Parents want more quality, less quantity in children’s education

08/24/2014 7:00 PM

08/22/2014 6:42 PM

If your child’s first week of school was at all similar to what most South Florida parents experienced, then I sense you sighed with relief when the first weekend of the school year arrived. Last week signaled the beginning of what I call the “wrecking ball routine” again — an interminable “to do” list that will wear down even the strongest of single parents.

I vividly remember when going back to school signaled the annual visit to the mall with my mom where the purchase of two jeans, a couple of dress shirts, a pair of sneakers and a few binders and No. 2 pencils armed me for academic success. I never had any summer reading or writing assignments. I was never asked to prepare for the upcoming school year by working on a project. Time off, especially the summers, used to be priceless both for kids and parents.

In this age of political accountability — where politicians are beholden to statistical evidence that they can in turn regurgitate to their electorate and get reelected — there is never enough time to help your child with all the tasks required of them. My daughter, who has just entered the second grade, usually comes home with a mound of homework accompanied by a slew of demands that require parental participation: She needs to buy and wear a particular T-shirt on Thursday, the Science Club is conducting an experiment and your child has to bring in a bottle of white vinegar on Friday, and on the weekend you need to create a visual rendering of the official state bird and flower of Wyoming.

Have any administrators, School Board members and other elected officials taken into account how difficult it is for parents (particularly single parents) to make ends meet in this stagnant, disparate economy? Because of these unreal expectations, I wonder if those who craft the curriculum reside in the same stratosphere as working parents?

I refrain from blaming teachers for the crazy demands on students because they are merely have to execute these irrational plans. Sadly, the one constant since the days when I was a student in Miami-Dade’s public school system is that teachers continue to be overworked and underpaid.

In this politically schizophrenic city, where residents want better government services but don’t want elected officials to raise taxes, teachers’ compensation packages are not commensurate with the demands placed on them.

Coming home from school for my daughter is much different than what it was when I was a kid. I remember coming home, setting aside my school books, grabbing a ball of some type and heading out to the park to play with my friends and squeezing the most out of the afternoon’s few remaining hours of daylight. Those moments of play with my friends served as time to decompress from the busy school day. It also afforded us neighborhood kids time to dream and imagine things beyond our mundane surroundings. Imagination and socialization were as important in my growth and maturity as math and science.

Most children’s lives today are dominated by rigid routine. The only way that I can help my daughter achieve everything she has to accomplish for school the next day, before her 9 o’clock bedtime, is to develop a strict, disciplined pattern of work and study that I sometimes think is better suited for a North Korean soldier than a 7-year-old American girl.

I don’t think all the repetitive work and drills have made South Florida’s children any smarter — although they are, by the nature of our society being more technologically savvy than previous generations.

I would suggest that parents (who are also registered voters) need to demand more quality than quantity in our children’s education. Our legislators, school board members and administrators need to remember that more homework and more testing doesn’t always equal a well-rounded education.

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