A Wag of the Finger

12 Oct

My high school sucked. So did my middle school, elementary school, and primary school. That’s right Howland School District, you are getting a very special Inventive Education “Wag of the Finger.”

Just to clear things up, I’m not one of those “I hated going to school so I’m going to whine about it” type of people. In fact I love school. I double majored as an undergraduate just because I couldn’t decide if I found psychology or sociology more enjoyable. Right now I am in grad school full-time despite working 55+ hours per week, and I actually enjoy it! I’m one of those weird people that never skips class because I genuinely enjoy showing up and learning something new (with the exception of Intro to Geology, but I think I deserve some slack there).

The Problem with Howland

The problem with Howland Schools is that it has the ability to be a premier educational institute, yet is operated like a school with a shoestring budget. Every single year Howland puts up a school levy that passes with flying colors. Yet any Howland student must scratch their head and wonder just what happened with the new funds.

Will Work for Sugar and Toys

The annual levy was a big deal when I was in elementary school. Every year the drill was the same. They would pack the entire school into the gym the day before Election Day. They would get all the students excited to attend with the promise of free candy. Once all the students were hopped up on sugar, they would tell us just how fortunate we were to be enrolled at such a fabulous school. Then they would talk about the big upcoming levy and that it would not pass unless we helped. And if we didn’t help, then we would lose any hope to take any more field trips or get new playground equipment or taking field. Once we had the perfect combination of sugar and fear, they would send us home with the message that we needed to go around our neighborhoods to ask everyone to please vote yes for the levy.

A Laundry-List of Issues

This Karl Rove-esque tactic to deploy all the cute children worked year after year. The only problem was that the school district only fell further and further behind. All the school buildings were run down and in need of renovations.


Where's all that money going again?


Most of my classes had well over 30 students. All of the textbooks were 25-30 years old. In fact, I actually was under the impression that they stopped printing textbooks in the late 1960’s. There was no auditorium at the high school for any type of productions. When I joined the swim team I had to pay a $400 fee so the school district could rent out pool over a half-hour away from the high school.


I swear these are the most current books available!


Curriculum Fail

I could go on and on, but the most damning shortcoming is the lack of curriculum. The school offered no alternatives to the very basic courses. When I entered college I was both appalled and amazed to learn that several of my classmates had a leg up on me since their schools offered a much more diverse curriculum. Whereas the information I was learning in classes such sociology and philosophy was brand new, it was review for many of my classmates. Not only where they more prepared to excel at such classes, but they had been exposed to so many things they had a much narrower career focus.

While a handful of Howland School District employees have bolstered their salaries, thousands of students have lost the chance to find their place in the world. There are so many ways Howland could open the curriculum to help students gain a passion that will lead to a meaningful career. Until these changes are made, my finger will remain wagging.

Is Howland a Unique Case?

Did your school operate like Howland? If not, what type of programs helped you down the road?


3 Responses to “A Wag of the Finger”

  1. Katie Corbut October 15, 2010 at 3:51 am #

    Eek, sounds like the district may want to consider hiring a new treasurer.

    I don’t think you are alone here, however I was lucky in the sense that I graduated from the Hudson City Schools district. Thanks to wealthy taxpayers, Hudson offers many AP courses, provides ESL classes and assistance for the disabled and those with other learning disabilities. I got a very well-rounded education, and I’m proud of it.

    It is a great program, and until a few year ago, it was a well funded program. Two years ago, the district passed up an opportunity to put a levy on the ballot, hoping the finances would stabilize. The district didn’t want to add another burden to the taxpayers. They didn’t. Taxpayer expectations have been increasing, but because of the economic downturn, funding through taxation has decreased. This November will feature a levy for the schools and the city is in an uproar. Usually I wouldn’t support such a levy, thinking that the district should find ways of saving money. However, if people want a good product, and they’ve been getting a hell of a good product, then they need to invest in it. Hudson is notorious for having some of the best test scores and brightest students. Those things don’t come without cost.

    To me, in a bad economy, we need to invest more and more in education so we can do our best to ensure recessions don’t happen. The smarter we are, the more likely we are to help advance our nation.

    • inventiveeducation October 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

      Howland has had the same treasurer since I started school, so that could very well be a big part of the problem. In terms of affluence, Howland is very similar to Hudson. It’s a shame that the quality of the schools are light years apart. I have been to Hudson for several sporting events and was always blown away by the quality of the facilities.
      Like you said, if you want a good product you need to invest in it. The people of Howland have no problem investing in education, it’s just too bad the students see so little of the investment.

  2. gijmaj October 21, 2010 at 4:43 am #

    Changing Education Paradigms: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=youtu.be&a

    it seems that schools have similar problems everywhere. In Georgia schools were managed in different way, now education system is reforming to meet western standards. I studied in transitive period from Soviet to democratic era and my generation was like a lab mouse – all kinds of books were tested on us. We were the first to study History of Religion at school, more Georgian writers in the language classes, new interpretation of history, etc. On my first year in the University we still had general classes in the languages, history, math… I’d say that the system was discouraging, without competition and motivation. Learning process excluded interactiveness, and the books frequently were old and inadequate with the modern processes. Thanks God, I have some good teachers and they gave me right direction 🙂

    How we resolved these problems:
    – raised discussions among students
    – informed them about upcoming conferences, trainings, presentations of the new books, so that they could get the most recent changes in their fields
    – translated articles and sent in our networks
    – attended extra classes in different disciplines. e.g. I remember one term class on Human Rights provided by representative of United Nations office.
    – developed different activities, promoted non-formal education. Now more and more youth non-governmental organizations provide workshops, seminars on different issues (human rights, environment, conflict resolution, ethnic minorities, cultural expression, etc). So it’s the way of alternative education, which works even better than formal education. Sometimes you can learn more by active participation in the civil processes than by schooling.

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