Nothing makes me crankier than the start of the school year. There's a myth that mothers across the land rejoice at the first day of school, but I am convinced that this is mostly bullshit. For the next nine months, I will be prey to the demands of the school system: sign this, buy this, bake this, bring this, supervise this, attend this mandatory meeting, make sure your kid is at this mandatory out-of-school activity-that-we-scheduled-at-an-impossibly-inconvenient-time. Seamus will come home from school today with a thick packet of paper forms which I must fill out, with the identical information that I put on the same paper forms last year. I will have to sign insulting parent "contracts" about promising to make sure my child shows up for school on time every day, and does his homework, etc.
I say "child" because this year, we have just one child in the public school system. Grace has asked to be homeschooled--something I had been seriously considering anyway. "Public school is bad for me," she said, stating what I have been thinking for years. Last night, I gave her some assignments to work on and she told me she was excited about actually learning something this year.
One of my many complaints about our school system is the dogged belief--despite zero supporting evidence-- that exposing kids to electronics will somehow make them better prepared for a competitive job market. As a result, ridiculous off-brand tablets were distributed to every student in grades 5-12. These were going to make learning fun and prepare kids for careers. All testing would take place on the tablets, homework would be submitted wirelessly (despite significant student population with no home internet access) and we would move together into a glorious new future.
The tablets were mostly a big headache, and both Grace and Seamus reported that they didn't use them very often, because their teachers didn't like them. That didn't stop the schools from releasing a PR "news" story* several months after the tablets were distributed about how great they were. Included in the list of accomplishments that kids had mastered was "performing google searches." The article included an enthusiastic quote from a "technology coordinator" but no remarks from actual teachers. Meanwhile, the technology director--the guy responsible for acquiring the tablets-- for the city schools resigned. A friend told me about this after the high school open house the other day. I don't have a link to support it, but I did look him up on Linkedin and his profile shows that he is now working as an independent consultant.
I'm not a luddite. I program software, for crying out loud. Part of my job involves supporting physicians who are having trouble using an electronic medical record. Believe me, you can be very successful and have no clue how to use a computer. Indeed, I was hired for my current job even though I had no experience with configuring software. A general familiarity with Microsoft Word is handy, but it's ridiculous to claim that constant use of a tablet computer will somehow give anyone an edge, and the electronic distraction almost certainly does more harm than good.
I seem to have gone off on a tangent, when I meant to write about the first day of school. Seamus is now up and nearly ready to go. I had to dissuade him from bringing his ipod, as it would certainly be stolen.
*I am trying to provide a link directly to the article, but the Daily Progress website seems to be down right now. I've instead entered a link to a discussion about the story, with a link to the exact article.