Preparing Children For School

Why Grandma Has An Iron Bed

I have been out of formal education for 33 years so may be far behind the present generation in most areas, especially education. The only thing I have in common with the last two generations is having something stuck in both ears, but mine are hearing aids.

 My early teaching tenure, sorry about that word, was teaching 6 High School classes  a day in a small Mid West town and coaching basketball at a salary of $2000 a year and no benefits. My teaching skills were of little concern to the public, but the performance of the basketball team was very important.

 This has nothing to do with my thesis for this Blog, but came to mind while writing about education. After my family grew it was necessary to look for greener pastures so moved to a larger city and obtained a job in industry earning four times my teaching salary with a full slate of benefits.

 I accepted a contract in education in California as was lured by the chance to leave the cold weather in Wisconsin. Being short a couple of administrative classes for a secondary credential was placed in an Elementary School a block from the Projects. The student body was 65% black and the rest from a mixture of low income families. This didn’t discourage me as was raised in an integrated environment. My lack of knowledge on the plight of grade school children was my biggest surprise.

 To make my long story shorter lets move on to my awakening to the perils of educating young children from this environment. The school district had all the money they needed as had many industrial plants generating a large tax base. This school wasn’t like the schools pictured in large city ghettos. It had nice facilities with good teachers and all the most modern equipment and teaching needs. The major problem was the children weren’t making the same academic achievement of children from higher income students.

 To discover the reasons for lower academic achievement in low income and ethnic groups I did Case Studies of 16 students not learning to read in 1st grade. Besides the various tests required in any research the most revealing parts of the study were home visits with parents of each of the 16 children. The one test revealed that all the children lacked visual perception skill needed to read.

We must remember this study is only a small sampling of families so we can’t paint all families by the same brush. This is just an indication of the problem. 

 Most low income households had no books in their homes suitable or designed for children under the age of 5, essential for acquiring the perceptual skills needed to read. These children failing in 1st grade could have a self deprecating attitude following them through their school years as it is difficult to catch up. Many students start kindergarten before they are ready for formal education.

 Home environment of low income families doesn’t create the needed social skills and attitudes towards learning needed for formal education. The parents or parent of their children wanted them to get a good education, but lacked the parenting skills needed to provide them with the social and academic learning required to survive in a white oriented school setting.

 I was motivated by these home visits to suggest paying parents from low income homes a stipend to attend classes on ways to prepare their children for a formal education. My requests to the school district and government for funds for this innovation were denied.

 It’s my opinion “No child left behind” and “Race to the top” are figments of our politician’s imaginations. These programs do little or nothing to improve the real needs of low income and black and Hispanic children.

 My daughter Luanne sent me Studs Terkel’s book “RACE” as knew I’ve admired him since the 30s when listening to him on the radio. I will end with a quote from his book with a quote of the irreverent Reverent James Campbell:      

 “Why black students fare very poorly on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests in comparison to whites and Asiatic students-“What does it mean if the tests are written by white values? If the question has to do with pheasants under glass, white and black ghetto students will flunk. If you ask them about the breeding habits of cockroaches they’ll make a good score. You ask a black kid why his grandmother had iron beds, he’ll know: To keep the rats from crawling up. A kid from Scarsdale will flunk—-.”

 If there is enough interest in this subject I will express my views on educating the middle and upper income students.   

All politically correct people, from all races, thinking they aren’t racists should read Stud Terkel’s book “RACE.” How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About The American Obsession.





One response to “Preparing Children For School

  1. Vicki Sue McKinnis

    Wow, excellent article. It’s good to hear of your perspective born of experience. I have school teacher friends who tell me that the current programs to supposedly improve the education process are nothing but a detrimental for students and teachers. I am very interested in hearing your views on educating middle and upper income students as I know you have experience with this and respect your opinion.

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