Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our dropout factories aren’t found in schools

The following is a response to an earlier article: "1 in 10 Schools Are 'Dropout Factories'," which you can also access from this blog. It's unfortunate to see the language used in this response, and for parent's "lack of support" being targeted as the cause of student dropout rates. -Patricia

By Chris Lykins | The Gazette-Enterprise

Published November 2, 2007
A national study that branded 1,700 schools in this country as “dropout factories” got a lot of attention from the media this week.

It got a lot of attention here as well, because Seguin High School made the list.

The designation did not sit well with superintendent Irene Garza who said the study ignores students who move to other schools as well as students pulled out for homeschooling or those who go into an alternative program for a GED.

Garza’s not alone. Those criticisms have been common all across the country.

Beyond the study’s numbers — which are so far removed from the Texas Education Agency’s dropout statistics as to render them almost laughable — is the use of mechanical and inflammatory language.

Factory? As if these children are robots, identical mechanisms wheeled in as blameless, perfect creations only to be dented, distorted and destroyed by an educational assembly line.

If there is a “dropout factory” you won’t find it behind the walls of Seguin High School — or any other school in the country.

You’ll find it at home.

If you want to blame the nation’s education system, there are plenty of valid reasons.

It has produced borderline functionally-illiterate students who don’t know where the Pacific Ocean is, can’t balance their own checkbooks and think that Louis Armstrong landed on the moon.

That’s all fair game.

However, over the last few decades it’s become increasingly easy to just heap all of society’s ills at the feet of school districts.

Teen pregnancy, drug abuse, violence and obesity aren’t things created by schools, they are created at home and shipped off every day to become the school district’s problem.

A school district never got a girl pregnant, beat someone to a pulp or drove a group of friends to the lake to get high.

The public education system is not there to be a babysitter, a surrogate parent or a warden, it is there to try and provide the children with the necessary tools and education to become successful adults.

They can’t do it alone — and too often they are being asked to.

The most successful schools are those that have parents involved at every level — and most importantly — parents that support the school’s efforts.

There is nothing more damaging than having a parent constantly undercutting a school.

“Well, I don’t think the teacher likes him” — while ignoring the fact that the kid is a royal pain when he’s at home. What makes you think he’s different from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.?

“Well, if they would spend more time with her she wouldn’t be behind” — while ignoring the fact that she spends two hours on the phone every night talking about the color of lip gloss she plans on wearing tomorrow instead of doing her homework.

Are there bad teachers? Yes.

There are also bad garbage men, bad waiters and waitresses, bad doctors, bad police officers and bad presidents.

If there is a “dropout factory,” it starts in the living rooms and dining rooms of the community’s homes — not in the classrooms at any high school.

It’s time for parents and the rest of us who deal with children on a regular basis to stop making excuses for their failings by blaming our failings on someone else.

It’s time to close the factory.

Chris Lykins is the managing editor of the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise.

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