I regularly veer between thinking that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and marveling that it runs pretty well considering we're all so crooked.
Two stories from last week's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my attention, unrelated except that they both relate to schools. On Tuesday the scandal that could no longer be hidden is that there is enormous pressure to pass students who should by rights not be promoted. Our Philadelphia School District chief, Arlene Ackerman, is saying she's not to blame for teachers kicking up to the next grade kiddos "with chronic absences and little mastery of the most basic subject matter."
Ackerman is launching "an internal investigation" (don't you love that phrase?) to get to the bottom of the teachers' complaints. As part of her self-defense, she says that it's not just her school district that's doing it; other districts are doing it, too. Her defense, in other words, is: "I'm not guilty! And besides, those guys are doing it, too!"
The other story, from Saturday, is the proliferation of SAT-busting prep schools in the Philly suburbs, manned by out-of-work Ivy League grads who killed the test in more halcyon days. I worked for one of those two summers ago, and it wasn't pretty. Joining the fray of Kaplan and the Princeton Review, Ivy Insiders charges from $699 for class sessions to $2,399 for 30 hours of individual tutoring, divulging strategies for psyching out the college admission bugbear.
Is it me or do you worry: "Where's the beef"? I mean, with all the energy going into the politics and competitiveness around education, I wonder if any history or geography is being learned, and I get squeamish thinking about the Ph.D.s who will be writing our future history books. And do you ever get a little bit scared that someday you might be operated on by a doctor whose F's were turned to D's every year, or who got into college because he's bangin' at multiple choice questions?
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