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Thursday, May 4, 2006 10:25 pm

Dear School Board...

Ways the public school system can prepare students for the real world

It was clear from the minute the bell rang that something was up. My advanced-placement English students came in buzzing, asking whether I’d read Dan Healy’s essay yet. Someone had finally scored a “six”! After much ballyhooing, Dan read aloud what he’d submitted to the Holt, Rinehart & Winston online essay grader. A six is the highest score possible and something the students and I have been trying to achieve since we started using the online writing assessment first semester. Healy’s tongue-in-cheek look at “skills” taught in school was one of two essays at Southeast to score a six. J.Q. DeVaney’s look at the No Child Left Behind Act was the other. — Joni Paige, English Department, Southeast High School
I am writing to encourage you to continue to use the methods you have chosen to employ in the running of the public schools. Public school is the best medium in which children may learn how to survive, and even thrive, in the “real world.” Social skills are carefully honed at school and develop over the person’s entire educational career. Skills such as gossiping and backstabbing; learning how to stereotype people on the basis of their clothes, money, and skin color; and working hard while high-ranking officials or administrators are watching, are all very important to success in life. The way the system works now, gossip is simply a form of entertainment. It is one that is encouraged by the staff and student body simply because an overwhelming number of them participate in it. It has become a routine cycle, which seems to manifest itself in a large percentage of the conversations that occur daily. Sometimes these conversations, with their gossip and rumors, are continued outside the school setting. This is evidence that the system is extremely effective in teaching people this skill. It is something that students may carry with them throughout life, as many of their instructors have. It is an excellent tool to be used in the workplace when one would like to scar the reputation of another. For example, one person may be in line for a promotion behind only one other person. The person who is second in line may want the promotion very much but knows that the first person is going to get it. Instead of accepting that fact, he or she spreads a rumor [that] would reach the boss eventually and the person who was up for the promotion would not get it. In public schools it works much the same. In grade school, the children tell on each other for not sleeping during naptime. In high school, the children, who are now being told that they are adults, gossip about who went to which ball game with which people and when. Oftentimes, these young adults will accuse each other of sleeping with somebody’s boyfriend or girlfriend, or both. This seems to show promising signs that these same students will be able to carry out the hypothetical situation mentioned above with ease. In the current system, many students may even excel so much that they can spread dangerous rumors about close friends. It is an increasing occurrence, which demonstrates that the public system is also improving. Another skill, which is very important to leading a successful life, is the ability to judge others on the basis of their clothing, skin color, age, or the amount of money they have. Some students will eventually become employers at successful companies, and they will need to learn to discriminate against people who look suspicious or dishonest. In high school, students already practice this by separating themselves according to all of these things during lunch. In many cases, walking through a cafeteria at lunchtime, one would see one half of the room filled with black people and the other half filled with white people. Although all of these people probably will not become employers, a great number of them will be in power over somebody at some point in time. When this happens, these people will be prepared because they may be able to think about a potential worker’s effectiveness on the basis of his or her appearance and one or two questions about the applicant’s past or present marriages. Those students who are really good at stereotyping should be able to make up their minds about an applicant without asking any questions. The extremely well-educated ones will ask questions anyway to make the interviewee completely unaware that he or she was already judged and a decision was reached. While in the workplace, it is important for one to set high goals. The most effective way of accomplishing this is by working very hard while people in power are paying attention to you and resting when they are diverted. This is an age-old practice in the public education system, from preschool through the end of school. Oftentimes, when a teacher leaves a room unattended, students will take advantage of the period to relax and recuperate. Loud and unproductive behavior is a common occurrence in situations such as this. Sometimes, the student body will even post a guard at the door to warn them when the authority is returning. When the instructor returns, so do the students to their work. This is a skill that takes a long time to master. Many students are caught and sent home for days on end to rest and think about how not to get caught next time. Oddly enough, it is usually the same students who are sent home. The rest of the students are clearly learning how to work while being watched very well. When these students enter the realm of “professionalism,” they will be prepared to impress their employers at the most crucial moments. When these three crucial skills are sharpened and mastered, only then will people be prepared for the “real world.” Success does not usually come easily. It is clear that you know this because of the 13-year public education system, which is in place now. Keep up the good work. It seems to me as though you have all the major issues covered, and I think you are producing the next great generation of slackers and backstabbers. With the utmost sincerity, Daniel Healy Southeast High School
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