Durham News: Opinion

Durham schools can do better

In the Sunday, March 1, edition, Ned Barnett wrote an article entitled, “A Fighter For Schools Besieged” (DN, nando.com/-n) Last year my wife and I volunteered in Durham to work in third- and fifth-grade classrooms. It was explained to us that we would work with children and help them with reading and comprehension.

The day I arrived, I met the fifth-grade teacher and her assistant and was told to circulate and if any students asked for help, I should help them. I did this while the teacher and her assistant met with smaller groups. I was never included or involved with those discussions.

Occasionally one of the instructors would call to another small group to get a book and start reading. I observed the books being selected; virtually all had more pictures and illustrations than words. This was a normal routine for several weeks, while I was never assigned to a specific group to work with.When I asked about it, the answer was that neither had the time then to do something like that.

I had to be gone from school for about two weeks and informed the teacher of the dates I would be absent. When I returned, there were no cars in the parking lot, and on going to the office I found someone who informed me that it was “Spring Break.” I had never been notified. The next week I informed the teacher that I was resigning.

In reading Mr. Barnett’s article he lamented the fact that the recent changes in the grading system for schools don’t improve the schools. He wrote that 29 Durham district schools received a “D or F” mark and blamed the Republicans for pushing charter schools. If I had school-age children I would certainly opt out for a school environment where the kids were taught, teachers were teaching, and controlling the books the children were given to occupy their day. (Note: I didn’t say read.) Both my wife and I are college graduates; my wife worked in a school for several years, and I was in management for an international corporation. We both could have been utilized by the teachers, rather than just to circulate among the students and ask them if they needed help.

All the pre-school and after-school activities mean little if all it is going to be is a time to feed the low-income children and babysit them until they can be picked up later. Schools are for teaching and educating the students, and teachers are held to educating the kids. The liberals are all concerned about stigmatizing the children. What is worse than a child looking for a job, and can’t fill out an employment application, but he feels “good” about himself?

The decision to go with a “A,B,C, etc.” for school ratings is easily understood by all. We keep dumbing down education, so everybody will feel good about themselves. The old way of educating, you feel good about yourself when you earn a good grade and make the Honor Roll. That is what has made America great ... not dumbing down the educational system. Let’s not always be looking for the easy way out, or to place blame on some other group, or political party for trying to correct some decisions that haven’t worked.

Gordon Hansen lives in Durham.