American Education On A Slippery Slope Part 3 of 3
In our quest for finding the ways and means whereby our children can receive the well
rounded and fundamental education for which we are paying the following events depict a
sordid and sorry tale.
My friend Bill (as in Part II) had a teacher friend who after learning of his plight with
his daughter's tutor relayed to him a recent experience. One of her students approached
her one day and stated that he was having trouble determining when to use "who" and when
to use "whom" and was told by his instructor to just go with "who" since no one would know
It was at one of my Rotary meetings a few years ago and about two months before the
anniversary of D-Day we were addressed by a CEO from the industrial and automotive industry.
He related that one day while discussing the company's plans for a D-Day celebration with
a staff aide two of his MBAs came sauntering down the hall and happened to hear the word
D-Day. They stopped and inquired "what is D-Day?"
In the May 2005 issue of HOUR magazine there is a short version of the life and WW II
years of Marvin Eliot Schlossberg a veteran. His days and career years in the Southeastern
Michigan and Metro Detroit area as Sonny Eliot are legendary. He settled there and
revolutionized weather reporting. From the magazine here is a short excerpt of one of
his experiences. Nobody, he learned when he got home, was very interested in the war.
So he didn't talk about it much. The years flew by. One day (in about the seventies) in
chit-chat before a newscast, he mentioned that he had been a German prisoner of war.
In our community we have a cider mill. It's well over 100 years old and dates to the days
when it was a grist and flour mill. Its owner has kept its general operations and its
motif as close to those early days as possible. His clerks have no calculators or adding
machines at the counter and are required to add and subtract with a good old fashioned #2
pencil and a pad of paper. He sells cider, doughnuts, apples, pies and sundry items which
you expect in a cider mill. His clerks are upper high school teens and/or early college
You will see Jack quite often hovering behind this long counter as he walks back and forth
checking and supervising. One day I asked him point blank ---- why? He replied that he
found it difficult to find teenagers who could do simple arithmetic. They could not
properly add and subtract with any degree of accuracy. "If I continue to lose 50 cents
here and 50 cents there this place would become a non-profit company. I cannot afford
that and I also cannot bring myself to compromise our cider mill with the niceties of
A couple years ago in the state of Michigan one of the legislators made a push to place in
the hands of all students a free calculator. There was no way to determine where under
God's green earth this man was coming from. He was obviously entirely clueless as to the
basic tools really needed in the learning process. He unwittingly wanted to keep them in
the hip hop rumba dumba phase of their education. He had no idea as to the number of
students out there who still could not add or subtract simple figures in their collective
heads. Giving them another crutch was his response to their education. This from a
legislator whose state is financially insolvent and its school systems are unarguably
dysfunctional.. How does this type of mentality get voted into office?
As noted in one of the Detroit newspapers, "public schooling has been a turf battle between
competing special interests, including political parties, budget cutters, entrenched state
regulators and teachers unions." Tom Watkins, state school superintendent, who hadn't been
on the job for very long had been mandated to bring the hodge-podge to a cohesive whole
and present a program which would raise the level of the whole system. In the nine-page
paper, he called for a bipartisan review of current school district sizes, boundaries and
expenditures — along with a study to determine how much money it truly costs to educate a
child in Michigan. He needed to plot a baseline in order to prepare cogent goals and
objectives. His recommendations did not conform with the sights of the power structure
since they interfered with the status quo. He stepped on too many toes. He became the
target in their cross hairs. He got shot down. He was pressured to resign. He crossed
both the governor and the unions. Rigor mortis was preferable.
It has already been announced that a mission statement and a top priority for a new school
chief would be to shake up public education. This is the very reason why the last one
was unceremoniously fired. Everyone is aware that any move by anyone to present much
needed revolutionary conviction, opinion, conception, principle or attempt to raise the
standards beyond their present low level would find TNT under his britches and a number of
groups waiting in line to determine who will light the fuse.. The first in line will be
the teachers union from whom he would get his basic marching orders.
The state board of education is an ambiguous, redundant, obscure, weak, ill-defined,
incapable bureaucracy. Its members are elected, ill-equipped and unprepared. It has no
real justification for its existence and needs to be abolished. But just try to eliminate
a department from a governmental chart of operations.
In Michigan a way has been found to meet the No Child Left Behind goals. In recent Michigan
Education Assessment Program writing tests it was found that the 4th and 7th graders fell
well below expectations. According to news reports the MEAP office has pulled back the
results of the writing tests taken in those grades until officials can figure out a way to
prop up those tests.
They are working to revise the scoring scale so that the results are statistically
comparable to past scores. In other words, cheat. No one has bored into the real heart of
the problem. The classroom itself.
There is no real focus in public education to just sit down and use the schools to do nothing
more than teach the subjects necessary to prepare children for the road ahead. Maybe it's
time now to close the loop and bring back McGuffey's Reader. It might be able to clean up the debris. Schools like rubber bands can be stretched too far. They are into everything in
the life of the child and neglecting the justification for their existence.
Our present education is like the plot in today's TV and movie dramas - Smother it with
special effects and everyone will lose sight of the plot. By doing this you can screw up
the plot and the mesmerized will never notice the difference.
George M. Haddad has a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Social Administration with extensive work experience with the mentally ill. He is a World War II veteran having served in the Infantry; Interpreter of the French language; Interrogator in Technical Intelligence and Sgt.-Major of a Separation Center. Also the former Executive Director - National Institute for Burn Medicine - affiliated with the University of Michigan. He is retired from the National Staff of the YMCA as a troubleshooter in financial management and administration and has worked as a management consultant to non-profit corporations. He has written frequently on medical, social and political issues and has many published articles to his credit. He currently writes from Franklin, Michigan and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org