Since stepping down from Superintendent work in Jacksonville, I still read the Florida Times Union – just to track the culture and progress of that city. It remains a troubled city with many business, civic and religious leaders who want and deserve a top-notch school system for Jacksonville’s kids and families. Regrettably, the city has too many school board members, politicians, out-of-touch citizens and certain haters from vestiges of charlatan churches and cliques who espouse ill-conceived ideas and hater-type mentalities. This struggling newspaper picks up on sensationalism to help sell papers, while too often abandoning credible and accurate journalism.
Today’s featured Op-Ed is a prime example. The piece entitled “Time to end ‘feel good’ education” that was allowed to be printed, does more to espouse wrong ideas and hater-type mentalities than solve any real issues. Main idea of the piece was that children today communicate only “in short bursts with no regard for grammar or spelling.” This reminded me of the back-in-the-day propaganda from the Jacksonville evangelicals in the 1960s– “Watch out for those boys with long hair. That is a sure sign of illegal drug and marijuana use.” Geez!
During my service on The Commission on Writing for America’s Children and Families, we teamed with Pew Charitable Trust to learn, through disciplined research, keen insights on writing instruction. The most important lesson learned was that we should embrace more-modern genre of writing that kids and now adults engage in. Texting, abbreviated shortcutting, email-protocols, IMs, and the like are part of the new genre. At the same time while embracing this new genre, we can help children discern what is proper and what is not for more formal genre of writing. This is a powerful teaching technique for helping students write even stronger letters to colleges, prospective employers, research reports, novels and the like.
This writer, featured in today’s Florida Times Union reminds me of the citizen who scolded me when we were ratcheting up Duval’s high school graduation requirements so that all kids had a shot at college or a high-wage job. This guy told me, “Joey, why are you doing this? More kids will drop out. And, besides, at the end of the day, somebody has to pick up my trash.” God help us! The haters must stand down and let us do this important work for kids, and help us make education feel good in the process.
Have a great week.