Hey Parents! Guess What Your Children Are Thinking? Nothing.

Posted: November 26, 2012 in From Student to Teacher
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Many years ago, after having my fourth child, while living in an often overlooked state known as Rhode Island, I hustled  waited tables in a restaurant and eventually had the enviable task of training new take out employees.  They were usually teenage girls, incessant gum poppers, with too much gel in their hair (a Rhode Island thing).

I’ve forgotten many things about my time there, but what really struck me was that these employees didn’t have the slightest idea how to count change.

It’s fairly simple really.  It involves beginning with the lowest monetary value, which is the penny.  So, if a patron bought a slice of cheesecake for $2.84 with tax, and he gave her a $5.00 bill, then the cashier/take out girl would start with the pennies and slide out one penny, then a nickel, then a dime, and work her way upward to the five dollar bill.  Seems simple, yes?  It is.  I tried to train them NOT to depend upon the cash register to tell them the amount of money to return to the customer, primarily because it made for much better accuracy for everyone involved.

You would think I was asking them to perform delicate spinal surgery on their grandmothers.

The bottom line is technology has turned all of us into self-gratifying, spoiled little darlings, but the ones it has really done the most damage to is the young generations.

I used to spend hours in the dungeons of the Brooklyn Public Library where they stored the microfiche machines to do research.  I will never forget the power of the book, Night, by Elie Wiesel.  In my little slice of life, I had never heard of such atrocities as the ones he describes.  Consequently, I did my senior thesis on the book, as well as one other.  I felt consumed by the flames, certain that in another life I must have been a victim of the Holocaust, because the horror resonated so deeply within my soul.

Anyway, I spent hours on Saturdays down there, lost in a world I had never known existed at one time in another place.  I love libraries.  They are home for me, the smell, the dust, the knowledge of all the pages contained in such a place, comforting and warm.

Teachers, ask your students today to do a research paper and where do they immediately go as soon as you enter the “media center?”

1. Wikipedia

2. Google

3. The teacher, to tell him/her, “I couldn’t find nothing.”

Ahh, yes.  Nothing.

It would take thousands of words to try to express the gut-twisting frustrations I have felt HUNDREDS of times, as I have heard the very same words from teenage mouths who hail from all walks of life.  Unless it slapped them on the forehead, leaving a dull red impression, the research I wanted them to uncover simply didn’t exist.

My point?

Students today scare me.  The ramifications of the children raised in this dysfunctional education system over the last thirty or so years is stark and frightening.  The small numbers of children whose parents demanded more, expected more, and pushed them for more is just not enough to counter the millions of kids who grew up expecting life to be handed to them.

The teachers they like the most are the ones whose study guides are the actual test and they’re all getting A’s.  The only advanced classes they take are the ones that will get them into the best college, which will get them the best job, which will provide them with the expected lifestyle, where they will live the inevitable meaningless, superficial consumer-crazed lives that everyone wants in America.

When I asked them to think and eliminated the option to cheat, do you want to know what happened?

They froze.  They became afraid but covered it up well.  Then they began to scheme and tell mom a different tale, shed a tear or two about how “hard” the teacher is, how much “work” they’re getting, how “stressed out” they are.

Then they slide into their seats the next day or week, certain things will be taken care of, get their restroom passes per class so they can take another swig of vodka, with a Xanax chaser and make it through another day.

As our nation is embroiled in battles over standardized testing, teacher merit pay, charter schools, funding, or the lack of, I wonder why nobody is asking what the students think.  At my former school in Chapel Hill, the superintendent meets regularly with a student council to try to improve education, and the local paper reported some of their comments in the meeting.  Their comments ranged from student apathy to “our parents have no idea how good we are at lying.”  They claim to only take advanced placement classes to look good for colleges, and that they really don’t care about the learning.

Encouraging.

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