Friday, September 14, 2007

A Plethora of Politicians

I will admit that I am sick of politicians. Nancy, Gavin, Rudy, Fred, Hillary, Barack--their words run together. They are either for the War in Iraq or they're not. Undocumented immigrants are either victims or criminals. Earth is getting hotter or it's not. America is the Savior of the World or it's not. We're in a Health Care Crisis or we're not.

Hubs loves to listen to the Talking Head on Fox and listen to them on the radio. I leave the room.

This summer I had a chance to really talk with a teacher in the trenches. Because she was a first grade teacher, she had 20 kids in her classroom. Of the 20 she started with, three remained in her class at the end of the year. The other 17 were transfers. One of her temporary students was in three different schools in two different school districts during the year. The teacher is fluent in Spanish and was helping a Spanish-speaking parent of a different student fill out some paperwork. She spelled the name of the school, using the Spanish names for the letters. The parent didn't recognize the name for the letter "Y."

How can parents help their children with their homework if the parents can't read?

Another teacher I know, a math teacher at the high school that serves the same area as the first grade teacher, acknowledges the problem. How do you teach geometry to kids who are reading at the third grade level?

And yet, in the Central Valley, children of the Hmong, who have no written language at all, excel. They excel, in part, because their parents realize education is important and because their children work hard so they are not a disgrace to their family and their community.

The teachers I know complain about having to "teach to the test." On the other hand, I've read job applications and interviewed high school graduates whose applications were illegible, misspelled, and incorrect. How do we enforce standards without "teaching to the test"?

The California Teachers Association has begun running ads stressing that academic excellence is a partnership among students, parents, and teachers. Students have to study. Parents have to be involved and make sure their children have a time and place to study where distractions are at a minimum. The ads don't really say what the teacher's job is. I guess that's implied.

Of course, Nancy, Gavin, Rudy, et al, have their theories. Most involve money. Most imply a "one size fits all" solution. But the difficulties facing Hmong students in the Central Valley are different from those faced by Latino students in San Pablo or the African-American kids in Oakland. And these African-American students have different problems than the African-American students in the Mississippi Delta.

And that's just Education. Imagine trying to find--or trying to pretend to find--a "one size" solution for the problems of health care, housing, food, employment.

Assuming, of course, that those areas are problems. Let's face it--if there are no problems, then there is no need for politicians.

Just think: what if we actually had a politician who was willing to stand up and say, "This is your problem, not the government's. It's up to you to solve it."

Previously, I wouldn't have to think about the primary until June. But the State Legislature--who can't seem to figure out how to get a major bridge repaired--have decided that June is too late and that California does not receive its due as the Most Populous State. So they moved the primary election to February. As did several other states. Because they didn't want to be left out, either.

Talk to me after Christmas. Better, after New Year, when I may have time between high school and college finals and before Girl Scout Cookie Sales to pay attention. Assuming, of course, that the politicians have anything serious to say.