I don’t often succumb to full-on panic attacks, but yesterday evening at Charlottesville High School’s open house for freshmen, I had the full onslaught of symptoms: pounding heart, chest pain, dizziness, nausea. I would have fled, but for the two Stepford PTO drones who were guarding the entrance to the auditorium. My experience with the public schools in Charlottesville has been so bad that it triggers this visceral reaction every time I enter the building.
Our children had been collected by school bus a few hours earlier, to attend the student orientation, and now the parents were gathered at the fabulously inconvenient time of 5:15 for our indoctrination. Much of the meeting was spent discussing the tablets, which our children were, at that moment, receiving in a different part of the school. I sent Seamus a text: Tell them your mom refuses it. He texted back: Now is not the time for a rebellion.
So the tablets. I wrote a long, angry piece about them when they were introduced, and followed up with an email (less angry) to the superintendent of schools who called me at home and talked to me as if I were a five year old. Why am I so opposed to them, when we all have iphones and laptops and computers at home? It’s one thing to choose to use these devices, and it’s quite another to be REQUIRED to do the bulk of your learning on it. Will there be long-term, detrimental changes to the ways that our children learn, or even their brain development? No one knows, and the city schools, apparently, don’t care. The crucial issue is that this is a public school. Public schools are required to educate all children who live in their district. This public school is saying that it is impossible to educate my child without a tablet. Not only that, this public school is requiring that parents accept responsibility for a device that costs more than $1000 and to agree to pay for damages incurred to it. Not only that, students who live in houses without wireless internet, have to seek out free hot spots in which to do some of their assignments. I’m no lawyer, but that sounds unconstitutional to me.
Anyway, last night, during the tablet talk, the administrator opened the discussion by saying, "We know your kids are plugged in when they're at home, and we want them to be plugged in while they're at school too." We were given generic advice about policing our children on the internet. We were told (incorrectly) that our children will not be able to access distraction sites like facebook on their tablets.
Parent questions were brutally dispensed with. One parent talked about how some tablets malfunctioned during testing last year. All tests are now taken on the tablets, and you can imagine how frustrating it would be for your tablet to die in the middle of a test which you had studied for and just wanted to be over already. The parent was told, “If that happens to your child, she should raise her hand and tell the teacher.” Parents persisted in asking about the tech problems that have plagued the tablets since they were introduced, and the answer quoted above is a good indicator of the administration’s attitude toward us: sit down and shut up. Finally, (after a frustrating waste of time discussing LOCKERS, and could the kids leave their tablets in them overnight) we were told that only two more questions would be allowed.
At the end of the tablet discussion, the principal told us that the planned family dinner wasn’t quite ready yet and she still had ten minutes to kill, so how about we watch them perform a silly CHS cheer? (WHAT ABOUT USING THAT LAST TEN MINUTES FOR MORE QUESTIONS?) Then she said something about how we can contact her with concerns, and with her arm raised in the classic, “I’m done listening to you people” gesture, she dismissed the meeting.
I met my friend in the cafeteria and she showed me the portable keyboard that had just been issued to her daughter. It had food slopped over it leftover from whoever had owned it last year. That’s pretty gross, and it also doesn’t validate the school’s claim that they’re taking the tech issues seriously, if they’re not even giving these things a cursory inspection at the end of the year.
Oh, and the student orientation? For which they were required to go to school for half a day on the last day of vacation? I assumed they would have a chance to walk through their schedules, maybe get lists of supplies from their teachers. No. The afternoon was made up entirely of bullshit activities, like learning the school fight song.