After this post, I'm going to be taking a break of sorts, stepping back before going forward. June 6 marks the one-year anniversary of the Board of Ed meeting in which I was fired by the Grand Rapids Public Schools. I'm finally ready to talk about it.
The way that I think is conceptually. When I approach nearly any situation, the big picture sort of jumps out at me first. This has both good and bad parts to it, but relates to this post in the fact that you'll get a lot of theory before practical, tangible next steps. To me, that theory is important. The theory, coupled with misdeeds, applications, and situations, shows The Why of any and all action steps that I'll recommend. (Side note: so often in our society, conflicts arise because because people don't have ample time to explain where they're coming from, why they think how they do, and how they came to their point of view. Often, if people have time and opportunity, they can get past barriers that too often divide us. Case in point:
(I love Heineken.))
So before I get to the practicalities, I'll be stepping back to the theoretical, dictating my experience(s). When that is over, in however many posts it takes, I'll be going forward. This is a preview of what that will look like. Three very easy, immediately implementable practicalities can be demonstrated through: Nutrition, Coding, and Spanish.
What we eat matters. And many of us eat shit. This is not good. Our food is over-processed, over-farmed, filled with hormones and sugar. In addition to eating too much, our bodies process what we eat badly. This leads to poor health, more visits to the doctor, and things like diabetes, obesity (which is not a disease), and many other things. The way we eat is called our eating HABITS. A habit is something you do often. When young kids are fed things that are full of sugar and lacking of nutrients, they become addicted and unhealthy. This leads to improper development, and makes exercise harder. The combination poor nutrition and lack of exercise makes the body unhealthy. Most people don't realize how young this starts.
When young children eat nuggets and fries, pizza, mac and cheese, fried chicken, chicken sandwiches and all of that - every day - for lunch, they grow up to be unhealthy. Walk into many impoverished elementary schools and you'll see this. Kids eat cereal for breakfast, one of the previously mentioned things for lunch, and are then served an overly-processed dinner when they get home. Many of these kids watch videos and/or television all night.
Something can, should, and must be done abut this. School cafeterias could be filled with fruits, veggies, and locally grown meat and other ingredients. At the very minimum, the diet should be balanced and healthy, as should any snacks. To do this, schools should hire a chef and kitchen staff that is qualified and well paid. Heck, pay them a teacher's salary and give them time to work with local farms. Working with nutritionists, or even companies like Blue Apron or local Farmer's Markets would do wonders. In addition to better students, this would benefit the health care system. Potential Tagline: Good ingredients. Good chefs. Better Students.
Computers are not going away. Knowing computers is the new factory and farming. All students, from a young age, should have their own website and know how to code. As a 37-year old man, I am learning this skill right now. What you can do on a computer, how you can reach the world, what a career is, and how we can interact with the public has changed quite drastically through what we do with our computers. We should understand these machines. Kids need to know how to code.
In a way, coding is sort of the new writing. It should be right up there with reading, on importance scale. A part of every day should be devoted to knowing these machines, thereby putting U.S. students on the forefront of the technological curve. This knowledge would help them on everything.
In addition to the simple importance of a practical skill, coding is also teaching discipline; students have to follow a rigid format, problem solve, and self-correct mistakes. When writing code, if you get one thing wrong, you mess up the whole formula. It also teaches persistence. Things are always changing and we must adapt. Students should code for one hour a day.
The United States is unique in that we do not have a national language. We have a national bird, The Bald Eagle; a national flower, The Rose; and a national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. But we do not have a national language. This is because our Founding Father's - all of whom were Brits - assumed people would always speak English. Practically, this is the case. However, English is, and always has been, a whore.
When the British Elites attempted to make everyone on their little island learn French around the A.D. year 1300, the language took on French vowels and words, though the peasants failed to conform. Similarly, when people moved south and west in this country, they've adopted Spanish words and phrases. It's just what the language does. We like it: we take it.
But Hispanics are coming. This is obvious and is also a good thing. America is not all white, and certainly not monolingual. To be monolingual in the near future is going to be a real problem. To combat this, all of our students should know Spanish, fluently. This is in addition to any other language they want to learn. Spanish is the obvious language of choice to promote in schools, because we share a thousand mile border with Mexico. Let's learn to engage with our southern neighbors. (Heck, traveling south on a road trip from any point in the U.S., you'd hit Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. After leaving our own continent, you'd head through Colombia, and could then turn either left - into Venezuela, or right - down through Ecuador, Peru, continuing either down Chile or through Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, before you ended up to Uruguay. And you could communicate with people the entire time!)
Learning two languages is a good thing for all involved. For one, you learn that words are arbitrary constructs for matter. For another, you learn two grammatical systems which helps you learn the process and structure of a language. Not to mention, you can travel the world and speak to a lot of people.
But very soon - like, very soon - American children that are not bilingual will have a very hard time competing for good jobs and opportunities. So let's teach Spanish now, to all students, in all schools.
Here you have it: nutrition, coding, and Spanish - three things we could do today that would immediately fix some of what's broken. Including these things in all schools and curriculums, tomorrow, would make our students more relevant, knowledgeable, and healthy.