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The epitaph for common sense in education
by David Farside
Jun 19, 2012 | 2304 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Three years ago, under the guise of humor satire and parody, the London Times published an article on their Obituary page mourning the passing of common sense written by Kassie Davidson. She made some good points, poking fun at government regulations, bureaucratic red tape and the Education system.

She claimed the demise of common sense started when overbearing laws and regulations were set in place, especially in education. There is no logical reason, she said, to charge a 6-year-old boy with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, or for educators to suspend teens from school for using mouthwash after having their lunch if common sense prevailed.

Davidson claims common sense “lost ground” when parents started attacking teachers for “doing the job they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.” More ground was lost when the school systems had to get parental consent to give their kids an aspirin; but could not tell parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Although things haven’t changed much since she wrote her column, the responsibility of teachers have increased, absent common sense as evidenced in an E-mail I received from a teacher the other day explaining her job description.

“We expect our teachers to correct disruptive behavior, observe signs of abuse, monitor dress codes and habits, censor T-shirt messages, check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior and then instill in them a love for learning.

We have to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise the students sense of self-esteem and personal pride. We have to teach them how to balance a checkbook, sportsmanship, fair play, patriotism, good citizenship, their civic duty to vote, and how to apply for a job.

Teachers have to provide their students with an equal education regardless of their language barriers, communicate with parents regularly in English, Spanish or any other native language their parents understand by telephone, letter or conferences and still pass their kids on to the next grade level even if they are not totally qualified.”

She ended her letter saying, “ none of this makes sense. Society expects teachers to take on all of this responsibility while teaching with a small piece of chalk, a blackboard, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.”  Of course, she’s right

New York City teachers got some common sense revenge in 2007 with comments they made on report cards. Although all the teachers were reprimanded, in a humorous way, they made their point.

Comments like “ I wouldn’t allow this student to breed, your child has delusions of adequacy and your child is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot”  didn’t seem to resonate well with parents living in the five Burroughs of intellect.

Other jewels of wisdom on report cards read: “If this student was any stupider, he’d have to be watered twice a week, It’s impossible to believe the sperm that created this child beat out 1,000,000 others, and your son sets low personal standards for himself and consistently fails to achieve them” seemed more appropriate on the David Letterman Show than a Report card evaluation.

Last week, it was reported that in 2010,  one-third of Washoe County School District graduates entering the University of Nevada, Reno needed remedial courses in English and math. Even worse, 90 percent of our local graduates attending Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) had to take remedial classes before they could start college credit courses. TMCC must have a higher standard for enrollment than our local university. The numbers show that, although the school district has increased its graduation rate and the percentage of students who enroll in post-secondary education, they’re still not ready for college.

In 2001, President G.W. Bush signed the  No Child Left Behind Act. The legislation was designed to close the achievement gap among students using accountability, flexibility, and choice. But today, fewer students are really prepared for an academic future in technology, medicine, engineering and science.

Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment revealed that out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, far behind the highest scoring countries including, South Korea, Finland and Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China and Canada.

If students in local school districts do not pass basic standardized federal tests or show improvement, federal funding could be reduced. Due to economic priorities; instead of spending more time teaching students the basics of Math, English and Science, which would make sense, we’re teaching them how to work in gas stations, 7-11’s and Burger Kings, gradually chiseling out the epitaph of common sense on the cornerstones of education.

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. He can be contacted at
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