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Jewish World Review
August 15, 2008
/ 14 Menachem-Av 5768
Smart Kids, Bad Schools
my column focused on how public schools have stopped teaching American history with a POSITIVE slant. I made the point that no longer do our schools instill patriotism and pride in our country. If that were the only deficiency in today's schools that would be plenty, but it isn't. There are lots of other things that the public schools have not been teaching - things that were definitely taught when I went to school.
Old geezers like me will recall shop classes in school. Print shop, auto shop, wood shop, electrical shop and homemaking were great ways to learn fundamental skills - whether or not you were intending to pursue those skills as a career path, you were taught the basics in things that make up your daily life. What's wrong with knowing how a band saw operates, or learning a bit about electricity? What's wrong with knowing how to sew a button on? Or being able to cook a simple meal?
The arts are another thing that schools have either cut back on or eliminated altogether. Music, drawing, drama, sculpture and other creative courses were a lot of the reason some of us looked forward to going to school at all. Removing these classes is like taking the fun out of school. But that is exactly what has happened.
And then we were taught other things back when I went to school that have fallen by the wayside. Things like right and wrong, good manners, proper diction, and penmanship were part of the normal grade school curriculum in those days.
As a culture one could argue that we might be able to get by without proper diction and decent penmanship, although it is definitely a step backward for a civilized society. Not so, however, in matters of right and wrong, good manners and other common traits of decency and citizenship. When we stop teaching our youngsters these things, we're done for.
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In a new book, "Smart Kids, Bad Schools - 38 Ways to Save America's Future," an award-winning Natural Board Certified English High School teacher spells out why the schools are declining and what we can do about it. In just under 300 pages, this twenty-year veteran of the public school system offers his experience and advice to parents, education administrators, other teachers, and really all concerned Americans on how to fix a problem that has been more than 40 years in the making.
Told within a framework of five parts, the book has such intriguing and thought-provoking chapter headings as "The Good News: No More Summer School; The Bad News: No More Summer," "Let the Kids Sleep In," "Abolish Homework," "Outlaw Teachers' Unions" and "More Money Isn't the Answer."
The book is written in simple terms, easy to read, fast-moving, and at times even funny. Although he is still teaching high school English in the public school system, this author doesn't hold back one iota in his critique of the status quo. He hammers the education bureaucracy, teachers' unions, government programs, and even parents as willing or unwilling participants in the decline of public education. He is hard-hitting in his evaluation and makes his points at the top of his voice.
This author is opinionated, tenacious, and unrelenting in his passion for kids and the importance of creating a proper school system - he knows that better educated kids means a better tomorrow for all of us. And he knows that educating kids means not only teaching them reading, math and science, but teaching them right from wrong, good citizenship, and personal responsibility. It also means teaching some of our educators and parents a thing or two as well.
If I say that the writer of this book is strongly opinionated and even hard-headed at times, I know what I'm talking about. You see, it just so happens that the author of "Smart Kids, Bad Schools" is my baby brother, Brian Crosby. And even though like most baby brothers in the world, he thinks he knows it all, I can tell you this, when it comes to the public school system - he really does.
Brian may be my brother, but don't let that stop you - buy the book anyway. It's the smart thing to do.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2006, Greg Crosby