Today I pondered the basic building blocks of our educational system. You know, the three Rs: reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic. Judging by my third-grade mentee’s efforts, at least two of those Rs seem in danger of imminent extinction.
After I picked Ernie up from his classroom, we passed the latest set of homework projects adorning a corridor wall. “What was the assignment this time?” I inquired.
The lad replied: “Ms. McDaniel had us make posters on five ways to help the Earth.”
Recalling that the teacher had deemed his last homework assignment unsuitable for display, I asked if his current effort had secured a spot on the wall. Indeed it had, and Ernie proudly directed me to it.
At first blush, the poster impressed me greatly. A realistic representation of our planet, as viewed from space, dominated the scene. Beneath it, in neatly drawn block lettering, appeared the words “FIVE WAYS TO HELP THE EARTH.” So far, so good.
The less impressive features of the boy’s poster appeared below its title, commencing with a mutilation of the second of the three Rs. Fittingly, the letter R itself held pride of place in the ’riting disaster. Here’s five method’s listed by Ernie to help our planet:
I winced at every misspelled word. When I commented on the “little spelling problem” I’d noticed, Ernie sheepishly replied: “I know. Pollushun’s s’posed to have two Ls.” No further corrections followed.
If only the second of the three Rs had proved the lone casualty of Ernie’s work. Alas, ’rithmetic also suffered a figurative dagger to the heart, as evidenced by the poster’s final method for saving the Earth: “Plant More Trees.” That’s the sixth of the five ways to help the planet, for anyone who’s counting.
As I escorted my mentee along the corridor, inwardly cringing at the debacle I’d seen hanging on the wall, a single thought occupied my brain: It’s bad enough Ms. McDaniel couldn’t teach him to spell or count; but why advertise the failure?