There are those who say our educational system is in need of an overhaul. I disagree, an overhaul is much too kind, it 'assumes' that the 'engine' can be repaird to 'LIKE NEW!' condition.
I've had a beef with schools not teaching anything useful for a while now (Florida and New York equally guilty on this count). By way of a high level overview, let me briefly review some of the assignments my sons have been given over the past five years:
1. Write a report on how you would spend $1 million dollars. You can't give it away, but you must spend all of it on goods or services. Detail what you spend by category, and create a binder with pictures of the goods and services you would purchase. Wouldn't it be better to learn how to make $1 million, or at least invest $1 million to make more money instead of having nothing left?
2. Create a 3-D model of the Castillo de San Marco (the ‘old fort’ circa 1675 in St. Augustine, Florida) out of sugar cubes. Not only did it have to look like the Castillo, but it also had to be in proper design ratio. History of the fort did not need to be included in the assignment. Why let history get in the way of a history class? For future reference, when you use glue to cement sugar cubes together, the sugar cubes don't taste so good anymore.
3. Create a doll of yourself as a baby. The doll should be of the same size and weight that you were when you were born. For this project my wife stuffed rice into one of her favorite stockings and created ‘Baby Boy #2’. Luckily she knew how to sew, so we narrowly escaped having to take our ‘baby’ to the store to try on clothes.
How would that conversation have gone? (Dream Sequence Warning in: 3, 2, 1...)
Begin Dream Sequence:
Us, “Yes, could you please direct us to the children’s department?”
Store employee, “Sure, it’s right over there next to the men’s department. How old is your baby?”
Us, “Well this is not really our baby.
”Employee, “Whose baby is it?”
Us, “It’s not really a baby, see, it’s a stocking stuffed with rice with yarn hair and magic marker features drawn on it. Now we have to dress it before it goes to school.”
Employee, “Yeah, I see that. Do you expect it (him) to do well in school?”
Us, “We’re cautiously optimistic….. It’s public school you know.”
Dream Sequence Ends...
So now we're in New York. I'm attaching a copy of a homework assignment for your assessment of the state of education. The next section is the actual assignment. The last section is my version of the response, and was not turned in to the teacher. The course is Language Arts (didn’t we used to call it ‘English’?)
I could have overlooked the fact the assignment just ticks me off ("go ahead, prove you have no value - and by the way, leave your family imprisoned on the boat, think only about yourself"), but the grammatical errors were the ones that sent me over the edge.
Remember, this is Language Arts (English) after all! Perhaps it's the 'Abstract' Art of Language course where you are not constrained to having verb agreement and spelling consistent with what used to be 'normal conventions' of grammar. Granted, I'm not a literary genius, but I'm not TEACHING the subject either...
While my son did turn in his own version of the homework assignment (he is a good boy after all), I had to have fun with it. Following, you will find the actual assignment (please keep in mind that this was written by the person teaching, and grading, my son in Language Arts…..)
Creative Story Scenario
You are living on a large island with your family. War has broke out. Soldiers with rifles are running about ordering everyone into their homes to seek shelter. As your family camps inside the walls of your home, gunfire and close-ranges explosions are heard. You hear people screaming as enemy soldiers kick in their house doors.
Suddenly, your front door bursts open. Instead of being immediately shot, your family is taken captive and hauled aboard the enemy U-boat (submarine) headed for Norway. You’re thrown into a filthy cell, a part from your family. The only items you have with you are your pen and journal, safely tucked into your cargo pocket of your pants. The only way you will escape is if you plead your case in letterform to the enemy captors about the importance of your release.
Give at least three important reasons why the enemy should release you and what the effects might be if they do not. In your letter be sure to include the reasons(s) you are of no use to the enemy. Don’t forget to be descriptive!
- “War has broke out?” Ever consider having the verb tense match up properly? “English – it’s like a second language to me!” Even my spell-checker gagged on this one.
- “running about” Running about what, where, when, how?“
- close-ranges explosions” My personal favorite for no other reason than it just sounds so very ‘dangerous’“
- front door bursts open” Actually, wouldn’t the door ‘burst in’? I say this because earlier, the author references the fact that the soldiers are busily kicking “in their doors”.
- “a part from your family” In this instance, wouldn’t it be ‘apart’? What ‘part’ is she talking about? Get your hands off my son's 'parts'!
- “you are of no use to the enemy.” Wouldn’t it be ‘reason(s) that you are of no use to the enemy”?
- Wouldn’t it be more true that this teacher is of ‘no use’ to my son?
Dad's version of what SHOULD HAVE BEEN turned in for the assignment...
October 18, 2007
To Whom It May Concern:
It has come to my attention that you intend on taking my sorry rump to Norway (a country apparently known world-wide for its penchant for kidnapping children and families in the dead of night). I am writing this letter to you because I feel it would be a mistake for you to take me on the sub for many reasons.
For the purpose of brevity, I’ve listed the top five here:
First, I have terrible gas. Not terrible like “Oh I lost my favorite pen ‘terrible’, but more like ‘weapons-grade terrible’; terrible as in “President Hillary” terrible.) Given the fine cuisine you’ve been feeding me, my little backside will be blowing out bulkheads in this tub long before we get to dry land. If you want to die, keep me on this boat. I promise you that although I may be small, my stink is huge. Ever hear of the movie, “A Mighty Wind”? That was about me.
Second, I am afraid of being alone in small dark areas. You'd be much better off with a T-Rex on the boat than with me having one of my ‘night terrors’ episodes. I sob loud, I sob hard, and I sob often. My tears will weigh down the bow of this sub and send us all straight to Davey Jones’s locker. Again, put me off if you want to live.
Third, I am small and not very strong. If you are expecting me to pull my own weight – you’re dreaming. I let my little brother do the heavy-lifting around the house. He is compact, yet powerful (My Dad says that he is ‘strong like bull, smart like tractor’). Unfortunately for you, he is even ‘gas-ier’ than I am. Nonetheless, you may want to consider keeping him instead of me. But, on the other hand, you may want to put him off also, because he eats as much as a grown man. If he stays on the boat, you’ll run out of food somewhere around Greenland, and once again, you will die.
Fourth and perhaps most importantly for you…… I have just come back from a remote section of China and have a wicked cough and fever. I’m not sure, but I think they called it ‘BARS’ or ‘CARS’ (or something like that). I’m not sure if it is something that’s easily spread, but just to be sure, you’ll probably want to wash your hands extremely well as I have just sneezed on this paper and I am using my own mucous as ink. I’m telling you again, stop the boat, let me, and my family, off at the nearest US Coast Guard Station.
Fifth, while we’re visiting the Coast Guard, turn yourselves in because the U. S. A. does not mess around with malcontents like you.
Have a great day! (Oh, sorry, I sneezed on this again.)
p.s.: I lied about my little brother. He eats twice as much as a grown man. Good luck Nordic dirtbags…….