Parents Are Failing their Child’s Education

I was able to retire at a pretty young age. Shortly thereafter I undertook substitute teaching. At one point or another I worked all grades, kindergarten through 8th grade. In those positions I got an up close and personal look into what is expected of today’s youth and how they are meeting those expectations.

Certain things have not changed since I was in the public-school system. Those students with a high degree of intelligence do well regardless of the situation into which they are thrown. That is a qualified “do well” however. The qualification is that if there is something at home which is very negative or if they have undergone a traumatic experience. Such students will need more and specialized attention. I will go into that a little bit later.

I believe that all students, regardless of capacity, have expectations thrown upon them which far exceed those of my generation and for a number of generations following. Towards the end of my educational experience in the public system I remember that “new math” was being introduced. That, of course, is a misnomer because there is no such thing. Math, regardless of what name you put upon it, in essence has not changed much in 100 years. Certain portions of advanced, college level, math have been introduced such as theoretical math. But for our public-school kids, such things do not and should not apply.

I have worked in four different school systems in the near-in Boston suburbs. One thing that was a constant across these systems was the amount of parental responsibility. This most important part of the educational system is greatly lacking if not entirely missing from the student’s education. How much a parent involves himself in their child’s educational experience greatly influences that child’s ability to succeed. Most importantly, the parent must set boundaries, discipline and structure for their child. A rebellious child is most likely looking for attention. When these things are not in the child’s home life, they end up in the lap of the schools, and in particular, the student’s teacher. These students frequent present a disruptive influence in the classroom which requires extra attention from the teacher. This, in turn, impacts the other 20 to 25, or more, students in the classroom. Then there is the student who consistently fails to do his homework. This again goes back to the parent who does not participate in their child’s education by failing to ensure that all homework in completely done.

When I was young, that information that was not given me in the schools, came to me via television, newspapers, magazines or my friends. The advent of social media on devices like computers and cell phones have given the young person an unprecedented access to the world. Some of the things these children have access to may not be healthy for them. This is a point at which society today struggles to differentiate what our children should see from what they should not. The cell phone, in particular, has become a device too often used to bully other children. And this is where parents fail most frequently. I have had many experiences in the school system where a parent is called in to talk about how his child misbehaves and is a bully. The parent, however, will not accept what is being offered and declares that his child is not a bully. One factor in their making such a decision is that they do not fully understand what a bully is.

When I was in elementary school, one of the ways we boys settled disputes was through wrestling on the playground. Fist fights were extremely rare and even then, they were forbidden. But somewhere along the way it was decided that no child should touch another child for any reason. We also played flag football which more often than not turned into tackling from behind. I do not remember any of us ever getting hurt but when we returned to the classroom a lot of our extra energy had been expended. But today’s overly protective atmosphere does not allow for this.

Today’s students are being taught concepts, particularly in math, which were usually not introduced until high school when I was in school. While I can see the benefit of an earlier introduction, it is sometimes put-upon children who are too young to understand these concepts and so they fail.

These educators, who I suspect all reside in college academics, have built a model that does not allow for the greatest chance of success at a particular grade level. Students fall behind and fail because this teaching model has failed to introduce the student to certain fundamental aspects of education. First, and foremost, students are not taught how to study. And by this I meant, at some point, possibly the third or fourth grade, a full year class in who to read effectively, how to study effectively and how to write effectively, be taught. Students are taught how to read and write, but that knowledge is never intertwined with how to study.

Finally, it is my belief that all school systems be required to have a state certified social worker at each school. The social worker would not be answerable to the school’s principal, but to the city’s mayor or town’s manager. Their being independent from the school system, and that being understood by all students, might greatly help students who are struggling with bullying, bad home life and trauma. Such a person could easily have a great effect, a positive effect, on a student’s success.

In recent years school systems have come under fire for failing their students. To some degree this is certainly true. But to a much greater degree it is the parents and state education administrators who are actually failing our students. This can all be resolved via parental involvement in a school system’s doctrine. Through Parent Teacher Organizations, parents can take control of how their child are taught and what they do in the schools. Communities must come together with educators. They must look closely at the students who are failing or those who are underachieving and find a course that will address those students’ needs.

It is not our schools that are failing us, it is we who are failing our schools.


What’s Killing Our Teens and Young Adults? Hidden Secrets.

This is one of those little things that I created entirely from personal experience.  But it is also the preface to my next offering.

I loved my parent and they loved me. But neither of my parents had a clue about bringing up children. There were three of us and for much of our adolescent and teen life we were latch key kids. But my parents were horrible with communications. I doubt they ever knew what was going on in my life, what I was thinking, what I feared, what I wanted or even what I needed. It’s not their fault. Theirs was the generation of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and I cannot fault them for that. It was all they knew.

What they did not realize is that they had one very troubled child in me. I had been sexually taken advantage of by a couple of neighbor girls who were twice my age, I was 5. I did not recognize it as abuse at the time, and even thought it to be fun. The fun stopped when certain neighborhood boys decided to sexually attack me. It was when I first experienced depression, a depression that lasted for decades. The sexual abuse end when I was 15. I had gotten mad at my mother and decided it time to run away to New York City; we lived near Boston. I was hitchhiking my way there, of course, and was picked up by a man who overpowered me just by his very presence, and my past experiences. He took me to a remote cabin in the woods near a pond and raped me for hours on end. In the morning all I wanted to do was get home.

When I got home my mother asked me where I had been all night and I lied and said I had slept on a park bench in a neighboring city. Not entirely unreasonable since I was a headstrong boy and rode by bicycle everywhere or took the bus where ever. Upon reflection I wondered why she had not bother to call the police to report that her 15-year-old son had not come home that evening. I never did ask her that. But some weeks later I told her of the incident, fighting back enormous fear, only to have her say “boys don’t get raped.” I was brought up Roman Catholic so the next place I sought out help was from a priest at Merrimack College. After I told him what had happened he suggested I ask God forgiveness for my sin.

To backtrack a bit, I had been an excellent student thought my first 5 years of elementary school, almost always getting an A in every subject. In the 6th grade my grades slipped to all Bs and by the 7th grade the Bs and Cs, mostly Cs. By high school I was narrowly avoiding outright failure in every subject.
In the 7th and 8th grade I was the constant target of boys who were looking to make fun of someone. I was actually fairly good at softball but because I could not throw a ball properly, I was always the last kid picked. When high school rolled around I dared not even try out for any of the sports teams, football and baseball I would have enjoyed. Instead, I went where all the other “losers” went, the school band, at which I excelled. In another attempt to be socially accepted, I joined the extremely popular, or so I thought, drama club. I got a speaking roll the first time I tried out and worked my way to the leading roll by the time I was a senior. But my social life still lagged and I had failed to realize that being a member of the drama club was just another collection of misfit toys but still more acceptable than the band.

In the 7th grade we had our first dance. It was held at a student’s house as were the others that year and the following. I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn’t dance, and I didn’t feel like I fit even. I must have had some sort of self-abuse ideal because I kept going. In high school it was more of the same only worse. Starting in Freshman year my fellow classmates flouted their “steady” relationships. The boys began to brag about all the girls they had had sex with. It was not until my junior year that I had my first date. The idea of asking a girl out was just to scary. When I finally got up the courage, she said yes and not long after became my first, and only, girlfriend in high school. We went to the Junior-Senior Prom together, had a wonderful time, and I thought I was on my way. She broke up with me shortly after that but at that point I didn’t care too much because I had badgered my parents into sending me 300 miles away to a boarding school so I could get into college.

When I graduated from high school I was still a virgin, not a bad thing, but had had only kissed a girl once. I was too fear filled to just try to kiss a girl and anything more serious, which I did daydream about, was just out of the question. I limped through high school with just a few friends and even some of them picked on me, made fun of me. They knew I would neither stand my ground nor fight back.

Shortly after I graduated from high school, with honors, and then flunked out of Boston University, I became suicidal. I didn’t understand there to be any good reason for me to go on living. I had on and off bouts of suicidal ideation, but I never tried to do it. I always felt a greater desire to live, even though life continued to feel pretty miserable.

What was missing from my early years was structure and help from my parents in understanding the basics of living. Everything was trial and error for me. My mother never missed a chance to punish me when I was wrong but never knew how to praise my successes which meant I did not know when I was doing something the right way or that if I made a little correction in my direction, things would work out really well. I don’t blame them though. No one had given them instructions on child rearing. They did they best the could and I loved them just as they were, although I had a strange way of showing it at times. The thing that hurt me the most is that I never as a child heard my mother tell me that she loved me, my father either. My mother could not even show love via a hug which is the one thing my father could do. I later years I learned that both my parents were broken, my mother being the worst by far.

As it turned out, my mother’s secrets became mine, even though at the time I was entirely unaware of them. But what I do not understand, to this day, is how every teacher I ever encountered never pick up on what a depressed kid I was. Or if they did, they did nothing.

I carried a heavy load of secrets into my adult life and those secrets nearly killed me. To mask the pain I felt, I drank to excess. I find it amazing that I did not start drinking in high school considering how miserable I almost always felt. I had all these secrets, none of which I was trying hide, and yet they remained hidden because I knew of no way to release them, there were no outlets available.
An inner strength kept me alive but not everyone has such strength. To many teens and young adults today have secrets they are unable to release. As a society it is our responsibility to find ways, attractive ways, for them to let go of those secrets and kill of the demons inside the before those demons rise up and kill them.

July 4, 1776, a Very Scary Day

Today is Independence Day in the United States. We declared that to be true for the first time on July 4, 1776. But it really was not true in fact back then, it was simply a piece of paper, read in Philadelphia, and then secreted away just as quickly for to hold such a document was a treasonable act under English law. In truth, we were in the midst of a civil war no different from our own internal civil war of 1861 to 1865.
To be a truly independent country we needed to be recognized as such by another sovereign nation. The Confederacy tried, and failed, to get England to recognized them. The leaders of the revolutionary war also failed initially to gain recognition. Our best hope was France who despised the English and with whom, through Benjamin Franklin, we had warm relations with their government. But the French were reticent to acknowledge our sovereign existence. The French feared that England would turn on them and they would be, yet again, at war, a war they simply could not afford.
The first country to recognize us was Holland in 1776 and then Morocco in 1777. As great a statesman as Franklin was, he simply was unable to get the French to do more than to supply us with some money and an invaluable man whom Gen. George Washington used to help lead he ragtag group of revolutionaries, Lafayette. Finally, John Adams join Franklin in Paris and on a trip to Versailles, seat of the government, the French were convinced that we would likely win the war. Then, finally, on February 8, 1778, the French signed an agreement of “Amity and Commerce.” This gave America a trading partner in Europe of great importance.
But back in 1776, on that day of July 4, thirteen copies of the Declaration of Independence, all signed, we sent to the capitols of each of the new states. But the danger in holding this document was great and each was secreted away for the remainder of hostilities.
We had been at war for over a year when the Declaration of Independence was signed and distributed but had a poll of the world’s leaders been taken at that date asking the chances of our succeeding, it is likely we would have garnered only a few favorable votes. The fact was, we were losing the war and no one knew how many Tories, those still loyal to the English crown, still existed. Boston and the state of Massachusetts are virtually eradicated all its Tories on March 17, 1776 when the loyalists were given safe passage out of Boston Harbor and up to Nova Scotia.
But at that same time, New Jersey had for its governor Benjamin Franklin’s son who had declared himself loyal to the crown. Throughout the other 12 colonies similar conditions existed and people were extremely caution in whom they trusted.
European Wars, and now this war, were always fought in the warmer months of the year. Troops retired to their various sides during the winter months as had Washington and his troops in 1777. But Washington was not a traditionalist and his mind was ruminating over the many loses he had suffered thus far at the hands to the British. The worst being his having to watch he troops slaughtered on one side of the Hudson River while he sat on the other.

Washington moved southward and encamped at Valley Forge. From the beginning Washington had pressed the Continental Congress for the necessary implements of war to fight and win, mostly unsuccessfully. In 1777, Frederic von Steuben, a Prussian Lieutenant General, joined Washington and immediately set about training Washington’s troops at Valley Forge.

That winter, on Christmas Day, while the Hessian troops feasted, Washington rallied his troops to attack Trenton and in doing so gained his first major win of the Revolution. From there they continue their march up the middle of New Jersey winning battle after battle. But von Steuben’s effect was immediately obvious. The attack was far from perfect but even so, American officers were able to lead their men and accomplish their mission. And for the first time, America turned from a defensive military posture to an offensive one, a posture they never relinquished until the British government finally acquiesced after the Battle of Yorktown in 1783.
That eight-year period, from 1775 to 1783, was never easy for American patriots. By declaring war on Britain, they have lost their most important trading partner and certain types of goods were always in short supply. Fear of retribution among the general populace soon subsided after the siege of Boston succeeded and the first of the British departed. But until the tide of the war turned, no one could feel both safe and a patriot. But Americans asserted their grit and determination to be respected as a sovereign nation and this required 13 colonies to become united which they did.

Get Former President Obama Back in Politics!

My suggestion that former President Barack Obama return to public life might sound a bit outlandish, but it is not without precedence. Our sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829, served in what many historians describe as one of the worst presidencies ever. Adams, however, returned to the U.S. Congress from 1831 to 1848 which he served with distinction. His leading platform, the elimination of slavery. Not an easy time for abolitionist when the movement was not very popular.
Then former President William Howard Taft, 1909-1913, served as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Judicial Court from 1921 to 1930. The Republican Party of 1908 was disaffected with Theodore Roosevelt and his populist actions and turned to a reluctant Taft as its nominee. Although it is not documented anywhere, it is believed Taft was relieved when the Republican party split between him and Roosevelt in 1912 and Woodrow Wilson won the election. Although Taft served but nine years on the Supreme Court, he was elevated to the position of Chief Justice and died in office in 1930.
This brings us to Barack Obama. At 59 years of age, Obama is considerably younger than a large portion of the House and Senate. As shown by Elizabeth Dole when she moved to North Carolina to seek election there, Obama need only move to Virginia to find any number, most in fact, that are held by Republicans. Right now, he lives in Washington D.C. even though he claims his home state to be Illinois.
The point being, for 8 years, Barack Obama served the United States with distinction and honor. He was also as capable as any president this country has had in the past 50 years, maybe longer. His statesmanship as outstanding as his ability to understand complex problems.
I do not expect Mr. Obama to read this blog but I wish he did. I know for fact that there are millions upon millions of Americans who wish he were still serving. Maybe someone will pass this on. I can only hope so.