I got a haircut yesterday. The guy who cuts my hair, Kevin, is from Vietnam. He’s lived in the US for about 18 years. His English is still very broken and he is the most requested in the shop, so we don’t usually talk too much. I’m usually in and out in no time flat. However, yesterday I stopped in during a slow time in the day, so I was the only customer. Because he knows that I’m an assistant principal, we started talking about education and he started sharing with me about his own kids and issues that he has had with their elementary school.
After listening to him, I asked him what school was like where he grew up. This started a conversation that just validated my thoughts that our kids are “fragile.” Here are some of the points that he shared with me.
Misbehavior was not tolerated – Kevin mentioned that if a student was not behaving properly, the student wouldn’t go to the principal’s office, the teacher would just smack them right there in the classroom. WOW! Could you imagine that here in the US?
He said that parents would be appreciative of the discipline and would request that the teacher repeat it if their child was out of line.
He also mentioned that students didn’t fight or bully each other. I find that hard to believe, that NO student ever fought. But many cultures are different. I have no experience here.
Homework – Lots of Homework – There was a ton of homework given each night. He mentioned that he would never have had time to play video games and watch TV because he was always studying and doing work.
I don’t know if I agree with this totally. Research shows that homework needs to be valuable and done correct. Research says that if you practice a skill incorrectly, it is hard to undo what you have formed as a habit. However, maybe we are missing the point of making students responsible to WORK HARD! I know I have had many parents complain about how much homework goes home, and we don’t give a lot!
Maybe if we did give a lot of homework, students wouldn’t have time to play video games and stay up late participating in sports, etc… Should there be a balance? Oh man, this can go so many different ways…
No Calculators – Students were not allowed to use calculators. All Math work was done by hand. They also didn’t have computers. I agree and disagree with this.
I agree because knowing how to work a Math problem by hand will allow you to problem solve. If you make a mistake, you can go back to identify where you made the error and fix it. I believe it builds mental capacity.
I don’t agree with this because if we have modern technology to allow us to work faster, then we should utilize it. The question is, does using technology make us work harder or make us lazier?
High School Final Test – In Vietnam, a high school student has a high school final exam that can cover anything from high school (all four years). The test is 45 minutes long, administered by a teacher from a different school (no cheating) and is not multiple choice. If the high school student doesn’t pass the test, they go straight into the military. There is no summer school or second chances.
That is a lot of pressure, but maybe it prepares students for the rigors of life. Here in Texas, if a student doesn’t pass the state mandated test, after MANY opportunities, they can get a Certificate of Completion from High School. But then they live with their parents while figuring out what they are going to do with their life. I’m cynical – I know.
While I was leaving, the owner, also from Vietnam, told me that she supplements her daughters education with weekly tutoring from Kumon. Her daughter is going into the 2nd grade and is already doing 3rd grade Math. She mentioned that her daughter does more homework for Kumon than she does for the school.
Again, I work for the school district, in an elementary school setting. I know that we have a good program already…and I’m not just saying that because I work for the district. Our school district is rated very high. However, maybe we aren’t working students hard enough?
There are a lot of issues with our education system. Many people will compare us to other nations and point out that we are behind, etc… One of the things to remember is that we educate EVERY student! Every student has the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). That is not true in many countries. In other countries, if a student is misbehaving, they might be kicked out of school and that’s it! Here, in the US, we move them to an alternative campus, etc… Even if a student is convicted of a crime and goes to Juvenile detention, they still get an education according to the law!
Many educators would tell you that the politicians get in the way of our education system. I agree with this. Politicians and big money. I still wish someone would “follow the money” with Pearson! I’m sure we would see some serious mishandling and pay-offs.
Dang, I’m probably on a hit list now! Please remember this post if I’m whacked! 😉
In closing, back to my point, are our students too fragile? We want to give them the best of everything, make sure they have every experience and opportunity, but are we hurting them for the future? In the future, where life won’t be as easy and simple as things have been, look at the economy, prices, etc…, will we have a generation of babies?
What do you think?
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