Thursday, December 13, 2012

Violence at North High

Comment to Telegram Online article

North High problems aired at forum; LATEST: ASST. PRINCIPAL SHOVED TO GROUND

I taught at the High School of Commerce in Springfield.  I had what they called the worst of the worst - 9th grade Algebra I Support for kids who were in algebra because the School Board said they had to be, but who shouldn't have been been because they didn't understand arithmetic.  Since I left I'm told the teachers have lost control of the halls, and the school is failing as a place to learn.

My students were actually very sharp.  They were so fed up with the b.s., and were hungry for something that made sense.  They showed up in high school hoping this time would be different, this time they would get the break they needed.  But there was so much else wrong in their lives: chaos at home, the shame of poverty and even fear of death.  And always hanging over them was dread of getting pushed out into a world that had no use for them, no jobs that pay enough to build a life on.

Today it's worse; half the kids who don't go on to college - and many that do - aren't finding *any* job!

But face it, when are you ever going to need the algebra we're force feeding these kids, unless it's prove you're smart enough for college?  It doesn't even teach thinking skills, just memorizing a bunch of made-up rules.  The "trouble-makers" kept challenging me with the questions we should all be asking: how does this make any sense?  So the schools brand them as stupid, failures, and some here call them animals, sub-human, deserving only to spend their lives in prisons and jails.

My students' parents, every one I met, wanted the best for them.  But they too were struggling with all the problems of a society and economy that's breaking down and failing - too much work or not enough, broken homes, a broken social safety net - and crippled by arrest records. (Over half the adults in Mass. have one!)

Hard to deal with as these "tough kids" may be, we need to listen to them, work with them, never forget the "love" part of tough love - and admit that they too are our future!

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