Jeff Pelline: A little reflecting on school days
No more pencils
No more books
School’s out for summer
-“Schools Out” by Alice Cooper
TAHOE CITY – I’m no Alice Cooper groupie, but I do like this song. So much so that I belted it out, with a little air guitar, for my five-year-old son the other morning. Poor guy. He was still waking up.
Like many of your children, my son’s last day of school was on Friday; for some it goes one more week. I’m eager to start our family’s summer – and much more so when I learned that he has to start kindergarten as early as August 15.
In fact, I hopped in the car and drove to Tahoe late Friday, because I’m wasting no time getting this summer school break underway. My wife nixed my lame suggestion of holding our boy in preschool for another year just to extend our summer.
It’s a good time to reflect on the school year. Besides my son’s preschool, a highlight for me was this week’s annual scholarship night at Nevada Union High School. I was honored to hand out two scholarships on behalf of the Gold Country Chapter of the Cal Berkeley Alumni Association. I was relieved that many of the outstanding applicants who did not receive our group’s scholarship received others.
College has become so costly nowadays; any amount of money that any of us can donate to whatever scholarship program will help. Dozens of programs were announced at scholarship night.
We are lucky to have such talented teachers and administrators in our country. It’s good to know that our county ranks second only to Marin County in our state when it comes to the highest standardized test scores. But it’s also good to know that our teachers show their students how to think.
This is my bugaboo, having managed people for years. It’s OK to take a risk and fail – just think it through.
I hope that we can persuade many of our youth to return to Nevada County after college or vocational school and settle down here. I feel responsible for helping to make this happen, and I hope many community leaders do as well. Our county’s future depends on it.
Next year our schools will continue to face difficult challenges. Our public schools will receive new leadership for the first time in years. In addition, our county continues to face the problem of declining enrollment. Some closures were averted at the last minute.
But unless we can grow the number of jobs in our county and help encourage more affordable housing, the threat will continue. I don’t think many of us want Nevada County to get closer to becoming “Palm Springs north,” a community with too many reitrees and too few working families.
I also hope we will continue to support our teachers. Teaching is kind of like journalism – often a thankless, underpaid task but one that is a key underpinning to our society.
More important, I hope we all will take parenting more seriously to help the teachers. We all get busy, but nothing is more important to our children’s’ future than spending time with them and trying to answer all of their questions.
No more red tape
Alice Cooper aside, I like to read books about education. I think one of the more thought-provoking ones is called “The Right to Learn: A Blueprint for Creating Schools That Work” by Linda Darling-Hammond.
As the New York Times Book Review puts it: “Darling-Hammond argues that American students do so poorly by comparison with students in other industrialized countries not because we don’t give them enough work, but because we are obsessed with bureaucratic processes rather than educational outcomes.”
It’s worth thinking about: tying teachers up with so much red tape that students can’t learn. I know it happens more and more in the business world – bureaucratic processes and red tape that hinders, not helps, progress. At least I’m glad I’m in good company.
Parents can also help their children by reading with them and helping them with homework. A highlight of our summer will be reading to my son. I’ve already selected some of my favorites from my own childhood – Mother Goose, “Goodnight Moon,” D’aulaire’s “Book of Greek Myths” – but my son has his favorites too. “Polar Express” is one.
It won’t always be serious, though. I plan on whipping out the air guitar regularly. Most of all, enjoy your summer.
Jeff Pelline is the editor of The Union. His column appears on Saturdays. Contact him at 477-4235, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
On the Web:
“Schools out” by Alice Cooper:
“The right to learn”:
Nevada Joint Union High School District scholarships:
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Six months ago, the future looked pretty bleak in terms of the live music scene, and I could not have predicted where we are now.