Dept. of Alternative Facts: Learn to Learn

To learn (v): to acquire knowledge or skill; to become informed

National politics are easy targets for protesting.  News reports of national issues are abundant.  News organizations have a limited number of reports.  Thus, chasing presidential tweets and congressional foibles is where they can put their resources.  These can be reported to national audiences, rather than chasing down 50 states worth of questions or thousands of local communities.  But, local debates can beg questions that should be explored and exposed.

School boards are breeding grounds for controversy, but hardly national news (though educations has as much implication for our national discourse as it does for the schools down the road).  School budgets are always a few (hundred) thousand dollars short of the obligations and ambitions of the boards, principals, teachers, and students.  Learning sometimes gets lost in the process.

Our county school boards (covering two sets of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, with around 1000 students in all six schools) has been debating how to make up a deficit by changing classroom size and/or laying off teachers or not filling positioned filled by retirement or relocation.  The following two letters to the editor were written by students regarding some of the proposals.  I followed up with a cautionary letter.

Dear Editor

I can surely understand the financial struggles the Board of Education are experiencing, but cutting programs that students depend on just appears unreasonable.  Science is a major curriculum that we — as M. High School students — need to reach the pinnacle of public education.  The lives and futures of numerous amounts of students who plan to take some of the courses, such as Physics, AP Chemistry, and Forensics, will suffer significantly. To those students whose High School careers was structured so that they could become an Engineer at …. University, will be stuck in such a predicament, there would be no choice but to either transfer to another school, or to completely change their subject of emphasis  The incredible teachers have been instructing the younger students to that point that they are surpassing expectations made by the State itself.  The improvement we make annually on the test scores show that students truly care about Science.  If the Board of Education does indeed go through the funding drawbacks that have become essential to proceed with further education development, then our test scores will certainly decline to the point of nauseating.

These Science teachers already exert more than the necessary amount of vitality to show us why we are the best school in the nation, but if there are only two teachers full time, then regression is sure to occur, because that with limited educators, more students will be neglected additional assistance.  This is because the class sizes will see a steep incline from about 17 students to 30 students.  The teachers that are reluctant to leave are facing the responsibility of more students beyond their pay.  There has to be some kind of alternative to fix the funding concerns, such as removing one of the two teachers to teach Agricultural classes.

Thank you for your consideration, A.S.

Dear Editor,

Science is the role to get good education for the future goals and science is in need for those who have science related future plan.  Science teaches you how to think analytically and how to apply theories in reality.  I want to be a pediatrician.  That is my future.  That is what I want to become because I love working with children and I love to keep the children healthy.  A good pediatrician.  To become what I want to be this is where it really begins.  To be a pediatrician I need to take basic science classes (biology, chemistry and physics).  If I do not take physics class in high school it is going to be difficult for me when I go to college.  And having a large class would have an effect on a students grade because it’s not going to be easier for the teacher, the students and the teachers can’t work one-on-one because when there is a big class it doesn’t give the teacher opportunity to customize instruction and guidance, and student won’t receive their instruction because the students attention will be divided.  We need small classes because we can focus on learning and have opportunities to participate.  There are a lot of reasons why we need small classes so that the students get better grades and better perform in their education

H. H.

Dear Editor,

I commend A. S. and H. H. for their Letters to the Editor regarding the potential effects of decisions which the Board of Education will be making to balance the county school’s budgets. I agree that any decision will affect some group of students. I agree that science classes and Advance Placement classes will be more difficult if these are offered less often or consolidated thereby increasing the class size.

However, I am concerned about the implication in Mr. S.’s letter that Agricultural classes are less important and therefore should reduce their faculty allocation. This is a false conflict, based on the assumption that science classes are college-prep and agriculture is a vocational class. Pitting science, arts, agriculture, sports programs, special needs or alternative classes against each other divides students, rather than acknowledging that a well-educated student needs all of these.

Agriculture students need to understand physics, just as engineering students need physics. Weight-bearing loads, gravitational forces, wind velocities, temperature tolerances have as much to do with avoiding soil compaction and erosion, as they do to keeping buildings and bridges from toppling. Electrical currents, computer applications, and digitalization have as much to do with keeping farm equipment running and selling food products at local and world markets, as they do with designing software or working a digitized health care system with advance imaging studies and electronic medical records. Chemistry and bacteriology have as much to do with soil health, thus healthy food, as they do with healthy children.

Without farmers, society could not live in the urban and suburban environments in which many engineers and physicians work. Furthermore, many of the ag-students, and FFA members, will be going to college for advance education, just as those who desire to pursue careers in engineering and health care.

Rather, I advocate that the role of education, high school and college level is to learn to learn. I have a career in occupational therapy because I went to college, completing a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in OT. But, during each of those educational experiences, which included a lot of health sciences, I chose to also take classes in art history and theatre. These were beyond my basic liberal arts required classes. I enjoy these leisure activities as much as my career related activities.

Furthermore, learning to learn has given me and my wife many opportunities since we have moved to Hardy County over a decade ago. We have learned to grow and put up our own food, butcher hogs, milk goats, make cheese, collect eggs, etc. We have learned these because we spent time with our neighbors, who are farmers.

I admire Ms. H. and Mr. S. for their ambition to learn and advance their knowledge. Education is not a zero-sum game in which one student wins because another looses. We all benefit from everyone developing a passion for knowledge and willingness to apply her or his skills.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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10 Responses to Dept. of Alternative Facts: Learn to Learn

  1. I think that’s a great letter you wrote in response to the students – must be because I agree!

    • hermitsdoor says:

      I’m glad that you agree. I am more pleased when someone who disagrees can also voice an opinion and we can have a civil debate on a topic. Enjoy learning something today.

  2. Laurie Graves says:

    Such food for thought, all three! Cutting one thing in favor of another always involves a loss, and we never want to part with what we love. My response? The money is out there. Get it from those who can well afford it, and stop letting them off the tax-paying hook. On NPR this morning, there was an excellent piece about a book called “Dream Hoarders” by Richard Reeves. If you haven’t listened, here’s the link. http://www.npr.org/2017/05/31/530843665/blame-the-top-20-percent-not-the-1-percent-author-argues

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Thanks for the link to the NPR piece. One of the issues in the school board budget, which I did not re-hash in my letter as this is regulary brought up at the school board meetings, is that most of the deficit has occured because WV Medicaid has not reimbursed the districts for $400,000 of therapy services provided by the schools. The federal government requires these services be provided to schools, but the state Medicaid program is supposed to pay the bill. They drag their feet. The board is caught in the red and has to decide how to cut that amount out of operating expenses. These situations make me skeptical about the ability of government to manage the glorious programs they politicians legislate.

      • Laurie Graves says:

        They could be managed well if there was a will to do so. But then that would mean government can indeed be of some use, and we can’t have people thinking that, can we? Then, people might start demanding other services. Very bad for those at the top.

      • hermitsdoor says:

        I’m reading an interview, in which the speaker asserts (and backs up with some examples) about how many social, grass-roots movements are co-opted by social elites (aka wealthy and/or powerful within business & government), with the effect that the “cause” is there by name, but the action is diluted in a way that does not threaten those in control. I suspect that this is what Bernie Sanders was (is) talking about. The office of the president certain seems to be there currently (don’t get me started!).

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Yes, yes!

  3. The Vicar says:

    These computers and the internet weren’t around when you and I went to school. How did you ever learn to write a blog? 🙂

  4. Lavinia Ross says:

    Your letter is a great response. Thank you for sharing that!

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