Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reminded about something related to my son’s school days in the late 80’s.

A little history is required here first. My son was born healthy, but with a physical handicap, that professionals consider quite serious. For lack of giving a clearer picture, and for lack of general knowledge, many professionals label him “quadraplegic”. Not quite true, but that’s the closest to the truth. While on the surface it looks to others that he is totally helpless, the reality is that my son is healthy medically and mentally, and we don’t see his handicap as the serious drawback many see it as. For me, the reason I don’t see it as so bad is that my son is “normal” in all other respects. He is in, and has always been in, good health, and of at least average intelligence. He’s just like everyone else in all respects, expect for this “little” difference. For that I do consider myself quite fortunate and blessed.

Having said that, in school he was part of the “special education” program. He was in regular mainstream classrooms at school. Being in the “SPED” program (as we called it back then-maybe they still do, I don’t know), the school had to meet with me each semester to go over his curriculum and get my approval. I never had a problem with their curriculum, as they were as driven to treat him normally as I was. However, there came a time when he was in the second grade (I think) when they approached me about letting him use a calculator for his math. Their argument was that they allowed the other students to count on their fingers and toes and since he couldn’t he should be allowed to use a calculator. Well, to their surprise, and somewhat horror, I refused.

Yes, I was mean enough to say NO. MY argument was based on what I had witnessed just a few years earlier while working part-time at night at a Bradlee’s Department Store. For those who don’t know Bradlee’s, it is like a Target store. Bradlee’s was part of the Stop ‘N Shop chain in the Northeast. While working there one night, the registers, which told how much change to give back, wasn’t working. For whatever reason, it could ring up and total the purchases, but was not telling the cashier how much change to give back. I was the front-end supervisor that night and my cashiers were high school seniors. To my amazement, not one of these young people, 2 months away from high school graduation (from the same school district my son was in), were unable to figure out how much change to give back to a customer. They couldn’t count back change from a dollar. I had to spend the night running back and forth showing them. Because of that experience, I was determined that my son at least be able to do enough simple math in his head that he would know if a cashier rang up something wrong, or was giving him back the right change. I wanted to be sure that my son wasn’t handicapped further by not knowing if he was ever being cheated or not.

I did let him use a calculator once they got into multiplication tables beyond 3. But I insisted he learn simple math in his head. And I’m glad I did. In the end the school agreed that they were glad I stood my ground and didn’t let them bully me into cheating my son.

That experience at Bradlee’s was my first insight into the fact that we were graduating students to enter college and the workforce who were incapable of simple math, didn’t read well (something else I forced my son to do at home too), could barely spell and basically were really not prepared for the “real” world.

Even now, I am constantly amazed at so many college graduates who cannot spell properly, who use words in the wrong grammatical context. How they got to college is beyond me. When I was in school, not only did we have to know how to spell, we had to be able to construct a sentence, use the right words for what we were saying (to, too and two; wear and where; lose and loose; right and write; etc). It boggles the brain when individuals with college degrees, whose first language IS English, don’t know the right word to use in written sentences. On top of that, when I was in school, penmanship actually counted too. IF the teacher couldn’t read what you wrote, or had to struggle to read what you wrote, you didn’t get a passing grade. For clarification purposes I will also add that I never went to college. I graduated high school and entered the workforce a week later. I actually had that job already lined up before graduation.

This begs the question: WHEN did we actually stop teaching our children?

To be continued … in Part II


~ by swfreedomlover on December 16, 2007.


  1. Your title is straight on, it isn’t education. Schools have become a political battle ground. Everyone worries about whether or not to teach about gays, dress codes, religious things, determining if the kids are eating right, checking their vision/hearing/physical health, tests to determine their mental health, on and on and on. They need to get back to the actual teaching them how to do things, real things, science, math, reading.

    I’m not saying that some of the above don’t have their place, SOME of them; free speech can be taught in government class, physical health in health class, etc. Instead schools have become political battle grounds between government and parents. They concentrate on inanities and can’t deal with the children. When an educator told me to “dumb your daughter down”, that was my cue, I homeschool now. It’s pathetic that an educational facility not only cannot deal with a gifted child, but doesn’t even care to make the time to try. Instead, I’m supposed to make my kid more stupid. Wha-what???!!!

  2. I love your blogg! It truly speaks to me and things I’ve noticed. And what is up with this C U later stuff? When did it become OK to take shortcuts with the English language? Am I supposed to be flattered because you text me and can’t be bothered to TYPE out the words??? NOT! Thanks for your well thought out comments and articles…….

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