by Pettus Read
Every time I have picked up a newspaper lately, there is a story on the nation's education system's No Child Left Behind program. It seems every story concerns problems with low test scores, county governments fussing about cost or teachers reaching a major point of frustration and making the threat of leaving the classroom behind all together.
The general idea of the No Child Left Behind program may be good, but it seems making it possible has become a major headache. The law's overall purpose is suppose to ensure that children in every classroom around the country enjoy the benefits of well-prepared teachers, research-based curriculums and safe learning environments.
Signed into law in January of 2002, it set into motion a federal government program that affected every public school in the nation. It started off with a blend of new requirements that took a lot of school systems by surprise and continues to have major rippling effects in our education system. Planned to be completed in five years, it currently has placed a lot of classrooms under pressure to make changes so funding can come their way real soon.
Being left behind seemed to be a fear I had during the years I spent in school over forty years ago. I always heard that you did not want to be left behind in school.
I can remember a lot of my friends who got left behind when I got promoted on to the next grade. It was terrible. Many of those same kids today who were told to repeat their classwork another year in the same grade are now retired. Poor things. The sad part is I'm still employed and working everyday to make ends meet, while they are playing golf and traveling. Maybe I was the one who really should have been left behind.
I really appreciate today's teachers and what they have to go through each day. There is no way I would attempt to enter a classroom and spend an entire day with a room full of kids. First of all, today's kids are smarter than me. They are more computer literate, have more energy and have a completely different understanding than me on the term "be quiet."
Second reason I would not go into a classroom is all the paper work a teacher has to do. I wouldn't like to grade papers, fill out class planning information for the administration to file away or do reports on why Little Johnny is failing all his subjects due to parents who had rather blame the teacher than help Johnny at home with his homework.
The teaching profession has never been easy. Take for example these rules from a 1915 teachers contract found in San Diego, California.
1. You will not marry during the term of your contract.
2. You are not to keep company with men.
3. You must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless attending a school function.
4. You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
5. You may not travel beyond the city limits unless you have the permission of the chairman of the (school) board.
6. You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
7. You may not smoke cigarettes.
8. You may not dress in bright colors.
9. You may under no circumstances dye your hair.
10. You must wear at least two petticoats.
11. Your dresses must not be any shorter than two inches above the ankle.
12. To keep the school room neat and clean, you must: sweep the floor at least once daily, scrub the floor at least once a week with hot, soapy water, clean the blackboards at least once a day, and start the fire at 7 a.m. so the room will be warm by 8 a.m.
These were some pretty tough rules for teachers many years ago, but if you take a look at some of the federal law requirements today placed on our modern day teachers and school systems, some of these are very minor. Two different eras of education, but each with their own rules and both trying to accomplish basically the same goals of a good education for our children and no child left behind.
However, in 1915 there probably was a little better job of program reasoning done by those in charge than in today's federal system. But, that's just my opinion.