A Testament To Our Awful Schools

The class I am taking at Community College is a required course for the nursing program I am interested in starting next fall. It is a second level course, so everyone in it has taken at least one other course in this field.

That said, why doesn’t anyone know anything about what we are studying?

More importantly, why doesn’t anyone know anything about…anything?

(A woman who has two kids had no idea what folic acid is. My professor, who is a Developmental Psychologist (and thus should be up to date with research in development) went on a nice long tangent about how great “Baby Einstein” is. I could go on and on with the things that have made me shudder in that class.)

First night of class. We are forced to do an “ice breaker” of sorts. Giant post-it notes are placed in front of us. Everyone has a few Crayola markers. We are told to draw our lives. On the giant post-it notes. From birth until now. Draw. Our lives. On giant post-it notes. And then share it with the 25 strangers in the class.

Now, I’m not a terribly private person. I will share just about anything with anyone. But I don’t like being told to share my life story with a bunch of strangers who can’t possibly have any interest in my life story because I have absolutely no interest in theirs.

The first person to share their life story: Born. In preschool was molested. In first grade, the “murders started.” Elementary school was awful. Parents split up. Mom died. More murders. Then middle school…

Many of the stories were not much better.

I felt like a horrible human being when I got up to share my story: Born. School. Good school. Lots of learning. Smart teachers. Went to college. Really good college. Had a baby. Still with my High School sweetheart. Love my baby. Yay. (Sure, I’ve had some hard times, but these people really gave me another perspective.)

During that class, a student mentioned they were seven different nationalities all rolled into one. She listed them all, “…Italian, Irish and Yugoslavian.”

The girl who had all of the murders in her life said, “Yugo-what!?”

I’ll give the teacher credit for not making any face or reacting in any negative way. She simply responded, “A Yugoslavian is a person who has ancestors who were from Yugoslavia.” (I can’t give her any more credit because I’m pretty sure she is faking her two Master’s degrees. She has no idea what she is talking about.)

To which the student replied, “Yugo-where!?”

Now, I don’t expect everyone to know the history of Yugoslavia or even the fact that it is no longer a country. It baffles me, though, to think that a college student has never heard of Yugoslavia. (Or that she didn’t have the thought to at least pretend she knew.)

This student has attended Pittsburgh Public Schools her whole life. From preschool until graduation. She has a high school diploma and is now studying Psychology in college. She had never heard of Yugoslavia, didn’t know there was a presidential election in November, had no idea who Freud was, couldn’t believe that she wasn’t going to grow any taller (she’s 22), and had to be told why she can’t be a Psychiatrist with a degree from Community College.

And who says we don’t need to drastically change our schools?

Alex Playing

I hope I can give Alex the educational opportunities he deserves. If that means never sending him to a Public School, so be it.

14 thoughts on “A Testament To Our Awful Schools

  1. It is scary isn’t it? But I have a hard time placing blame entirely on the schools- the government and public education shouldn’t be relied on for ANYTHING, heh. I think parents need to be responsible for teaching their kids too. Dan and I have talked about sending our kids to private school, but since there’s basically no chance in hell we’ll EVER be able to afford it, public school it is. But you can bet we’ll be teaching her tons of other stuff- basically ‘home schooling’ in addition to the stuff she learns at public school.

    The thing that scares me the most? People this uneducated? ARE VOTING IN THE NEXT ELECTION. Regardless of which ‘side’ of the spectrum you are, it’s frightening to imagine these people having a part in a decision like that… half the time they don’t even know the names of the people running for office, yet they’re casting a vote. And their vote counts just as much as yours and mine *shudder*

  2. Wow that’s really scary. I don’t think public school is that bad – or maybe it depends on the state/district you’re in.

    At my old job (just in quit in June to stay at home with Sophia) my supervisor who is 28 didn’t know that New Jersey was a state. He has a bachelors in Computer Science. I’m no pro at geography but MYGOD people at least know your own damn country!

  3. Ah, yes. No Child Left Behind strikes again…

    I don’t know which is worse, though: The fact that she didn’t know where Yugoslavia was, or that she was so desperate for attention that she felt the need to alert the entire class to her ignorance…

  4. As an educator let me state, do not blame the schools. Let’s instead take a look at the parents. I’m in school now working on my second masters and one of my prof’s said that what we teachers have been seeing in the classrooms is finally trickling down into college. I was raised by a single dad who read to me, talked with me, etc. That education that I got from him was as important as school. A lot of these parents do not do this with their children, for whatever reason. Trust me, at least in Philly the teachers work their behinds off and truly care about educating children.

    On a lighter note, I’d love to hear more of the post-it note stories shared. Truly scary 🙂 P.S. I too hate personal icebreakers in class. Sadly, they don’t go away.

    Jen, forget about them voting in the election. These are the people who might be taking care of us when we are older *shudder*

  5. Our children are doomed in public schools. It’s scary and sad and makes me nervous. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure my son gets the best education he can get… I don’t know how, but by god he will!

  6. I know this is your blog, and you are entitled to your own opinion, but I dont think that you should be so quick to put other people down. I have really enjoyed reading your blog, but in this post and your last post you are coming across, to me, very judgemental and almost to the point of thinking that you are better than others. Ok, so this girl has obviously had a very tough life and been through awful things. So why should you judge her on things that she doesnt know.. I say good for her for attending college, and trying to make a better life for herself, and maybe for her kids also, so that they do not have to go through the things that she did. You dont know everything either! Im sure there might be something that you dont know that she does. I am suprised that you are so quick to judge people, I bet being a young, not married mother, and overweight, a lot of people judge you. But, it doesnt feel so nice when someone does it to you..Does it??

  7. Anon:

    I’m sorry that I came across that way. I wasn’t trying to put her down, I really wasn’t. She is a very nice young woman, who I respect greatly for attending college and trying to make something of herself.

    What I was putting down is the current state of our school system. She obviously has potential–she is making a point of attending college!–but I think her potential is not as great as it should be because she was not given a great education growing up.

    And no, I don’t know everything! I don’t claim to know everything. And yes, I *am* judged. I am judged by most people, in fact. The simple fact that I had a child out of “wed lock” causes people to assume I am uneducated, stupid for getting pregnant, have no future, etc. etc.

    So, I may have judged her a bit, but my main judgment was not of *her* but of the fact that she has not been given the opportunity to properly learn. I have been very lucky in my education, and I think every single person should be given the same opportunities as I have been given. No one should grow up not knowing what Yugoslavia is, not knowing that a Psychiatrist has a medical degree…


    (By the way, when you leave a comment that is negative, it holds a lot more weight if you are willing to use a proper name and e-mail address. Your e-mail address that you submitted was not legitimate, so I couldn’t e-mail my response to you.)

  8. Am I the only one finding it incredibly ironic that someone judged you based on the fact that they perceived you sitting in judgement of someone else?

    I agree that the schools need fixed. With 4 kids in the system, I am well aware of the flaws. We’ve home schooled, we did charter school, the kids were in private school and now they’re in public school. And of course Micah is in another world in the life skills class. We’ve had our fair share of the pie and it’s all got it’s problems. No Student Left Behind has been bemoaned even by the teachers. The concept is indeed applaud worthy but there are so many wrongs with it that it just needs to be scrapped. I do think, though, that parents are more responsible for a child’s education than any school is.

  9. Wow, Allison, you got quite a response out of old Anon there! Not all that nice either. I wonder if the girl was trying to be funny but saying Yugo-what or Yugo-where? You were there so could you tell by the way she was saying it?

  10. The state of our schools can be pretty daunting sometimes. But I really don’t think our children our doomed there. Not all public schools are evil. In fact, I LEFT a private school for a public school, and strongly strongly believe that my public school experiences and education were a million times more worthwhile.

    I do recognize, though, that not everyone who attended the same school got the same thing out of it. It was just a good match for me. It is not equal. It is not fair. I lucked out.

    And I’m not sure that it can all be blamed of the schools. I am of the belief that a HUGE amount of learning, and more importantly, the preparation for learning, happens at home. Clearly this young woman’s parents were not geared to providing her with tools for a stable life, let alone a higher education. It is great to see her reach, though, to overcome those obstacles. Even if she doesn’t know what or where Yugoslavia is.

    Also- go you for standing up for you and your blogging, you delivered a gracious and clear response to Anon’s comment. Yay for reslife conflict resolution skills.

    Hope Alex feels better soon…. and hope your classes are going well! Hard working mama.

  11. WHoa, thats pretty scary. Although, if that student’s life was that hectic, with being abused, having her parents and others around her die and get murdered… maybe she just had trouble FOCUSING in school, or maybe she didn’t go very much at all, or maybe she moved around from school to school too much. Hopefully she’ll be able to get her life on track, somehow!!!

  12. Allison,

    I just found your blog, and I really enjoy reading your posts. Alex is adorable, btw. I completely agree with you about the current state of our public schools. I went to public schools my entire life. High school was by far the worst experience. The teachers treated all 2,000+ students like criminals. We wore I.D. badges, we weren’t allowed off the premises for lunch, and the National Honors Society (I was a member) had to clean up garbage off the side of the highways on weekends. I’m all about helping the community, but NHS students should not be doing work that seems more appropriate for juvenile delinquents. Most class periods, except the few honors classes I took, were always disrupted by rowdy students. There were some kids in my regular classes who were in 9th or 10th grade and reading at a 4th grade level. I know that it’s not just up to the schools to teach students, though. Parents have to take an active part in educating their kids, too. However, not everyone is willing to do so, and that’s unfortunate for their kids.

    Long story short, my public high school experience was so bad that when I graduated I promised myself I’d never send my future children to public schools. Maybe if my high school experience had been different my opinions would be, too…

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