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School Daze

A longtime teacher has just about had his fill.

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A good friend of mine teaches at a public high school here in town. (I won't identify him or the school, because nothing will be served by my doing so. Let's just say that he teaches at an institution that has one of the better academic reputations in town.)

He's hard-working and conscientious, dedicated and creative. He's also, after 20 years as a teacher, thinking of getting out. For most of two decades, he watched the majority of the kids grow and learn and blossom. They would become adults who would make the world a better place and would carry with them always that little sliver of what he had taught them in their brief time together.

Things have been changing for the past several years and they seem to be accelerating. "You know how those TV idiots misuse the English language and say things like, 'The polls are trending downward?'" he asks. "Well, that's it with me. In the past, the balance of things was always way over on the positive side. It was a joy to get up in the morning. Now it's not.

"And it's not that I'm getting older or that it's a case of burnout. I still love teaching. No amount of money in the world is worth seeing that look in a kid's eye when they 'get it.'"

He vented for more than an hour the other day, and I'll paraphrase. When he started, it was the teachers, administrators, the vast majority of students and most parents marching in the same direction. The only people heading the other way were a handful of students, one or two unfit parents and the state Legislature populated by morons who wouldn't know real education if it bit them on the tongue they use to lick Bill O'Reilly's ass.

But now, public education is beset on all sides. Kids without discipline and slacker parents all too willing to co-sign their kids' disruptive behavior. Administrators worn down by over-regulation and lawyers looking for a quick buck. Plus, that legislative mindset that somehow managed to survive over the decades despite all those people having their heads planted far up their butts.

"And God save us from the liberals!" he moans. "Do you know that there are judges who get kids before them who have committed depraved, violent crimes and the judge gives them the option of going to prison or going to school!

"Hmm, let me see. I can go to school, where I can check out the girls, maybe sell some drugs and intimidate all the good kids with threats of violence, or I can go to prison and maybe have to be somebody's bitch. I think I'll try that school thing."

And you can't discipline these kids. The judge says they have to be in school. You kick them out of class, they're back the next day with an even bigger (screw-you) attitude.

Even worse is the Disabilities Act, a well-intentioned piece of legislation that might just be the most misused law in America. One of the facets of this act is that kids with disabilities must be mainstreamed into public classrooms and, in many cases, teachers are all but forbidden to discipline these kids. This may have been all well and good when discussing the case of, say, a child with epilepsy in a sterile, philosophical environment. But in the real world, it has caused an explosion of legally sanctioned bad behavior.

See, drug use is now classified as a disability. Parents, unwilling to take responsibility when their kids run wild, look for scapegoats and blame society or chemicals in the brain. So their kids get to get high, blow off their class work, show up at school when they want and not listen to anybody in authority. And you'd be surprised at the number of parents who are willing to vehemently argue for their kids' right to be a screw-up.

"Far worse," he adds, "is the whole ADD (the so-called Attention Deficit Disorder) thing. It's literally a made-up name for a mild condition that most of us have at one time or another and we either grow out of it or we learn how to use the excess energy to our advantage. I'd be willing to bet that out of the top 100 minds of the 20th century, 80 or 90 would have been diagnosed with this bogus 'disorder.' It's a phony issue that people have selfishly latched onto and it's having a devastating impact on our classrooms.

"You've got a kid whose mind is all over the place. Teachers can deal with that. Hell, a lot of my favorite students (over the years) have been like that. It's often a pleasant challenge. But the parents don't want anything to do with it, so they medicate the kid. It's an absolute scandal. And remember, there isn't a kid in America who's on Ritalin because of a teacher. It's all parents.

"To make things worse, the Ritalin kids know that they've got a 'Get out of Jail Free' card. I've had kids get right in my face and tell me that they're disabled and their parents will sue if I try to give them homework."

The final straw may have come for him this past week. He's got a kid who only shows up to school every other Friday. When he asked why, the kid shrugged and explained that his mom wants him at home to do stuff for her. The mom had been busted before for keeping her kids out of school and she somehow learned that as long as a kid isn't absent 10 days in a row, she can't get in trouble. "And so he misses nine days and he's here for one and I'm supposed to teach him," he shrugs.

"When I first started teaching, every now and then, I'd get a crap snowball tossed in my direction. Then, they started lobbing it at me by the shovelful. These days, they just back the dump truck up to my classroom door and let loose."

He pauses, then adds, "I'm looking to get out before the avalanche hits."

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