I’ve always believed in public schools, even if some conservatives in Florida don’t. I’ve been skeptical of our system of school grading, high stakes testing, and quasi-privatization – ushered in by Bush the Smarter. Now picture me this week: considering the idea of pulling my daughter out of public school. It’s eating me up inside.
So how did I come to this place, just six weeks into my daughter’s first year of middle school? I like to think I’m a little level headed when I need to be. I don’t think I’m prone to rash decisions, lurching from one reaction to another. I know six weeks doesn’t sound like a fair shake, not when so much changes from elementary to middle school. The gist of it is: I think they’ve gone way overboard on homework.
Beth isn’t new to homework. She’s in gifted classes, which sometimes involved quite a bit of homework even in elementary school. We all figured this year would mean more with the leap to middle school, and the special (advanced) program she was starting. The odd thing is, her gifted classes aren’t the ones with the most homework. It’s the regular classes that are loading it up. And Beth isn’t the only one. Other parents tell us stories about their kids (not in the gifted classes) staying up as late as they do, dropping out of all their extracurricular activities, because homework in middle school is all-consuming.
I can’t shake the feeling there’s something very wrong with this picture. Part of me wonders if it’s the funding scheme ‘ole Jeb set up, pitting school against school in a war of FCAT scores. I wonder if there’s a pressure on schools to work students as hard as possible, to gain an advantage over other schools, without regard for wether it’s in the long term interests of the students. I understand homework is important. It’s a fact of life. Most of us have to work, many of us hard at times. In some ways having a lot to do now could be good preparation for later. But does she really need to learn how to cram in an all-nighter at eleven (years old)… in sixth grade? Am I wrong to think my daughter should still have time to be a kid every now and again? At this rate she’ll get her first ulcer before I do. It seems wrong on so many levels I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop typing tonight. Fuck it, I’m not sleeping anyway.
I want to believe the proponents of our current system had the kids’ well-being in mind when they put it together. But you want to know something? I see a system that provides more and more proof the “free market” isn’t a panacea. Not when good students become a means to an end; or for that matter, anything other than THE end.
You want to hear the real kicker? The sales pitch for private middle schools around here always seems to start with: “we make sure our students have no more than x hours of homework every night.“