My son loves helping me do many tasks, but one of his favorite things to assist with around the house is cooking. Now a sixth grader, he has moved past his role as just a helper.
His ever-improving skill set in the kitchen was on full display just the other day. He made the best pot of vegetable soup I’ve ever eaten almost completely by himself, except for dad stepping in to play sous chef when knife work was called for while he peeled the potatoes.
Despite being proud of my son’s success browning the roast, mastery of the mirepoix and accurate measurements of spices and other ingredients, the experience showcased one blatant failure. It was neither by any fault of his or mine. This failure landed squarely on the shoulders of the school system and the state Department of Education.
You see, despite my 11-year-old son being able to master techniques such as a French mirepoix, he couldn’t complete the most basic task of all in a kitchen: reading the recipe.
In his final year before middle school, my son has never failed to make the honor roll, has a vocabulary that is far above his grade level, can work simple algebraic equations but is still partially illiterate. Out of all the great accomplishments of our school system, which by the way are many, they have failed to teach our children how to read the written word unless it is printed. What good are all those accomplishments if a child has to have everything from recipes to Christmas cards translated to them as if they were written in a foreign language because they can’t interpret the English language when penned in cursive?
For six years, my son has had Chinese crammed down his throat, which has resulted in nothing productive in his development. In fact, the only thing it has accomplished is the regular cancelation of his class’ ever-dwindling recess time each year due to some of the young boys’ inability to contain their disruptive laughter and snickering at the teacher’s odd sounding vocalization of words that are totally foreign to their young ears. I urge anyone to go perform their best impression of speaking Chinese to elementary school children in America and see what their reaction is.
No child will ever benefit from Chinese being taught to them in Meade County elementary schools. At best, it should be: cuisine good; communism bad. That concludes Chinese class children. Now let’s work on reading and writing our own language.
China is in the 2000s what Russia was in the 1980s: the United States’ chief rival, adversary and a communist threat. The children of the 80s turned out just fine without learning anything about our chief rival’s language or culture outside of: cuisine is a bread line; communism bad. Now children pull out your writing pads so we can work on your penmanship. Our education was focused on mastering our own language and culture before we turned our eyes outward. Then in high school we had foreign language pushed our way. Boy, those two years of French class sure paid off big for me. Parlez- vous francais? I thought not.
Just last year, the school district sent home a form that needed the parents’ and child’s names printed and signed on it and returned to school. Yet by their own failure, their very own form couldn’t be completed by the students. Sadly, in that same folder he brought home, there was a paper he received a 100 percent on for translating Chinese characters into colors along with other words.
I sign my name daily after making purchases with my debit card. The deed to my house, my taxes, my driver’s license and countless other legal documents require a signature. Even many of the documents the school district sends home have signatures on them by staff or administrators. In fact, the publisher of this paper paid a couple of high school students for working on her farm a few summers ago, and they couldn’t even read the checks she gave them as payment. Fortunately for them, she is an honest woman because they couldn’t even read their own pay check, but hey, I’m sure they did awesome in Chinese class.
I love our school district. I would gladly put our facilities, administrators, teachers and faculty up against any other district in the state. That doesn’t mean a little constructive criticism isn’t due, though.
I hope with both a Meade County alumni taking over the helm of the Kentucky Department of Education and a new superintendent taking over our school district this year that changes will be made at both levels, putting more focus on mastering the basics before trying to get fancy with foreign languages and college level mathematics that are rarely used outside engineering fields or the mathematics departments at universities. Otherwise, I do not see how we can truly consider ourselves top-notch when our students have to have Christmas cards that are written in English translated to them and are regressing back to being forced to sign their names with an “x.”