By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor
It hasn’t been a banner year for academic honesty. Teachers and principals were breaking out their number two pencils, erasing kids’ test errors, and filling in the accurate bubbles themselves in cases of out-and-out cheating by educators in Atlanta and DC. Then, at an “exemplary” school in Dallas, the principal tried a different tack. Dubbed “second-degree cheating” (um, what is that?), the principal ordered all hands on deck to boost math and reading scores, giving the shaft to every other subject – the students learned no music, no art, no science, no social studies, no foreign language, no PE. Just math and English.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that many kids aren’t quite sure what really constitutes cheating, either. According to a recent study, 71 percent of the students surveyed don’t think copying from a website is “serious cheating;” more than half don’t consider cheating a big deal; almost all had allowed another kid to copy their homework.
Did I miss the new sliding scale for cheating? Who’s proselytizing this movement, and may I suggest a catchy name: the New Honesty?
Beggars can’t be choosers
As homeowners, cities, states, and as a nation, we’re refusing to adequately fund education, and as a result, schools are accepting money from wherever it hails – this 5th grader’s allowance, this Superintendent’s salary and benefits, and even the white space that once graced the back of report cards (and is now lucratively populated with ad slots).
And for the “lucky” teachers who’ve kept their jobs amid all the cuts – without pay increases, and with decreases for some – more and more teachers are taking second jobs. This trend isn't new but it's on the rise: about 11 percent of teachers were moonlighting in the early 80s, it’s more like one in five now. Nothing like running into the math teacher tending bar at a local restaurant or the second grade teacher selling appliances on the weekend to inspire a child to put a lot of value on education.
Obesity runaround – with no actual running, of course
It’s an epidemic – and it’s not funny. But how we’re trying to combat obesity in schools – and epically failing – is, kind of. We’re banning soda (but not sugar-filled juice drinks), sanctifying chocolate milk, having national debates about whether pizza sauce 'counts' as a vegetable, measuring BMI once every couple of years. And where, might you ask, is the exercise component? Oh, yeah, we’re cutting PE and recess.
Sure, this takes us back to the issue of education funding, but it really doesn’t cost much to run laps. And all those food policy debates and program changes aren’t free. This year I visited a school where recess and PE were replaced with a strategic games program. While I mourned the loss of free play for those kids, at least I got to see them running around. At other schools, the kids aren’t so lucky. According to the Right to Recess campaign, 50 percent of kids don’t get recess. The CDC’s Childhood Obesity Facts page lists three bullet points for prevention – the third calls out schools as a place for kids to learn healthy physical activity behaviors. How’s that working out?
The internet is wonderful, but our online behavior isn’t. In fact, it’s atrocious – and it’s coming back to haunt us (or worse). Sadly, students aren't learning this lesson quickly enough – and neither are their teachers. Should we bring back etiquette classes? Kids are sexting racy messages and pictures back and forth – with consequences ranging from public humiliation to charges filed for sexual misconduct. Teachers are posting diatribes and making sarcastic cracks about their students on Facebook – and losing their jobs for it.
Personally, I hold the adults’ bad judgment against them, but I have more sympathy for the teens. Maybe they should realize their actions are visible to all; maybe they should have more reverence for their futures – but maybe we’re not guiding them well enough. In fact, I know we’re not – because text messaging lingo is seeping into school essays (even college app essays!) and colleges are checking out online profiles (yes, that means Facebook!) as part of their admissions process. Sorry, Charlie, your dream of attending Great Future University is out the window due to a series of disgusting posts. Plus, “btw” has no place in an admissions essay. L8r.
Why oh why must you be a certain character from the animal kingdom? Tiger mom started it all, of course, and she offers an interesting approach. But do we need Panda dad (which sounds pretty close to middle-class American dad to me), Lion dad, Pussycat mom, Eagle mom … the list goes on and on? Frankly, no.
These aren’t even really about parenting or a child’s success – no matter what your definition of success is – anymore. They’ve spiraled out of control, into a realm that’s self-serving and fame-seeking. Please make it stop.