Budget Cuts

Dear American Public,

On behalf of your youth, I’m flipping you the bird.

You totally screwed over my peach kid.

Enjoying the last days of summer vacation, I went to the local farmers’ market to grab some peaches.  By coincidence, I went with my father-in-law.  By coincidence, he’s from South America.  So it was by coincidence that, in front of the peach stand, I happened to ask him in Spanish if had any cash on him so I could buy us some fruit fodder for a homemade dessert.

“Ooooh…you speak Spanish,” said the boy working the stand with two adults, presumably his parents.  “I wish I spoke another language.”

I eyeballed the kid and put him somewhere in middle school.  Probably around seventh grade.

“If you really want to, I’m sure you can!”   I told him.  “You’ve probably got it at your school, don’t you?  I’ll bet you’ll get a good start, there.”

“I used to take it,” he said.  “But not anymore.”

“They cancelled the program,” his mother handed me my box of fruit.  “He took Spanish last year, but it’s not being offered this year.  Budget cuts.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“They cut Spanish?  That’s usually the last language to go, since it tends to be so useful.”

“It was the last language to go.  Our district has cut everything except core classes.  I’m actually a counselor at the school, and now they’re looking at cutting counseling as well.”

My mouth dropped open so far that I’m pretty sure I drooled a little.

“They want to cut counseling?”

Peach mom shrugged.  “We live in a retirement community.  Education is not their first priority.  The economy is bad, and schools struggle for money even when it’s good.  In our town, everything has gone except the basics.”

So, my dear American Public.  Let’s do a little exercise called Making Learning Authentic.  It’s fancy speak for when teachers apply what seem like abstract concepts to students’ daily lives.  If you were in my classroom, I would have you writing this down and ask you to record your reactions, but since I can’t hold you accountable from a blog post, I’m operating on the trust system.  Doesn’t work very well with teenagers, but I’m sure that you, American Public, knowing the importance of education, would never cheat the system or, heaven forbid, look for shortcuts when it comes to learning.

Kindly answer yes or no to whether you have done any of the following activities in the past week:

1.  Listened to the radio, your ipod, or music of any sort
2.  Watched TV
3.  Gone out to eat
4.  Viewed any kind of artwork (anything on the walls of you home counts)
5.  Had your car, house, or electronics repaired
6.  Had your hair, nails or make-up done
7.  Gone to the movies, a play, concert, or any other type of public entertainment
8.  Worked out

Figured out where I’m going, yet?  If you haven’t, I’d dare you to spend a week in my classroom, because you’re going to have to learn to think a lot faster than that to make the grade.  If I still have a classroom, that is.  I teach Spanish.  I suppose I could be cut at anytime, as my subject area is apparently unnecessary.

For those of you who are still a little behind, let’s make the connections.

Eliminate every single activity (and any related to it) from the above list.

You get up and get in your car to go to work in the morning.  No radio.  No news, no music.  To produce that, you would have to have folks who’ve taken communications classes.  Sorry – not core classes.  That also eliminates all of your TV watching, by the way.

At work, you can’t go out to lunch.  Nor can you take your family out to dinner when you get home.  You can’t cheat and order in, either.  That would require culinary know-how.  Food prep?  Not core.

You’re going to have to take down all artwork and coordinating decorations in your house, as producing it required courses in art and interior design.  I should also probably tackle your wardrobe, since it includes an education in fashion, sewing and clothing.

All not core.

I could keep on, but I’d be beating a dead horse.  A useless task, as we all know, but then, if you haven’t had your agriculture classes, maybe you didn’t know…  Oops..Agriculture and farming.  Also not core.

There goes your food supply.

“You’re exaggerating,” you say to me.  “We’re just talking about K-12 education.  All that professional stuff, that comes at the college level anyway.  No eleventh grader is going to design my clothing.”

Yeah?  So what do the state universities do when they get their budgets cut?  Expand?  Offer more scholarships?  Produce more contributing members of society?

 You’re not really thinking this one through, American Public.

And, by the way, you don’t know my eleventh graders.  They could totally design your wardrobe.  And fix your car.  And make you a gourmet dinner.

If you’d just give them half a chance.

But no, let’s just stick to the core basics.

And then let’s take away their support network.

 Counselors?  A practical place to make budget cuts, since they’re not in the classroom.  They only make sure that students’ schedules are made to best fit their needs.  That whole meeting graduation requirements nonsense. (I’m sure the teachers have time to take over that responsibility.)  Oh, and they also run those pointless standardized tests.   (Kids could totally sign up to take the ACT elsewhere.)  Then there’s the whole social/emotional messy stuff.  Kids running into their office crying.  Bully-prevention.  Suicide watch.  Mandated reporting of abuse and neglect.  Fru-fru.   Fancy frills. It’s not education.  It’s not teaching.  That’s stuff parents should be doing at home, nothing to do with school.  I mean, really.  Who’s ever heard of a kid’s emotional problems affecting a classroom? Or a school?

Or an entire community?

Kids committing suicide because they’re bullied?  Sensationalist press.  A load of crap.  A…
Oh…wait…
Here’s to you, Eric Mohat  http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/story?id=7228335
And you, Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover  http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=news&sc=&sc3=&id=89757
Phoebe Prince, Lance Lundsten and Tiffani Maxwell.
http://www.care2.com/causes/the-real-mean-girls-15-year-old-girl-commits-suicide-after-intense-bullying.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/18/lance-lundsten-tiffani-maxwell-suicide-bullying_n_810201.html

There’s more.  But I don’t have the space.

Still, I’m sure it would never happen to your kid, American Public.  That’s probably a safe bet.  In fact, Public, you seem like the betting kind.  So tell me,

Would you bet your child’s life on it?

You’re a lucky bastard, American Public. Because you’ve got me.  And hundreds of teachers like me.   And I’ll make damn sure that even if you screw all of us over, your kid gets what he needs.  What she deserves.

Too damn bad you can’t say the same.

Get your head out of your ass, Public.  I don’t care what political party you are from, or where your personal beliefs lie.

We all need education.

And we all need each other.

I can teach my kids to move in a foreign country, appreciate other cultures,  learn the subtleties of a new word in a strange tongue.  But who will teach them to draw a profile?  To play the violin, ice a cake or take a picture?

You can cut all the “extra” programs, American Public.  And yet still, if your kid comes to me and wants to learn how to repair a transmission, I’ll find her a teacher.  If he comes to me crying, I’ll drop everything and listen.  Lucky for you, American Public.

I have only one question:

What happens when you cut me?

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