Saturday, November 15, 2008

Actions speak.

I know I've not been a very active participant in the edublogosphere of late. Life takes over sometimes. We edubloggers write a lot about how schools must change, shift, engage, integrate technology, project-based learning, 21st century literacy, authentic learning....
I don't think I've read too much, though, on the teacher blogs I frequent, about the other things that our schools are modeling.  I'm thinking about the way we live. 

Here's what's on my mind:
•We teach about Earth Day and "REDUCE*REUSE*RECYCLE" while we go through more copy paper than ever. My particular school is selling reusable bags as a fundraiser. We claim that we're "going green" but we don't even recycle at the school. The student council has vowed to take this on as their project this year, as we have to hire a private company in order to get our recyclables picked up. My fingers are crossed. It would be a step in the right direction.
•We just observed "Red Ribbon Day" where students are taught to SAY NO TO DRUGS, and yet the ranks of students on ritalin or adderall increase daily. I know I'm treading on dangerous ground here. We Americans do not like anyone questioning our pharmaceuticals. We had a doctor come speak to our faculty last year about how these ADHD drugs are saving children. It's all very compelling. What no one can answer for me is this- Why do so many children now seem to "need" drugs in order to succeed in school? I've been disturbed by this for quite a while now, and I feel alone in my concerns. I happen to work at a school that, as a private school, does not have to find ways to adapt to the needs of students. Either the students adapt (often through altering brain chemistry) or find another school. 
This has now gotten personal for me, as my 4 year old, pre-K son, is showing signs of impulsive behavior, inability to conform to the group. The pressure has been tremendous. For years now, I've been pushed to "take him to a doctor to be evaluated." I already know that he will be diagnosed with ADHD (I've seen the checklists they use, and he meets plenty of the criteria). The doctor who spoke to our faculty, when asked about alternatives to drugs, told us that she's seen all the alternatives tried and nothing works. Only drugs. Miracle drugs. 
Which brings me to my next point-
•We "teach" students about the human body and good nutrition. We reward them with sweet treats and junk food. Our school lunches are salty, cheesy, fatty, junky. Our school serves ice cream on Fridays, and it's not even real ice cream (that would be too expensive.) My son's preschool complains about his impulsive behavior, yet for snack they serve doughnuts, saltine crackers, graham crackers, junk. He often gets a piece of candy for cleaning up. Their "cooking projects" often involve sugar, artificial sweeteners, colors, etc. They did start a weekly fruit basket where parents donate fruit for snack each week (as it is too expensive for the school to provide on a regular basis) and for this I am very grateful. 
What's gone wrong here?
I am not blaming. I think we are all at fault. It's really hard, as a parent, to take a stand. I'm guilty, too. Our society wants the quick fix.

I'm really concerned, not just with HOW we're teaching our children, but with WHAT we are teaching them by the way we live.