papers to run for re-election in Ward 1. THE PLANET wishes Yon every good luck in her quest.
And now for something completely different:
The Pittsfield Public Schools’ budget again asks for millions more in dollars and several more in added staff, despite the continued downward movement of both academic quality and performance. If the PPS was a company in the Dreaded Private Sector, it would have gone belly up long ago. In the DPS, customers expect stellar service and added value when the price goes up. In the public schools, however, the opposite happens. Politicians and administrators reward failure with more money.
As THE PLANET has proven time and again, it’s not lack of funding that’s holding back public schools — It’s a lack of competence and courage on the part of school officials. In fact, two of the most effective measures to take to improve the situation would not cost a penny. In fact, both would actually allow reductions in cost. They are (1) taking control of the classrooms away from students and given it to the adults and (2) developing and enforcing a more consequential (that is to say, more presentable) dress code. Today, via a mom’s Letter to the Editor, we consider the first remedy.
If the many ills of the city’s public school department stemmed from a lack of funding, by now, with the countless billions spent, we’d be turning out young Mensa men and Einsteinian lassies. As it is, Pittsfield continues to short-change students, parents, and — most of all — the bedraggled taxpayers, who only have to fund the fetid, steaming lump.
Classrooms Are Out of Control, but Guess What? The Fix Won’t Cost Taxpayers One More Penny
Perhaps the most serious problem affecting learning is the city’s failure to provide classrooms that emphasize learning in a serious, respectful, exciting, and demanding environment. Don’t talk to the administration or school committee members about classrooms. To hear then talk, everything’s moons-in-June. Children sit attentively for the full class period.
Talk to parents and students, though, candidly and off the record, and they’ll reveal the truth. Classrooms combine the chaos of a circus, the intellectual stimulation of a teen-age Twitter tea party, the seriousness of a juvenile delinquent, the excitement of paint drying on grass growing, the respect of neon clown shoes, and all the intellectual demands of bon-bons. Kids are routinely allowed to mouth off, act up, fool around, and get away with all manner of disruption, ruining the educational experience for the majority of students who wish to learn.
Ironically, given the intractable grimness of the classroom’s academic insecurity, the problem remains amenable to an inviting fix, one that will not cost taxpayers one more cent. It simply takes the adults involved to start doing their jobs. Teachers must not let the unruly ruin it for the rest. They must stop the acting out, the gutter language, the in-class texting the moment it starts. The administration must back up the teachers. Parents have to stop blaming the schools and look to themselves to administer tough love.
Obey the Rule or Be Gone, Kids
Taxpayers have every right for teachers and administration — including the school committee — to demand discipline and respect to create classroom environments suitable for learning. As for deadbeat parents, that, of course, is out of our control. As for them, they will have to begin accepting that those students who will not cooperate will be expelled.
One of the most prevalent classroom disrupters is the use of smart phones in the classroom. There’s no way a teacher can control the learning environment when he or she allows kids to sit in class, texting each other and doing who-knows-what on the Internet. This execrable practice goes on every day, and yet the administration, teachers, and parents routinely ignore it.
That must stop.
Here’s a letter THE PLANET received from Varsity Mom that pulls the curtain back on this secret-yet-rampant practice in the classrooms:
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This letter, mom, nails the problem. Cell phones, Kindles, and smart phones, in the hands of our little darlings, turn into free access to porn, diversion, and activities antithetical to learning. As Varsity Mom reveals and as confirmed by other parents and students with whom THE PLANET has spoken, kids use their phones in class on a routine basis, when they should be paying attention to the teacher and the lesson.
And yet the schools — led by interim superintendent Gordon Noseworthy (a carpetbagger who has no incentive for taking action other than maintaing the corrupt status quo) — ignore their own regulations and allow the kids to rule the classrooms. Taxpayers, be angry … be most angry … because you’re footing the bill for this easily preventable mess.
“Life is a bitter aspic. We are not / At the center of a diamond.” — Wallace Stevens, Part X, “Esthetique du Mal” (“Pain is Human”)