Every Monday night I volunteer at a Village Library branch helping children with their homework. It is such a treat seeing children and encouraging them to do their work. And I’ve actually learned a few things myself.
For example, I didn’t realize how little I knew about children; I didn’t even know if a kindergartner should already know how to read. I didn’t think of the fact that some of them didn’t care what my name was when I introduced myself, and that they would never forgive me if I didn’t give them a bag of Goldfish when their assignment was completed.
What shocked me most was the context of the books some of the children were assigned to read and some of the other assignments:
I don’t know about every child, but I was taught that “stupid” and “shut up” were really bad words. I found it strange that in Frog and Toad, one of those phrases was used in the dialogue. Not to mention, the story was completely random; it seemed like no effort was put into writing it.
Not even ten minutes after that discovery, another volunteer approached me with a worksheet for English class. “What do you think this word is?” she asked. I looked at where her finger was pointing; there was a drawing of a witch and three blanks with one missing letter. It read “h _ g.” I replied, “Hag…?” She nodded and said that she was thinking the same word, but didn’t want to believe children were being taught that word. The word hag just has a negative connotation.
Another book was about a dog and his family. It was better written than the Frog and Toad story. However, there was a scene in which the whole family at dinner was tossing parts of their meal to the family dog. This is just not a good message, because children would read that and see the drawings and think it’s okay to feed their dogs everything!
I know these aren’t huge deals, and I’m not saying there’s nothing of value in these books and exercises, but it really concerns me to see that this is what children are reading and learning at school. Because outside of school, there is plenty of questionable things that they probably shouldn’t be exposed to, but school should be the place where it can be trusted that the material is legitimate.
I think parents should definitely be more involved with their children’s educations and look over what they’re being assigned for homework.
It makes me wonder if the quality of education was generally the same back when we were that age… I mean, we obviously turned out okay.