It’s a prominent myth these days that schools are chronically short of money. Various fund-raising events are held to try to raise cash for extras, items and events considered necessary to give a child of the twenty-first century a satisfactory education.
There are hot dog sales, pizza days, fun fairs, book fairs, movie nights, and yes, sales campaigns for everything from chocolate bars, magazine subscriptions, cookie mixes to meat products.
Many parents don’t allow their children to go out peddling their wares, usually greatly over-priced items, from door-to-door. This is a wise move. In modern society there can be all manner of felons lurking behind front doors, waiting for unsuspecting children to walk right into their clutches.
Let’s stop a moment and reflect. What are these “necessities” the children must have in order to receive a good education? I submit that many are not necessities at all. We are putting our children at risk unnecessarily. The students would be better off at home, safely in their rooms doing Homework.
* Computers in every classroom. Why? Many schools have already dropped cursive writing from the curriculum, and neat printing doesn’t seem to matter. I believe children should be taught to print neatly, then write legibly before they have access to a computer at all. Computers also do away with the need for spelling correctly; one can always use the spell-check feature. We’re teaching the children to rely on a machine rather than on developing their own skills and abilities. This is surely not in their best interest.
* Books for the school library. I have more sympathy for this cause, than for purchasing computers, but what’s wrong with the Public Library? Walking or biking there and back would provide some much-needed exercise. How about encouraging parents to buy books for birthdays and Christmas instead of electronic gadgets? No matter what career path the child follows in life, he’s going to need to be a fluent reader. The sooner he masters this skill, and learns that reading can actually be fun, the better.
* Uniforms for sports teams. This one really stretches the bounds of fund-raising for school necessities. Schools exist to educate, not to produce professional athletes. Yes, Physical Education classes are beneficial and necessary. The focus should be on fun, fitness for every child and developing a good sense sportsmanship. For this, you don’t need uniforms.
* Class trips. Some are worthwhile, some are of dubious value, and some are downright dangerous.
In Canada, French is a mandatory subject in the elementary grades. Some children never hear a word of French spoken except by the French teacher. Each Spring, the Grade 8 classes are bussed to Quebec for several days, so they can experience a culture where French language is the norm. I guess, since they’ve forced to study the language, this trip is useful.
A favorite Spring trip for the Grades 3 to 5 was to African Lion Safari, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto or the I-Max movie theater. These outings were O.K., but many of the children had already been to these places with their parents. The weather was often warm and sticky, the kids noisy and restless. It was a break in the routine, but the outing itself was of dubious value. Some of the students usually got lost ( often on purpose ) and there was a fair amount of mischief going on at any given time. A day of instructional time was lost, and if all the students returned to the school safely, the teacher breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Among the dangerous class trips, the early Spring ski trips for seniors have to top the list . Accidents on the slopes, or on icy roads going and returning, have often turned out to be tragic for the school, the parents, and some of the students involved. These excursions, when undertaken at all, should be extracurricular, and fall within the parents’ area of responsibility, not the school’s.
In former years, the 1960’s and 1970’s, teachers taught without many of the extras thought necessary today. We had only notebooks and pencils and sometimes not enough of those. I remember many times buying extra pencils for my class because they’d gone through their monthly quota too quickly.
Yet there were no remedial English or Mathemathics classes necessary in college or university. High school graduates could write essays, and perform satisfactorily in Algebra, Geometry, French, Latin, and whatever Science subjects they had chosen to study. They were proficient readers, writers and spellers and they knew the difference between an adjective and an adverb. Sadly, that is not true of every graduate today,
Children should not be selling anything door-to-door to fund extras perceived as necessities for contemporary education. Schools should return to teaching the basics, to straight academics and leave the frills where they rightfully belong, within the spheres of parental duties and rights.
Students have their entire lives to work with computers, join sports teams, travel, and amass private libraries with books suited to their tastes and interests. They will be equipped to do all these things immeasurably better with the solid grounding of a good basic education behind them.
Selling over-priced items door-to-door is not a necessary requirement for a good, basic education.