Saturday, November 5, 2011

Character, Education, and Money

This morning I read a really good post by Elizabeth Aquino, in her blog "a moon, worn as if it had been a shell."  Her post covered some really intense ground, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to choices in where to educate our children.  I responded to her post, then realized I had just written something I wanted to share on my blog.  So, you'll need to read her post for today, "How to do it when you're 98 years old," to really understand where my response is coming from.  My post starts after the photo below.

The premise that "more money buys a better education" is only true up to the point that money can purchase more or better supplies, technology, buildings and teacher education. But money cannot buy motivation, integrity, commitment, or plain old stick-to-it-ive-ness. Those qualities can be found in any school (public, private, parochial or home). Really, the home environment of the students is just as important as the schools they attend. No "good" school can make up for a lack of guidance, support, commitment, discipline and integrity at home, and no "bad" school can take that away from a student raised to honor those character qualities.

I grew up going to public school, and have a number of teachers in the family. I home schooled our children for 6 years, to better meet our son's needs after his diagnosis with Aspergers. We had our kids return to public school in 2010 when I was burnt out, and our son needed more help than I could give him on my own. If our local public school hadn't had such a positive reputation among special needs parents, we would have pursued private school. I'm currently back at work after 13 years away from teaching - substitute teaching in public school in 8th grade special ed.

I've seen good teachers labor day after day to instill a work ethic and passion for learning in students who weren't raised to care about such things, and who couldn't care less. I've seen teachers with tenure who had no business teaching, through ineptitude, laziness, or bad attitude. I've seen students from well-to-do homes make staggeringly poor choices in spite of good teachers and concerned parents. I've seen students with very difficult home situations thrive in their education through their own inner drive, against great odds.

Money is a tool, like any other, and it can help in education as in any other field of endeavor. But it can't take the place of CHARACTER, for the teachers, administrators, parents or students. I think our whole society is suffering from a character deficit, and no amount of money will fix that problem in any school setting.

For the parents who pay for private school - good for them. Private school is not usually a poor choice for students. But for parents who can't afford or choose not to use private schools - don't feel bad about your educational choice. Invest in what you DO have, with your time, energy, votes, presence, encouragement, and respect.

And a side note: sniffing smarties - what's with that? Some of my students do that. They use powdered candy like pixie sticks too. They say it's to get a sugar buzz. Really??? I think it's just that it LOOKS like doing real drugs, to impress other equally insecure, attention-hungry, immature kids. . . .