Schooling the Chillens

Part of my weekend was spent helping the daughter of a friend build a kite. This had absolutely no relation to a fun-filled weekend helping the youth accumulate happy memories of her childhood. She is a high school freshman and was building a kite for geometry class. My friend is a sales manager at a car dealership. In addition to working long hours, he doesn’t possess a garage full of tools or much design sense. I have an engineering degree and a garage full of power tools, hand tools, and miscellaneous bits of hardware. For some reason, people think of me when things like this come up. Anyhow, we spent Saturday building and destroying one kite and building another kite so she can prove something or other to her geometry teacher. (Useful link for kite-building here.) I’m not exactly sure what the point of the whole exercise is as regards learning geometry.

This is not the first time the awareness of her school projects has impinged upon my consciousness. The first one was a diorama involving a shoebox, a He-Man action figure, and various brightly colored bits of construction paper and foil. The assemblage was supposed to say something about Beowulf for her English class. At the time I thought it was silly. By the time I was (not) reading Beowulf in high school, we were writing papers on various aspects of epic poetry, not building shoebox dioramas of Beowulf vs. Grendel Cage Match XXIV.

She did another one recently involving apples for heads of figurines. I found out about that one when my friend put the dogs (three greyhounds) in her room when contractors showed up. The dogs promptly ate the figurines and he had to call the school. I think that’s probably the first time a parent called to say “the dogs ate the homework”.

I found out through discussion that she does, on average, one project per class per six-week grading period. She has a stockpile of craft materials in her closet for building the stupid things. Am I the only one thinking building craft projects has very little to do with actually learning academic material? I might be willing to cut some more slack if this was a kid just going through the motions, but she’s not. She’s taking every AP or Honors class she can to prepare for her eventual goal of vet school. The public schools here are, frankly, wasting her time by having her do this bullshit. What worries me is that she is, in terms of the local schools, one of the best and the brightest. What the hell are they teaching the average kids?

Not surprisingly, my friend is contemplating homeschooling his youngest daughter. Coincedentally, Reason has a couple of articles on homeschooling up here and here. The more I learn about the state of the public schools today, the more I’m inclined to not ever put any children we might have into them. For a more frightening discussion of how schools work these days, get a group of schoolteachers together and get ‘em drunk. The stories you hear will remove any last doubts you might have about the institutional failures of the public school system. I think it’s well past time to reconsider the current system of primary education in this country. It doesn’t appear to be working.


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