What follows is my recollections of my years in the public education system, which fortunately ended when I went to college. Because these events took place over a long period of time — what has, thus-far, been the majority of my life — I may have some of the sequences slightly out of order, but the actual details and overall picture is right.
When I attended elementary and early middle school, I was placed in “special education” (SE) classes; this was due to misdiagnosis on the part of whoever decided and lack of attention, boredom, and misbehavior on my part. In any event, the special education classes were entirely useless, and I didn’t learn anything from second until sixth grade in the classes I was in. By the time I was in seventh grade, I could barely spell or use proper grammar/punctuation and didn’t know how to add fractions. This was not unique to me, but was a reflection of what was (not) taught. Most of the day in special education classes was spent on humbug — liberal, PC feel-good non-sense. We spent a great amount of time playing games, or engaging in other “free-time” activities.
Many of the kids in those special education classes had below average intelligence, although there were also others wrongly there for similar reasons as I was there. What the special education classes did was not in their best interest, and was a waste of time. Rather than spending additional time teaching important material, less time was spent teaching and demanding that students learn, more time spent on feel-goodism. There was even an idiotic “student of the month” feelgood award for the most exceptional student of the month, to which the moronic “We are the Champions” song was repeatedly played. What children of below-average intelligence, or with learning disabilities, need is not leftist feel-good coddling and “self-esteem” reassurance. What they need is to be held to the same meaningful standards — if they are to be educated — as others. They simply need to work and study longer to obtain the same degree of understanding.
In any event, returning to my story, by the time I was in 6th grade, I was almost completely in “mainstream” classes, except for English and perhaps Mathematics (I forget if I was in mainstream math by then). This was the end of elementary school, next was Middle School (a new creation then, a bridge between elementary and high-school). For some mysterious reason — apparently because the “difficulty” was greater — I was set back to completely special education classes in middle school. This infuriated me. To make matters worse, my special education teacher in middle school was a hyperactive control freak, who for some reason (probably a power kick) insisted on keeping me in special education classes, even though I excelled in mainstream classes when I started taking them. The alleged justification was my “behavior problems” in the special education classes, which of course was a natural result of resentment towards the complete worthlessness of the special education classes (again special education was a waste of time in which no learning took place, only leftist catering to the “self-esteem” of the students).
Fortunately, I was in completely mainstream classes by the end of 8th grade, no thanks to my SE teacher. It happened because of a commitment I made to myself to not let my anger at the situation hold me back; yet, it didn’t happen before an incident with the teacher, in which I said ” F__k You” to her. This is by far my fondest memory of the entire time I was in special education. My mainstream science teacher initially recommended that I take honors science in high-school, but than changed his recommendation after my special education teacher talked with him, so I had to take “regents” science my 1st and 2nd year in high-school. I cannot fathom any explanation for this, other than that my special education teacher felt the need to somehow extend her control over me partially into high-school.
In an amazing tribute to the learning ability of children (and teenagers), I did very well in my freshman year of high school, getting A’s in science, mathematics, and English classes. In fact, I received high 90s to hundreds in mathematics that year; and all throughout high school, I scored top grades in mathematics, with my lowest score on a math final being a 99. Unfortunately, because I learned nothing about mathematics until 8th grade, I wasn’t ahead at an early age, thus was never in a position to take AP mathematics (Advanced Placement, college-level courses taught in high-school) courses, although I did take a college calc course while finishing pre-calc in high-school. As a Freshman, I had a great teacher in English who realized that I had potential, and recommended that I take honors English my Sophomore year, despite my grammatical and spelling difficulties. This was the one of the best things that ever happened to me; I had a demanding English teacher, who wrote more red on my papers than I wrote on them myself. I learned a great deal about grammar and sentence structure. After taking honors English, I took AP English my two final years; again, I had demanding teachers, from whom I learned much. I ended up taking AP classes in history, English, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.
Another observation I noted overall was that even regents (mainstream) classes were a joke, filled with students who were mortified at the idea of learning, engaged in various venerable activities, such as throwing spit-balls and other humbug. I remember a debate coming up in one of my AP English classes centered on the existence of tiered levels of difficulty and talent in education; i.e., “Should there be an ‘AP English’ class?” The teacher relayed an argument given by some that, if not for the best and brightest being in AP classes, regular classes would be “more like” AP classes, in terms of intellectual rigor, interest, attention, etc. Most of the students rightly scoffed at this idea, noting that they didn’t want to be homogenized with everyone else. Unfortunately, the next class, one of the female students who had quite rightly scoffed at the idea, and noted the intellectual inferiority of the regents program, fell over herself apologizing for her “elitism” and “snobbishness”; this was clearly the PC consciousness.
There are definitely some “better” parts of public schooling — but you only see such among segregated classes of the elite, actually focused on learning something, when teachers hold them to standards. These are the good teachers. There are also teachers, like the one I had in special education, who are quite clearly sadistic control-freaks, and who teach their students nothing. And of course, there’s the typical teacher who teaches socialist ideas, albeit even some of these can do students the favor of sparking an interest in learning.
Ultimately, I must conclude that the system of public education is institutionally flawed. This is why my fiancé and I will be homeschooling our yet-to-be children. I predict that more and more education will be self-directed, in the form of various certifications and programs (like the CFA, CPA, for example, for finance and accounting).
January 22, 2007