Well, this took a bit longer than I thought.
As is often custom in a place such as Gourmands, I found myself dicussing film and literature with a couple of friends between breaks in our various endeavors in writing. As we discussed the works of undeniable geniusses such as Adams, Thompson, Twain, and Beckett (to name a few), something hit me.
There is simply no way that American public schools can in their current state nurture that kind of genuis.
I know what I'm talking about. I was writing on my own before I ever went to school (nothing amazing, but the point is I was doing it). However, with the exception of one instance that I'll get to in a moment, public school put a nine-year hold on my creative writing.
I'm not saying it forced me to stop writing creatively, that's just what happened. I often refer to school as the thing that taught me how to get by without doing work, and that's still the case, but right now we're heading into something more urgent. See, I was just getting out of the public school system as the standardized testing craze began. It never took full effect before I left for a private high school. Nowadays, lesson plans are developed with the testing in mind. And with the possibility of a national standardized test for public schools looming on the horizon, it will only get more absurd.
The attitude in public education has been of late increasingly focused on getting the stragglers over the hump. Those students who are like I was are no longer being challenged, because no one's job is on the line over the realization of their potential. The result? Unless there's something specific pushing them, they stop working. Even when I was in school, there was a lack of attention paid to the gifted students. The greatest extent to which my needs were fufilled was in second grade, when my female counterpart from a different class and I were given the assignment to write a short story. We weren't actually taught anything about writing stories, mind. It's just that we were both frustratingly (for the teachers) ahead of the class, so they said, "why don't you write a story?" So we wrote. For a month, I worked on a story of mine. I had no idea what I was fucking doing, and in that aspect I was unhelped so it wasn't great, but the point is I was writing. I was learning by doing.
As my style might suggest, I am not a neat person. I do not want to tell you what my workspace looks like right now. In fact, I don't even want to know, and that is the reason that my attention here is focused directly at my screen. The point is, I had a rather messy desk at the time (this was back when we used those old desks that you stored things in.) My second grade teacher, who I hope for her sake I never meet again (I obviously wouldn't hurt her, but I can be really scary when I'm angry) almost certainly cared more about the cleanliness of my desk than my progression as a student. I was kept after class after failing one of her desk inspections, and she removed everything from inside. When she got to the folder containing my work, that INSIPID FUCKING BITCH tore it in half. She didn't know much (There were a few aspects of knowledge that I at that point had mastered better than her; more a testament to her stupidity than my intelligence.), but she knew DAMN FUCKING WELL that the thing she held in her hands was a month's worth of work, in fact the thing I worked the most on at any point in my time at public school.
However, that wasn't what mattered. What mattered was that because my desk was messy, I was a nuisance to the class, and that the folder which contained the fruits of my labor was part of the problem. It would be seven years before I actually put any effort into schoolwork again.
I'm not saying that my experience was a typical one. What I am saying is that I'm probably not the only one who's had such an experience. Also, the mentality that led to my teacher tearing my work up in front of me has increased since I was in public school. Programs for gifted students have been sacrificed on the alter of standardized testing, for which some schools actually now dedicate entire classes. Anyone who is ahead of the mark for standardized testing is not given any challenges, and is thus allowed to stagnate. If you thought Holden Caulfeild was fucked up, you just see where things go if this trend continues.
Anyway, I made mention that I was going to blog about this on Dylann's comment board, in response to a post about children who were forced to sell candy for their school.
The federal Department of Education was established to regulate education at a federal level. In a country where students often cross the country in to go to college, this makes sense, but here's the problem:
Schools are funded at a local level, and thus the funding varies signifigantly from city to city. There are, in fact federal grants, but they don't do nearly all of the things that they should be doing. Especially not if some kids need to go door to door at 7 in the morning.
We've spent a shiltload of money on a National Missle Defense Sheild that was supposed to be functional by this September, but hasn't even showed any degree of success, and has been lampooned as a pipe dream by most reputable scientists. We're going for broke on it nonetheless. Why can't we do the same for our schools?