I read in the paper this morning that Texas is going to start rating pre-schools. Pre-schools! It says the reason that they’re doing this is so that they can “boost the odds that children will enter kindergarten ready to learn.” There will be a test: The Texas Primary Reading Inventory. Children will be graded on a 1 to 5 scale on “social skills.”
You’ve got to be kidding.
My pre-school was my mom reading Green Eggs & Ham to me, my dad trying to teach me to hit a wiffle ball left-handed so I’d have the extra step to first base, and playing whatever with Julie & Jeff next door.
I went to kindergarten and all I remember about that was that Mrs. Kelly, my teacher, was a good friend of my mom’s and would take the entire class home in her station wagon. I don’t remember it, but my mom swears that I told the entire class during Show ‘N Tell that she and my dad “slept naked.” When my mom denied such, Mrs. Kelly didn’t believe her.
In first grade I learned that first-grade teachers can be pretty when you’re six. I have zero recollection of Mrs. O’Donnell, or whether or not she was pretty, but I was six and she was probably about a year out of college.
In second grade Mrs. Kuzmickey, who seemed like she was 100, played a keyboard that had a footpedal that she’d have to pump like and accordian and we’d sing. We also got to watch The Electric Company on selected days.
In third grade I learned that Katie would lift up her shirt if we’d give her a baseball card, which she was collecting for her older brother. Mrs. Wingate put a stop to that playground behavior and we all got lectured.
In fourth grade I learned that you could not get away with writing your name on the freshly painted bathroom stall with your fingernail and blame it on Brent Beck (who wasn’t even there that day). Mrs. Jones was no C.S.I. agent but managed to do enough detective work to figure it out and arrange a meeting with my parents…who paid to have the stall repainted.
In fifth grade I learned that if you get a haircut due to some problems with grade-management (the deal with my folks was that as long as my attitude was good and my grades were good, I could wear my hair like I wanted to), the kids will make a lot of jokes at your expense when you went home looking like 1971 Beatle and came to school the next morning looking like you’d just joined the military, and Mrs. Lewis wouldn’t do anything to stop it.
In sixth grade I learned that Mrs. Knight would give out demerits at the slightest provocation but if you zipped through the self-directed reading program she’d erase one or two to make sure you didn’t get an “unsatisfactory” in conduct. She was also pretty excited when her students made up the final top-5 in the 6th grade spelling bee.
In seventh grade, I learned that Angie Mahon would kiss you if you asked her to dance at the one dance our school had for middle schoolers (which was actually on the elementary school property) and that Mr. Smith, the basketball coach, would make you run suicides when he found out you kissed Angie Mahon at the one dance our school had for middle schoolers. Mrs. Moore wouldn’t tolerate the fake fall-over in the chair, either. You’d have to stand at the whiteboard with your nose in the circle for that one.
In eighth grade, I learned that Mrs. Brooks was the coolest teacher ever and her husband would manage to get me a ticket to Auburn football games after my dad died that year. Mr. Crittenden somehow got a copy of the Zapruder film and introduced me to conspiracy theories. Mrs. McCord was a great French teacher but she broke down and cried a lot in class the 2nd semester after her husband divorced her.
In 9th grade, I learned that homeroom was the best time of the day, because Kim Markovich was in there…and that Greg Lozano (who I later roomed with at college for a year and was fraternity brothers with) would sometimes pass out because he was hypoglycemic and never kept up with his diet like he was supposed to. I also learned that if you cut the nose off a fetal pig and your friend put it in with the mushrooms at the lunchroom salad bar that the school frowns heavily on health code violations.
In 10th grade, I learned that if you’re biology lab partners with your best friend Hal, and you’re cutting up in class, and Mrs. Lysinger calls on your best friend because of that, that you’ll get sent to the office for howling uncontrollably with laughter when he’s asked to list one of the three types of twins, and he responds with “fraternal…ummm…and, well…ummm…lemme see, identical…and, ummm…well…MINNESOTA!” I also learned Mr. McBay will give you two licks for that little incident. I remember that our 3rd Musketeer, Jimmy Baker, could deliver a dead-on impression of Mr. Crawford: “Jimmy Barker and Brent McKinstrey, don’t you be so asinine in my classroom. And if you don’t know what it means, look it up.” Which we promptly did together, creating more asinine behavior.
In 11th grade, I learned that it was good to have Beth Killette as a chemistry lab partner because she took it seriously and was terribly pretty to boot. She also thought me and Dale Cox were funny when we hooked up the Bunsen burner to the water instead of the gas. Beth did the real experiments for which we shared the grade, and we did the experiments that really interested us, usually involving water pressure or gas leaks or overheated chemicals after we’d gotten the results we needed. I also learned that Bobby Bell could have a great idea about putting Icy Hot on typing keys that’s really pretty funny, but when yours and Bobby’s typewriters were the only ones without it, that your parents will get a phone call and that you and Bobby will get to pay for the professionals to clean the keyboards.
In 12th grade, I learned that Mrs. Swindle was the best teacher I ever had and she was peculiar. She wore horn-rimmed glasses hooked to a chain and never used your first name…just the word “scholar.” As in, “Scholar McKinney, will you please compare and contrast your observations of human nature against what you see in Golding’s Lord of the Flies?” I also learned that you never tell your friends that you have a great English teacher and that you love to read and that you love to write and that when you show up at the 10-year reunion, Mrs. Swindle will ask you how come you don’t have a novel published yet. When you tell her why, she said, “Well, Scholar McKinney, frankly, I’d expected that from you. Get on it.” I also learned that prom night really is a ton of fun when you go with your friends and that not winning a baseball state championship that year is still something that sticks with your friends 23 years later.
Finally, I learned that when you get your college degree in 3 years that your principal, upon hearing this news, says, “Wow. Of all the kids who I thought would get their degree first from that class, your name wouldn’t have hit my top 50. Congratulations, though, Brent. That’s good news to start my day with!”
Obviously, I’m minimizing the education that I received.
Yes, I learned a lot along the way. And I got a good education from good people who generally wanted me to learn stuff.
But my point is that this nonsense on stilts about education being a panacea for societal ills is really nothing more than a placebo. And, to start evaluating pre-schools, where a supreme accomplishment should be poking the straw in the juice box hole and throwing away the plastic trash and breaking a freaking graham cracker on the line and lining up and actually sleeping during nap time…
…is even more nonsense on stilts.