A bunch of middle schoolers will bankrupt Maryland? They can barely make change

March 31, 1996|By Susan Reimer

In a recent column, I wondered aloud at the patient determination of middle-school teachers who daily persist in the education of children whose frustrated parents might rather place them on work farms, to rejoin the family only years later.

I tried to make it clear that I find the age baffling, not an particular child and not the public education system that tries so mightily and against such odds to refine what can be best described as the human version of a litter of puppies.

I said that my son, who excels as an example of the age, is messy, inattentive to his schoolwork and often makes bad choices in the area of nutrition.

If that were not enough to keep a mother awake nights, I learned in a letter from a reader that my son and his friends are also a serious impediment to economic development in Maryland.

Here I am, annoyed because I keep washing the money he leaves in his jeans, and I come to find out Joe is personally responsible for the flight of industry from the state.

In a letter to Gov. Parris Glendening, a copy of which the reader sent to me, she laments the state of public education and holds my son up as an example of its failure.

"As a taxpayer, I am furious that my hard-earned dollars are being spent on the kind of 'education' Mrs. Reimer has described. The product of such teen-age day care certainly will not encourage businesses or industry to locate in Maryland.

"Ask yourself after reading the enclosed column," she wrote to the governor, "would you hire someone like Susan Reimer's son."

Hire Joe? Hire Joe?

Gentle reader, of course no one Joe?

Hire Joe?

Gentle reader, of course no one would hire Joe -- or any of his friends. I don't think that the parents of these children could find anyone else to have lunch with them, let alone give them money for doing a job.

I don't think anyone in this age group could get trash to the curb or letters out of a mailbox without leaving most of it in a trail behind them.

You could tally up all the chores Joe and his buddies complete in a month, and I don't think it would earn any one of them enough for soda out of a machine.

A job?

A job?

Madam Reader, you could not be more right if you had a child this age in public school, which, you say in your letter to the governor, you do not. "Mercifully," is the word you used.

"While I am aware standards are low in many Maryland public schools, I was unaware students were also allowed to eat and smell like pigs," she also wrote.

Objection!

On this point, I must object. Name calling and negative talk is not the kind of example we want to set for our middle schoolers, even if they can belch on demand but have not yet figured out how to set the temperature of a shower by themselves.

And the writer's leap to the conclusion that public schools are the reason middle schoolers are the way they are is one I can not make.

If you had a middle schooler, you would understand that public school is not the cause of this behavior; rather, middle schools are the place we send our children until they outgrow this behavior. Think of it as respite care for parents.

"It is disheartening that neither Mrs. Reimer nor the other parents of students in her son's school condemn a system that is destroying the youth of Maryland. Hopefully others will speak out as I have," the reader writes.

She concludes that she is grateful to me for exposing the corruption and waste in the public education system and that my work will help the world see that school choice and a voucher system are the only hope for our children and the future of our country.

Now there's a concept. School choice as a cure for adolescence.

The theory must be that, in a free-market system, middle schoolers would not choose to be middle schoolers but would choose to be something else, such as volunteers at a nursing home, or polite.

Perhaps we could solve this economic development business and middle-school malaise in one step.

We could lure people to Maryland and pay them great sums of money to civilize this age, or at least to keep an eye on the children until they pass through it.

We could call these people middle-school teachers.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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