29 May, 2010

On Education...

I lost count on how many groups I joined and how many pages I "liked" on Facebook. I could honestly say that in general, the types of groups and pages I support falls into four categories: acting/performing, personal growth/development, martial arts/lion/dragon dancing, and Oakland. Yes, Oakland California.

The majority of my Oakland groups on Facebook are alumni related. There are several pages or groups reflecting the high school, jr high school, and elementary school I attended. I never switched schools. The elementary school was my elementary school from K-6 grade. Jr high was 7-9 grade, and high school was 10-12 grade. I switched around like crazy after high school to make up for not switching around. I'm proud of what I learned and who my teachers were over the years in the Oakland Public School system. I am able to read, write, and perform enough mathematics to be able to navigate my way through the annual 1040 forms. (*knock on wood*)

5 years ago, I worked as an academic enrichment mentor for the Oakland Public Schools before the state takeover. Within one academic year, I found myself jaded and determined to send my own kids (WHENEVER I decide to have kids) either overseas to Singapore for school, or home schooled. Teaching students was NOT a priority for the school. Rather it was a priority for a student to show up to school at almost any and all cost. I later learned that the reason was financial. The school receives money from the State of California when students attend the school.

The final straw was when we created a field trip for a group of the highest risk 8th grade students to an alternative high school. This high school won numerous awards and recognition for their innovations of teaching within an urban environment. As an academic enrichment mentor, I was there to create relationships with the high risk students and encourage them to continue on their education and support them on their endeavors. The students we took on this field trip were students whom we spent the majority of time persuading them to attend class and to do the class assignments. When they toured that high school, they were transformed into self-motivated students. We did NOT recognize them. During a visit to an English class, the teacher gave her students their class writing assignment and asked if the "visiting guests from **** Middle School" would like to participate. To my surprise, ALL OF THEM did. We left that school with a stack of applications for our students and their parents to fill out.

Several weeks later shortly before the application deadline. The mentors responsible for the field trip were called into the principal's office. She explained to us that the status of the alternative high school changed from belonging to the Oakland Public Schools to an autonomous charter school. Therefore we had an obligation to maintain attendance for OPS. She then took all the applications filled out by the students and parents and threw them out. They were to attend their default high school. I was in disbelief and attempted to explain how motivated those students were when they were there. The principal assured us that as mentors we did "an excellent" job motivating those students, but we were required to perform "within the guidelines."

I don't know the fate of the students who wanted to attend that alternative high school. I don't know if they continued to the default high school, managed to enter in the alternative high school, went to another school, or dropped out altogether. When the state took over the school district during the following summer, our program was cut and we were no longer able to follow-up on the students. Another year following that, the entire middle school was closed down.

I love Oakland. It is the city where I grew up in. It's where my roots are grown. I have been in the personal growth and development world for the past two years. I really feel that what I've been studying these past two years are missing elements to what SHOULD be taught in the education system: how to manage money, how to make money, how to change your attitude, how to set goals, how to handle adversity, how to achieve goals, how important is is to continue learning, how to effectively listen and communicate, how to value yourself, and did I mention attitude? That's just as important as cramming reading, writing, and mathematics down the students throats. Have you looked at the test scores? The school system isn't even doing a good job of cramming things down the throats of the students apparently. I donated a study course called Thinking Into Results developed by Bob Proctor who was in The Secret to my old high school. All I know was that it was delivered. The more I delve into personal development and human potential, the more I realize how gifted everyone whom I come across really is. The tragedy isn't that we waste our God-given talent, the real tragedy is the fact that we don't realize we had it in our possession in the first place. To me, that is the real purpose of education. The Latin root word educere means "to bring forth what is within." Education not only should create an environment of learning, it needs to create an environment to draw out and develop talent from within. The fallacy of the "No Child Left Behind" is the fact that it depends more on external learning and not much emphasis on developing the inner being of the student.

In times of changes, the learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
-Eric Hoffer

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