Friday, July 20, 2012

Sex & Abuse in the Schools

So, I wonder sometimes how crazy the world is going to get.  Don't you?

Last night I heard a news story about a teacher who is known to have abused the children in her special needs class.  There were witnesses to her hitting and encouraging other children to hit a student.  There was emotionally abusive language.  And, I'm sure there were children who feared to go to school.  Yet, the last comment made by the reporter was:  "She will be reassigned in the fall."  Um, what?  And the parents, albeit with sadness and fear, are still sending their child off on the school bus every morning.  Huh?

It is the opinion of this concerned and tax-paying parent that abusive teachers should be banned from teaching.  End of story.  And, if that is not happening, parents need to really reconsider sending their children off to school.  If they cannot homeschool or find an alternate method, they should at least be protesting and fighting a system that would allow "reassignment."

When I was growing up (oh so long ago), it seemed that schools were at least trying to work in concert with parents to help PROTECT the children in their care.  But, these days, I hear more about teachers molesting kids, or having affairs with kids, or selling drugs to kids than I do about scholastic achievement or Teachers of the Year.  Schools aren't always [I am certainly not indicting ALL schools] protecting students' bodies.  And they really aren't protecting their minds -- their innocence or their emotions.

The agenda seems to have changed drastically.  Here is a letter I recently sent off to a local public school regarding a show they put on.  You can glean the details and see what I mean!  [I have slightly changed the wording for better reading here.  The attachment alluded to can be found here: ] 

July 2012

Dear Principal of a local Public High School:

I recently attended a performance of the choirs and string orchestra of your school.  Last May, your students put on “The Show Must Go On!”

This was the first time I had attended a high school performance in some time.  I was very surprised by what I saw.  The overall focus of the show seemed not to be so much on the singing (I could tell because the kids sang very softly and did not enunciate clearly enough to be heard and understood) as on the “performing.”  Much of the performing included dancing and a few costumes that I personally found overly-sensual.

High-schoolers are generally aged around fourteen to seventeen.  At those ages, sexual behavior of any kind is illegal (not to say “immoral”).  I had to wonder why sexual behavior is being promoted in high school music productions?  I saw a whole group of young girls allowing a whole group of young boys the opportunity to run their hands down their arms and sides.  (There is a way to give the appearance of stroking without actually stroking – it is called “acting.”  These students did not learn the difference!)  I saw girls jiggle their “assets.”  I saw girls and boys paired off at every turn.  And, even more surprisingly, I saw boys with boys and girls with girls being paired off in hugging embraces, throughout the show.  I had heard that homosexuality was rampant in schools these days, but I did not realize it was being so blatantly promoted (not “tolerated” – but, “promoted”) by the administration.  Homosexuality is a sexual act, just like any other sexual act.  It is illegal for minors.  So, I wonder why it would be encouraged as a part of your music curriculum?

The song choice included a number from West Side Story called “Gee, Officer Krupke.” I had to wonder, why that particular song?  It does have a fun beat, but have you read the lyrics?  I have enclosed a copy for you.  It is disrespectful to parents (calls Dad a “bastard”) police, and all forms of authority, and uses bad language (SOB, damn, and “Krup you” is a thinly veiled “F.U.”).  It seemed unnecessarily provocative.  If we don’t want our children to act in these ways, I wonder why we promote them as fun in our school plays?

I was offended off and on throughout the entire show.  I hope that you will reconsider what you allow and don’t allow on stage in future productions.  I hope that you will encourage your teaching staff and your students to focus on the music and the acting, rather than the sexual agenda.

Thanks for listening.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lightning Literature

"It was better than I thought it would be."  That is high praise for Lightning Literature & Composition coming from my ninth grader!

Lightning Lit is a series of workbooks seeking to teach "college-level composition skills by responding to great literature."  They offer full-year courses for 7th and 8th grade literature (student guide, teacher guide, workbook - $20/each).  They also offer the following one-semester courses for 9th through 12th grades:

American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
American Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

10th - 12th
British Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century
British Lit:  Mid to Late 19th Century

11th - 12th
British Lit:  Medieval
American Christian Authors
British Christian Authors
Shakespeare:  Tragedies & Sonnets
Shakespeare:  Comedies & Sonnets
World Lit 1
World Lit 2

Each of these comes with a student guide ($29.95) and a teacher's guide ($2.95).  There is bundle pricing available, including the pack of all the necessary books, and also discounts for orders of five or more of one title.

Hewitt Homeschooling provided me with a student guide and a teacher's guide for American Lit:  Early to Mid 19th Century.  As a former English major, I really liked the choices of literature.  These are definitely "living books" (or selections).  Some authors covered are:  Washington Irving, Frederick Douglass, Edgar Allen Poe, Herman Melville and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Since it is summer vacation, I have to say, we are still working through Unit 1 -- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  In the first chapter of the textbook, the author, Elizabeth Kamath gives a good one-page lead-in intro about Franklin's life and then another page on Pre-19th Century Literature in general.  After reading the selection, which I downloaded as a free e-book, I asked my kids the comprehension questions.  These are broken into sections of 2 to 7 questions each and go along with the section titles of the book.  In retrospect, in future I will give the questions before the reading.  My kids were surprised to be asked the names of Franklin's uncles and the number of his siblings and half-siblings (16).

After the comprehension questions comes the section on writing, directly related to the reading.  Since the work is an autobiography, the 5-page lesson is about autobiographies and what kinds of details youo might include if you write your own.  Following the lesson, there are 8 writing exercises which I thought were quite varied and appealing to students of differing interests and aptitudes.  I will be having my kids write several of them -- the author suggests picking two for each selection.

[As an interesting side-note, as I was pre-reading the selection, I came across the passage from which the IEW-style was inspired:  where Ben Franklin takes an existing writing, takes notes, re-writes, etc.]

In the Introduction to this course, the author discusses how/why to read literature and poetry.  She gives detailed descriptions of figurative language terms (similie, metaphor, personification) and sounds (alliteration, assonance, rhythm, etc.).  She goes on to describe how to write a paper, including topic statements, brainstorming, research and outlines.  These are quick but thorough passages, probably review for most students at this level.  The Appendix offers discussion questions and project suggestions, additional reading and schedules.  The author also has suggestions for vocabulary notebooks, reading journals, and more.

Although much of this book could be self-taught, I always think that literature needs discussion, so don't leave your student entirely on their own.  Discuss what they have read and what they have written.  The Teacher's Guide gives grading tips and checklists for papers, schedules (finish in 1 semester or 1 year), answers to composition questions, and additional writing assignments.

I am excited about adding this literature course into our schedule and will plan to order more in the series!  Be sure to check it out for yourself here.

I was provided a free copy of the student and teacher guide for Lightning Literature & Composition's American Lit:   Early to Mid-19th Century in exchange for an honest review.  You can see more reviews from the TOS Crew Members here.