Sunday, August 4, 2019

Dear M. School Superintendent:

Dear M. School Superintendent:

As the parent of a tenth grader who goes to your high school, I happened to notice, with some alarm, that my son's history textbook was published in 1491, exactly one year before Christopher Columbus discovered America, and approximately 550 years before anyone realized that Columbus was quite a despicable character.

I am also unhappy about the fact that my son's biology textbook was published in 1860, and yet somehow fails to make any reference at all to Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, published one year previous.  That strikes me as a squandered opportunity.

I find this a shameful state of affairs, esp. when I think of the millions recently spent on sports. We now have more soccer fields than we have soccer players.  We have a state-of-the-art weight room, multiple gymnasiums... But none of that changes the fact that the ratio of Olympic hopefuls to ordinary students in this town remains 887/.05.

Even if the millions spent on sports could raise those numbers to 500:3, is this really an accurate reflection of our academic priorities?  

My son tells me that the computers at the high school are so old, the operating system involves a bolt of lightening and a key.

And while I can sort of wrap my mind around why the public schools no longer teach kids how to write in script such that a 15-year-old might know how to write his signature, I do hate to think of a grown person in 2025 viewing an original, hand-written manuscript from the 19th Century as though it were hieroglyphics.

Here is my primary point:

I had the expectation that my son's teachers would be able to write with approximately correct grammar and approximately logical syntax, within a 28% margin of error.

However, the writing that I have seen from your faculty does not quite rise to that low water mark.

Here, an example:

"While Gods [sic] for many religions is an essential component to their beliefs, (especially Western religions) this is not always the case."

First of all, "Gods," as a general plural noun, should not be capitalized.

Secondly, "is" should be "are," in agreement with the plural subject (gods).

Thirdly, religions are not sentient, ergo, they do not have beliefs.  (In this respect, western religions are no exception.)

I have read similarly strangled efforts to write by my son's ___ teacher.  

Here is what troubles me:

My son reads these sentences, fails to apprehend their meaning, and interprets that failure as his own.

Given my son's general respect for adults in positions of authority, and cloaked as those adults are in the vestments of education, my son of course would assume that what his teachers write must be sound and well reasoned.

This leap of faith becomes a liability on two fronts:

First, he absorbs the absence of understanding as his own failing.

Second, he absorbs the poor grammar and syntax as exemplified into lessons he will carry forward in his own writing. (Oh, no!)

For learners, this is disastrous.  A teacher's failure to communicate poses a solid obstacle to learning.

Since the start of this letter, I have been informed that the new biology textbooks were published in 2007, and the computer lab has been updated to Windows 7.  Hurrah!  This is wonderful, and I applaud you for it.

However, my son's summer assignment for ___ continues to reflect an appallingly low level of writing. Could we not direct some of the resources poured into preparing our kids for careers as professional athletes toward raising our general standards and expectations for communicating with words?


Thank you.


Disgruntled Mom

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