President Who?

I visited my daughter’s school the other day, and spent some time in the science classroom where she is taking AP Physics. AP Physics. Advanced Placement. I’m not bragging. That’s relevant to the story. You’ll see why in a minute.

It’s always interesting to see what inspiring or educational posters or other media have been placed on the walls of classrooms to ignite the interest of students.

I have to admit I was a bit shocked to see a framed official Presidential photograph of Gerald Ford on the wall, half-hidden behind some kind of cardboard cubbyhole arrangement. If it had been in a history classroom, or even a “general” classroom, I would have understood, but in a science classroom?

I asked the teacher about it because you know me…can’t just let something like that go by.  And it turns out that the photo has been there forever, apparently – long before this teacher’s time. It seems no one has ever thought to remove it. Certainly this particular teacher hasn’t.

Occasionally, students are curious about it she said. Some of them actually ask her who it is. And she has to explain that it’s Gerald Ford, who was President from 1974 to 1977. I’ll repeat. She has to explain who it is. In a high school.  In an advanced placement class. See? I told you it was going to be relevant.

Now, admittedly Mr. Ford did not particularly distinguish himself as President (though truth be told, it’s not as if sought the position), but his connection to Richard Nixon should be memorable — it was due to Nixon’s Watergate scandal that Ford became President in the first place AND he later pardoned Nixon, as I’m sure you’ll recall, and Jimmy Carter became President after him. And yet none of her students know who he is!

Seeing things like this just has me wondering several “Why’s?”

I bet that photo has been on that wall for decades. Probably since it was first released. Why has no one ever upgraded it to a more recent President? If it has no significance in a science classroom, why not just remove it instead of putting things in front of it? Or replace it with a more science-y photo. Galileo perhaps (since we’re going with unrecognizable figures in history)? Or maybe Nikola Tesla. Or hey, there are always the standbys of science: Newton and Einstein.

And just why don’t high school students, especially those taking AP Physics, recognize a 20th-century President anyway? I mean, it’s not like it’s a photo of Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce or some President they have no reasonable right to know.

There’s an old joke which is apparently a pretty new joke as well. Ask a kid today how many Presidents there have been in our history, and they can name George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and – hopefully! – whoever the current President is. And that’s it. I know, sad joke.

There are a lot of problems with our school system, and that ancient and unrecognized photo of President Ford is just the latest example of it.

 

President Ford

The Locked Door

Like many of us, my daughter suffers from anxiety. Being a teenager there’s what seems like a never-ending list of reasons why her mind could be thrown into a tizzy. Her main source of anxiety comes from school. No, it’s not the academic workload or fretting about standardized tests that hammer home the fear that how you perform will shape your future. She’s an Honor Roll student who excels in the classroom. What she finds stressful are the crowds, the thronging mass of other teens jostling and ricocheting off of each other in the hallways. It’s an everyday, unavoidable occurrence between each period (unless they build her a network of secret underground tunnels, which I don’t think is quite in the school’s budget). Not to mention the annoyance of sharing classroom after classroom with kids who basically do not want to be there and who do not share the same tolerant mindset she has for her fellow human beings.

Well, her anxiety recently got worse due to a safety precaution her school is now taking, or rather, a teacher’s explanation of it. The semesters changed over this past month so classes and teachers also changed. On the first day, a new teacher of one particular class explained that she keeps one of the two doors to her classroom locked because they are the first classroom in the hall and if a madman with an Uzi comes into the school guns blazing, it will be more difficult for him to come busting in their room, spraying rounds. Now I’m all for keeping kids safe. That I have no problem with. I question the teacher’s sense in explaining the reasons behind the locked door, but apparently she felt the kids were old enough to take the news and process it accordingly.

However, this brilliant educator of children went on to voice her opinion that since the door was just a flimsy little piece of wood, the shooter could kick it in rather easily or else simply shoot through it. And what with the second [unlocked] door only about 10 feet down the hall, if the gunman wants to get in, one silly locked door isn’t going to stop him so “either way we’re all screwed anyway.”

I’m just not sure what the hell this teacher was thinking divulging this info to the kids and putting this heinous idea into their heads. She could’ve just said, “I keep that door locked at all times” and end it there. They don’t have to necessarily know it’s to slow down a psycho with a semi-automatic assault rifle, because once that possibility is raised, it can be a little difficult to erase.  Then, by all means, let’s take away even that tiny bit of a safety net by saying it’s completely useless.

This possibility, that someone could be kicking into the classroom at any given moment (because sadly this is the world we live in now)…let’s just say that has not helped my daughter with her anxiety whatsoever.  And she can’t be the only one. Kids nowadays have so much to be anxious over and this is just one more thing to stress about. School, much like home, is supposed to be a safe place. Only it isn’t. You think kids don’t know that?  They know it more than anyone else.

The school itself locks all of its external doors which is a good thing. They do what they can, as most schools do, and that makes me feel better as a parent.   I just don’t quite understand the teacher’s need to give such tragic disclosure. We know why cars have airbags and don’t need commercials showing someone flying through a windshield. We know why we own fire extinguishers and don’t have to be shown pictures of people burning alive.

All I’m saying is that while I appreciate the safety measures being taken I think spelling out the potential consequences can be a little unnecessary – especially given the teacher’s added personal commentary. It seems to me that adding stress to an already stressful situation (high school) could be a little counterproductive to the whole learning experience.