Student athletes and student musicians have lots in common--they're kids who are seriously engaged in wholesome, school-based activities that have a big impact on their development and eventual lives, careers and citizenship. Pitting them against each other is a selfish mistake. "School spirit" is a real and valuable thing. Its other name: Community.
Kicking kids out for misbehavior is easy. Figuring out why they're misbehaving and addressing those needs is the real challenge.
Shouldn't we educators be modeling civic discourse, at appropriate levels of understanding? Everything from unwarranted assumptions about someone based on appearance (something even a first grader can comprehend), to the actual purpose of convening a grand jury. There are stories, songs, technical problems to investigate and historical resources available. And there's the old-fashioned practice of classroom discussion, taking turns speaking, honest listening. Treating our students like young adults and future citizens.
When it comes to online gradebooks, I believe there is a misguided faith in the magic of technology to "streamline" routine tasks and "solve problems" (even things we didn't realize were problems beforehand). Here's one: if parents weren't allowed to peek into teachers' gradebooks twenty years ago, what makes us think they're interested now? And furthermore--is it even a good idea to nurture grade-stalking in parents?
Here's the funny thing. Teacher tenure has never really been a fortress that protects incompetent hacks and abusers. It has functioned as a set of rules by which undesirable teachers could be--fairly--jettisoned, then have the decision to release that teacher stand. It gave teachers a reasonable period of time to establish their long-term worth (with the option to open the trap door quickly, in the early stages, for egregiously inept or shady folks). It also gave administrators and school boards a defined set of reasons why a teacher might reasonably be let go, after the district committed to hiring him.
Charters. Yes. Let's give them a chance to "work"--to (take your pick): institute grit / hire enthusiastic young non-unionized teachers / establish a rigorous core curriculum / engage parents / do something--anything, really--that traditional schools can't. Because charter.
Here's what I always wonder, when I encounter or hear about Aggressive Seat-Recliner types: what were they like in second grade? Did they shout "pick me!" and wave their hand, even as another child struggled to come up with an answer? Did they elbow their way to the head of the recess line?
There can be community-building value in fund-raising for educational needs. The backside of all that generosity, however, is the fact that people want to donate their money in targeted ways, and they want to feel good about their own munificence. Here's a short list of things people don't want to spend money on: Special education. Textbooks. Teacher salaries and benefits. Fixing the leaky school roof. New, safer tires for buses.
MI journalist Tim Skubick blasts weak-sister school music teachers who reject competition, suggesting that public ranking of ability is a fine old academic tradition, grumbling like your cranky old neighbor about giving every little Tom, Dick and Harriet an undeserved blue ribbon. You've read hundreds of columns like this, haven't you? Our Soft and Failing Youth, an evergreen theme for curmudgeons.
The level of take-sides aggression over education policy has come to an interesting place. You can't tell the players without a scorecard, in spite of partisan affiliation, union membership or aversion, the spokesperson's genuine level of expertise and experience around the policy in question--or whether someone is paying for their "opinion."