Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teaching Seniors

"More than ever now, lifelong learning is the key to getting into, and staying in, the middle class."  I read this statement this morning, a sentence found in the brilliant Tom Freidmann's Sunday op-ed column in the NYT while he was opining about a different, but related topic.  It got me to thinking about a vast resource that is almost immediately available to public schools throughout the United States; namely, an army of senior citizens with a massive fund of knowledge to be shared with children simply for the asking.  Senior citizens are literally dying to find something meaningful to do at the end of their lives other than walking the dog or playing innumerable games of golf or sewing or knitting or Twittering or whatever.  Today high school kids graduate, if at all,  when they are barely literate, turned off by an educational system that is failing them every day by  turning public education into a political football, stripping away funding so that activities like band, choir, basketball are simply unavailable or are paid for by the kids themselves or their parents, not to mention failing to teach basic stuff like the three Rs.  Class sizes increase to allow educational costs to neatly fit into a yearly budget that is more concerned with cutting costs than teaching kids.  As an example, Roy Roberts is the governor-appointed czar of the Detroit Public Schools who is a former businessman with no academic credentials and who has been entrusted with the fate of the school system.  One of his 'solutions' is to allow class size in the public schools to increase to 61 kids per classroom.  The absolute guarantee that comes with this kind of thinking is that a total school district of children will be under-educated and under-achieving for their lifetimes!  What a legacy.  What a total waste of young, bright minds.  It is not just Detroit, but this malady is happening throughout the country.  

Last evening I asked one of my granddaughters, a super-bright kid who is a senior in high school at one of the so-called elite schools in Michigan, about her first week of school.  Her answer floored me.  "It's boring."  This what I propose;  A group "Teaching Seniors" consisting of volunteers who are willing to a commit time to spend a school year (or more) as classroom assistants to teachers.   With a minimal effort, appropriate candidates could be identified who could provide an ancillary resource to our current teaching system in terms of one-on-one or small group interaction with students.  By way of example, I know at least thirty or more retired musician-type people who would gladly serve as adjuncts to a school band director in teaching music theory and instrumentation to children.  The same with old high school coaches or former college-level athletes who would have so much to offer kids in terms of time, attention and skills.  An incentive that could be offered to these old fogies could be tax deductions for time spent, but I really do suspect that most of us (note the 'us' as in 'me too') would be thrilled to spend our time doing something meaningful.  I don't ask for return input for my blogs very often, but I really would like to know what you think about this.  Think about it and let me know.  
Just saying . . .

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