Wednesday, April 19, 2006

We're Lousy Doctors.

There was an interesting article in the Providence Journal the other day. It was an account of a speech given by Dr. Ruth Simmons at the annual Urban League of Rhode Island luncheon. The topic was how and why we must fix failing schools. The 'why' is obvious. It's the 'how' that is that hard part.

All the usual suspects were addressed, high dropout rates, low incomes, the widening income gaps, segregation.

"My God, that was the reality I grew up in decades ago, and we're still talking about it again"

And we will be talking about it fifty years from now too because we treat these issues as causes when they are really symptoms.

When a doctor prescribes pain medication for pain without also trying to find the source of the pain, the doctor is guilty of malpractice. We see discouraged teachers, decaying buildings, inadequate tools and equipment, leaky toilets, broken windows and we ask for money to fix them. We're treating the symptoms not the causes, the equivalent of medical malpractice.

Try this experiment. Imagine a school where students are late to class, if they show up at all, where they swear at and threaten teachers, where they have their mp3 players turned on listening to their favorite rappers during class, where any student who wants to learn is ridiculed or worse, where there is no discipline or respect, where the halls are littered with trash.

Now plow millions of dollars into that school, give money to the families to equal middle class incomes, paint the halls, put computers on every desk, fix the toilets, hire the best teachers in the state and hire janitors to clean the halls.

Will those students magically want to learn? We just don't get it. Money is like a crutch we use to allow a broken leg to heal. But what if it doesn't heal? We just ask for more crutches!

It is a responsibility of government to make education available to all. No amount of money pumped into any school will make students want to learn. This can come only from family, and family must be required to assist when their children disrupt the classroom.

Parental accountability and responsibility are more important than anything. With it we will grow strong, without it we will never heal.

But maybe it's just me.

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